On 16th of September 2015, 30 people gathered in House of Europe of Bulgaria to discuss the issue of companies and gender-based violence. They represented national ministries and institutions, companies of diverse sectors (IT, pharmacy, advertising, etc.) and NGOs specialised in the issues of gender equality, social corporate responsibility, and assistance to women who are suffering/have suffered from gender-based violence.
Mrs. Irina Ivanova, representative of the Equal Opportunity Antidiscrimination and Social Assistance Unit to the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy opened the national workshop on behalf of the Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Policy and presented the main policy on gender equality and the initiatives on gender and economic development. Mrs. Tatyana Kmetova, Executive Director of the Center of Women’s Studies and Policies welcomed the participants and presented the CARVE project, the partnership and the activities under the work streams.
Mrs. Roza Dimova presented to the audience the main findings of the national study on the initiatives and measures, undertaken by private business in Bulgaria to identify, prevent and protect employees, victims of VAW outside the workplace. She urged the participants to add more examples and openly discuss the findings and tendencies on the level of involvement of companies and main problems and barriers they face and also to share their positive examples, as the «Speak Out» awareness raising campaign of AVON Bulgaria, presented by the next speaker – Mrs. Julia Zlatanova, the communication expert of the company.
The speech of Mrs. Zlatanova on AVON’s campaign provoked many discussions on the factors and ways for maintaining successful awareness campaigns on VAW by private business. She gave examples of the different strategies and approaches to attract the attention of the society during the 5 years’ lifetime of the campaign. Main factor for success of the campaign, identified by AVON Bulgaria, was the cooperation between all actors involved – the company, the media, the supporters and the ambassadors of the campaign. Most important was the personal involvement of the AVON’s employees and regional representatives to the campaign, who voluntarily participated in creating ideas and in the elaborating of the campaign tools and also in distributing of the campaign materials and messages to their friends, family and clients on local level.
The discussion was opened to explore whether the business, working on the topic initiates or is willing to cooperate with other actors as for example with the national institutions and funds on VAW awareness raising campaigns in the country, or on the contrary, business measures the achievements and success only on its own account. The example, discussed, was the presented AVON Bulgaria campaign. The discussion showed that business prefers to consult its initiatives mainly with the NGO sector as it was in the case of AVON Bulgaria. Trough the consultations with the NGO sector, the business learned how to comply with the national policies and legislation and identified many allies. Both, business and institutions have much to learn from each other and regular cooperation between them will only be of benefit of the cause.
The NGO sector working with victims of VAW in Sofia added that indeed many women are victims of VAW in Bulgaria and the study is really necessary and on time, because all these women are most of the time at work. In reality there are many employers in Bulgaria that have to deal with VAW cases outside the work place every day, they want to help, but very often they do not know how to. Sharing of practical helps and exchange of good practices between companies in Bulgaria and with other EU countries will be very useful for Bulgarian business and NGOs working on combating VAW.
The discussion shown that most often cases of VAW are detected by women colleagues and are communicated to women managers. There is still need to address men decision makers and involve them more actively in the topic, by special trainings and campaigns and trough broadening the scope of the study targeting this specific group.
The national study opened a new page in exploring measures and strategies of combating VAW and its perspectives should be gradually broaden and enriched by enlarging the scope of the interviews in future projects as for example by adding interviews with working women, victims of VAW and their opinions on how the company reacted on their cases in comparison with the opinions of decision makers in same situations.
Participants recommended to CWSP’s researchers to add in national report the examples from the NGOs’ practice about cases of family violence that ruins the whole small business. The NGO sector also recommended exploring in future studies of more examples from the company’s policies on having husbands/partners employees, working together and especially strategies for involvement of the companies in situations of violence between them.
Women business associations finally recommended to national researchers to enrich the study with examples for VAW, not only from husbands and intimate partners, but also from other family members – fathers, brothers, uncles.