Spotlight On….. Social Watch Bulgaria

This month´s “Spotlight On…” column highlights the work of Social Watch Bulgaria, a dynamic national coalition that is helping to spread the Social Watch message of gender equality and social rights for all among the ex-Soviet states in the Eastern and Central European region.

 Social Watch Bulgaria officially came into existence in 1999, the year in which the Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation (BGRF) joined the international network and contributed its first national report to the annual Social Watch (SW) Report, thus making it the first Eastern European country to adhere to this global civil society initiative. Since that time, the work and membership of SW Bulgaria has grown both quantitatively and qualitatively, making it now one of the most active SW coalitions in Europe. 

 In addition to BGRF, the SW coalition in Bularia is currently comprised of ATTAC Bulgaria, the Bulgarian-European Partnership Association, the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions (KNSB), and the “Demetra” Association. Thematically, the work of these organizations is focused on the issues of gender equality, with a special emphasis on women’s socio-economic rights; employment and labor rights; the human rights of vulnerable populations such as children, disabled persons and Roma, corporate social responsibility; and social and economic development. Together, these civil society groups have presence in all of the geographic regions of the country, which allows them to link local concerns to national and global advocacy efforts. 

 The principal activities of the Bulgarian SW national coalition are focused on the preparation of national reports, the translation into Bulgarian and dissemination of SW publications such as the global Report and the Gender Equity Index, and the participation in international-level forums such as the UN Commission on the Status of Women. Some concrete achievements of BGRF and its allies in SW Bulgaria in recent years include the drafting and lobbying for national-level legislation on violence against women, adopted by the Parliament in March 2005; successful campaigns for improvements to Bulgarian labor law, leading to changes in the Labor Code in 2006 which allowed for the creation of workers’ councils on the enterprise level; and advocacy efforts against discrimination in the workplace, which led to the passage of the Anti-Discrimination Law in January 2004. The members of SW Bulgaria are also currently carrying out research and advocacy initiatives related to the impacts of privatization and labor-market restructuring on women, the trafficking of women for sexual exploitation, and labor conditions in the garment sector. Moreover, BGRF and the “Demetra” Association provide legal and social services, including temporary housing and education programs, for at-risk women and children, who have been victims of violence and other forms of discrimination.

 Social Watch Bulgaria also plays an integral role in the internal activities of the global network, contributing through its presence in the SW Coordinating Committee since 2005, and through its active participation in the newly-created SW Gender and Womens’ Rights Working Group. Additionally, members of SW Bulgaria represented the international network at the historic UN Conference on the Financial and Economic Crisis and its Impact on Development in June and at the 53rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women in March of this year. It should also be mentioned that SW Bulgaria played host to the Third Social Watch General Assembly in 2006, the first global network event ever held in the Eastern European region.  For the coming year, SW Bulgaria envisions the broadening of its efforts, through the strengthening of its national research, monitoring, and capacity-building initiatives, together with its contributions to the global campaigns the network is designing around issues such as the Beijing +15 review, Financing for Development, and the Millennium Development Goals.

 For more information on BGRF and Social Watch Bulgaria, go to: