Ekaterina Veleva: Mobilising against human trafficking in Bulgaria

 

Ekaterina Veleva

The Pulse foundation, an AEDH partner organisation since 2007 – works to stop human trafficking and protect women victims of trafficking in Bulgaria. In this interview, Ekaterina Veleva, president of the Pulse Foundation, tells us about her organisation’s objectives and activities.

How did the Pulse Foundation come to be?

Ekaterina Veleva: The Pulse foundation was created by three Bulgarian women, Tatiana Arsova, Yana Katsarova and myself. We were working as therapists and all volunteering with a women’s rights organisation in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. We noticed that a large proportion of the telephone calls that we were receiving came from women in Pernik. That’s what compelled us to create our own organisation in Pernik in 1999. The goal was to promote a society based on non-violence and equality of the genders.

Why is the city of Pernik a strategic location for Pulse?

EV: For one thing, Pernik is on a route that human traffickers take towards Greece. For another it’s an industrial city, constructed during the socialist era, where joblessness is rife despite the economic development of the city. Since it joined the EU in 2007 and opened its borders, Bulgaria is facing both brain drain and illegal migration.

What are your main activities?

EV: Our actions focus largely on the fight against domestic violence and human trafficking. As part of our rehabilitation programme for victims of violence and of trafficking, we set up a reception centre in 2010 where we carry out a number of activities: working with families of the victims, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, offering mediation, legal aid, etc. In 2013 we took in about twenty women. Presently, we are organising activities aimed to prevent trafficking in Pernik area schools. Volunteers at the ‘Let’s Be Friends’ young people’s home are also associated with these activities, which are aimed to sensitise more than 1,000 students.

Who are your partners on the ground and your financial support ?

EV : There are five organisations that work on human trafficking in the Pernik area, but only the Pulse Foundation and ‘Animous’, the largest organisation in the region, have the capacity to house victims. We often work together. We also work with a number of reception centres in Slovakia and one in Frankfurt, Germany.

We also receive support from the OAK foundation for our work with child victims of sexual abuse, and by the European Commission for a project on information exchange and practices between actors working in our domain, as well as by the Bulgarian Ministries of Justice and Health and by the Global Fund for Women. Among our diverse supporters, the support offered by AEDH is essential in that it allows us to offer quality assistance to the victims we work with.

What are the most important challenges and main obstacles that Pulse is up against today?

EV : Our main challenge is bringing the most appropriate and professional assistance to women victims of violence and trafficking. The dysfunction of the judicial system is a major obstacle: it’s very rare for traffickers to be convicted in Bulgaria. On top of that, in spite of a 2005 law concerning the victims of domestic violence, there’s a lack of national social policy that protects victims and witnesses. That’s why the Pulse Foundation advocates for Bulgaria to ratify the Istanbul convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.

 

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