One in four Bulgarian women—that is over one million—are victims of physical or sexual violence.
Of these women, 67% did not report these acts of violence to the authorities due to feelings of guilt or shame. With the #Every4th campaign, the Bulgarian Fund for Women (BFW) decided it was time to change this.
Through an animated video (above), their 16-day, call-to-action campaign asked: What is the true face of violence?
“The campaign was intentionally provocative, stating that if 1 in 4 women is a victim of domestic violence, 1 in 4 men is a violator,” says BFW Executive Director Nadejda Dermendjieva.
BFW used the success of the video to encourage people to sign a petition urging the government to sign the Council of Europe Convention (more commonly known as the Istanbul Convention), which, according to Dermendjieva, “is considered by the Bulgarian NGOs/WNGOs to be the most fundamental document for the elimination of gender-based violence.”
Over the course of just 16 days, the short video received more than 1000 views and the petition collected 368 signatures. The Istanbul Convention was eventually signed, too, but not without significant challenges and backlash.
In response to #Every4th, which sought to lessen the incidence of unreported violence against women, BFW received an an open letter from a father’s union stating the campaign was a form of discrimination against men. The Bulgarian President, the ombudsman, and several ministers were copied in on the letter.
Many women’s funding organizations and advocates work in the face of strong opposition and rising fundamentalism, and they do so often without significant legal and financial support. This was the case with the Bulgarian Fund for Women. Instead, they consulted with other women’s organizations for advice. To avoid empowering the men, BFW did not respond through the media or release the name of the group. Rather, they accepted an invitation from the Commission for Collaboration to meet with the father’s union directly. The father’s union never showed up. BFW did. This gave BFW the opportunity to defend their campaign directly to the Commission, resulting in the Commission giving an official recommendation to the members of the Bulgarian Parliament to sign the Istanbul Convention.
From there, BFW partnered with the Bulgarian Parliament to begin to adopt the Istanbul Convention; to shift the focus from blaming victims of gender-based violence to the punishing the perpetrators of violence—an important step toward encouraging women to speak out.
The Istanbul Convention presents a comprehensive legal framework and approach to combat gender-based violence. It focuses on prevention, protecting victims, and prosecuting violators. Currently, the Istanbul Convention has been signed by 42 European countries.
The Bulgarian Fund for Women is now preparing to launch the second phase of the #Every4th campaign in November 2016.
—Karia Young-Eagle, Partnerships Manager, Women’s Funding Network
The Bulgarian Fund for Women is a member of the Women’s Funding Network.