The Sixth National Annual Meeting of non-governmental organizations in Bulgaria, working on women’s, gender and equal opportunities issues was held from March 5th to 7th 2004 in Sofia. The organizer of the event – the Center of Women's Studies and Policies Foundation, gathered 170 representatives of NGOs, central and local governments, academic institutions, media from more than 30 cities.
Guests of honour at the Meeting were Ms Anelia Atanasova, Member of Parliament, Ms Osnat Lubrani, United Nations Development Fund for Women, Ms Rayna Gavrilova, Executive Director, Open Society Institute, Sofia.
This year the main theme of the Meeting was focused on the Changes in Bulgarian legislation concerning the rights and status of women in the context of EU integration and its application on local level. The Law on Protection against Discrimination, the Law on Countering Trafficking in Human Beings and the Law on Ombudsman that recently came into force, set to the non-governmental sector the task of raising the public awareness on these legislative acts, guaranteeing that the violation of certain women’s rights will imposed with the corresponding sanctions. These laws also give the possibility that many services, provided by non-governmental organisations, working on prevention of negative acts, victims of which are mostly women, to be financed by the state budget.
Representatives of the central government – the Council of Ministers, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, explained the conceptual framework of the new laws and the National Action Plan for Employment, which involves special measures for women in the labour market. The questions and answers as well as the follow-up debates confirmed the necessity and timeliness of this discussion and raised a number of standing issues. The key ones include developing a National Concept on Equal Opportunities, a new draft of the Law on Equal Opportunities, which will build upon and extend the anti-discrimination legislation, establishment of a Parliamentary Commettee for Women as well as creating a state mechanism (institution, agency etc.) to implement the state policy for gender equality.
The last day of the Meeting was devoted to a Roundtable on the partnership between the local government and non-governmental organizations for solving the problems and improving the status of women. In it actively took part the Chairman of of Sofia City Council Mr. Vladimir Kissiov, Ms. Hristina Georgieva – Deputy Mayor of Silistra, Ms. Mina Ilieva – General Secretary of Veliko Turnovo Municipality, Teodora Kaleynska – Director of the European Information Center, Prof. Evgenii Dainov (PhD), Center for Social Practicies, New Bulgarian University and many representatives of local governments and non-governmental organizations.
The winners of the Third Journalist Competition (in partnership with Media Development Center) Equal Opportunities for Women and Men in Bulgaria in the View of the European Union Pre-Accession Process were awarded at the official opening of the Meeting. First prizes were given to Zhaneta Stankova, Radio Stara Zagora, for her material “Primal Instinct”, published in Egoist Magazine and Venelin Petkov, BTV for the documentary “Women Warriors”.