La Strada International Association (link to the website) is a European anti-trafficking network of independent human-rights NGOs that work in the field of combating trafficking in human beings and supporting its victims. Organizations from Belarus, Bulgaria, The Czech Republic, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Ukraine and The Netherlands (links to their websites) are members of it.
La Strada International (LSI) works from a human-rights perspective in the support of all trafficked persons, focusing on women in Central, East and South-East Europe. LSI’s primary goal is to improve the position of women and to promote their universal rights, including the right to choose to emigrate and work abroad and to be protected from violence and abuse.
On September 15th 2010, the La Strada network celebrated its 15th anniversary. In 1995 La Strada began as a cooperation project between the Dutch Foundation Against Trafficking in Women (STV, now CoMensha), La Strada Poland and La Strada The Czech Republic. In the years that followed, the programme extended to more countries and in 2004, a separate association, La Strada International, was established. Today, La Strada is recognized by national governments and international institutions as a leading European network in the prevention of trafficking in human beings and protection of its victims.
La Strada began as a project for Animus Association Foundation in 1998. It was not long before we found out that La Strada was much more than a project or program for us. We perceive it as a framework which combines all our activities related to combating human trafficking and protecting survivors. La Strada makes us feel part of a larger community – the community of the European civil society which establishes contemporary policies and practices for fighting against human trafficking.
INFORMATION AND LOBBYING CAMPAIGN
Our strategy is based on the recognition that trafficking in human beings is one of the most horrible crimes and states are accountable for fighting against it. The basis of our approach is the principle of respecting trafficked persons’ human rights. Lobbying activities focus on the implementation of relevant legislation, National Programs and Strategies for counter-trafficking and making sure that they indeed protect survivors’ human rights.
We were the first who started talking about trafficking of Bulgarian women for sexual exploitation. We participated in elaborating the Bulgarian Combating Trafficking in Human Beings Act and involved the institutions in the support of victims.
To achieve its aims, La Strada distributes information to specific target groups, establishes media contacts, issues press releases, gives interviews, writes articles and answers requests for information. An important component of the lobbying and advocacy work is the development and maintenance of local, national, regional and international contacts and networks. This includes contacts with members of parliament, ministries, law enforcement agencies, public prosecutors, local authorities, consulates and other relevant state institutions.
A great achievement was the development of the National Mechanism for Referral and Support of Trafficked Persons in Bulgaria (link to the section for NRM). It clearly demonstrates that the combined efforts of civil society and state institutions yield excellent results when there is a common goal and shared understanding of the relevance of an issue.
On international level, together with the other members of La Strada, we monitor, give feedback and release official statements on all current issues and activities undertaken by European institutions and related to trafficking in human beings, prostitution, migration, etc.
The Prevention campaign aims at empowering potential (female) migrants to make independent and informed decisions. (read more)
We use various prevention methods.
We increase the awareness on the issue of trafficking, targeting the general public, the media, as well as students in schools. Prevention activities aim at reducing the risk among specific “risk groups”, targeting potential victims (particularly young women and girls, children from residential care facilities, minorities, etc). Various prevention and education materials (link to brochures) designed especially for such risk groups have been disseminated and workshops and seminars were organized.
We train professionals (police officers, social workers, teachers, pedagogical counselors, counselors, magistrates, etc) on how to disseminate information, identify potential victims of trafficking and on how to protect them.
At the Centre for Rehabilitation, Counseling and Psychotherapy (link to the center) we consult women and children at risk, victims of violence, women and girls, survivors of trafficking. The risk of re- trafficking is reduced by assisting survivors in overcoming the trauma, recovering their self-esteem and relations with people and re-integrating in society.
At the Helpline for Survivors of Violence (link to the helpline), we provide information about legal forms of migration and working abroad and the risks related to human trafficking. When a person contacts the helpline, together we discuss his/her motives for leaving, talk about risks, give advice, etc.
PSYCHOLOGICAL AND SOCIAL SUPPORT FOR SURVIVORS OF TRAFFICKING
Animus Association Foundation is the largest and most experienced provider of services for survivors of trafficking in Bulgaria. We aim at providing social, psychological, medical and legal support. Victims have the right to an access to these services as soon as they are recognized as victims of trafficking. (read more)
We support survivors of trafficking by implementing various programs at the Centre for Rehabilitation, Counseling and Psychotherapy (link to the center). This Center is the only one which provides support in the whole Sofia region. Trafficking victims can benefit from the services of Helpline for Victims of Violence, Crisis Unit (accommodation and crisis intervention), Social Support Program and Empowerment Program (links). Annually the Centre works with about 50 trafficking cases. It should be pointed out that although trafficking cases are not so numerous as compared to domestic violence cases, for instance, the management of trafficking cases is time consuming and generally more intensive. Based on best practices of the Centre, “Standards and Criteria for Provision of Social Services to Victims of Trafficking” were elaborated and they have become a significant part of the National Mechanism for Referral and Support of Trafficked Persons in Bulgaria (link to the NRM).
NATIONAL MECHANISM FOR REFERRAL AND SUPPORT OF TRAFFICKED PERSONS IN BULGARIA
The National Mechanism for Referral and Support of Trafficked Persons (NRM) in Bulgaria is a cooperative framework through which state actors fulfill their obligations to protect and promote the human rights of trafficked persons, coordinating their efforts in a strategic partnership with civil society. This project is a great achievement for all of us since it clearly demonstrates that civil society and state institutions’ effort yield excellent results when there is a common goal and shared understanding of the relevance of an issue.
The Mechanism is developed within the framework of a project funded by MATRA program of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and implemented by Animus Association” Foundation and La Strada International, in partnership with Bulgarian National Anti-Trafficking Commission.
The National Mechanism for Referral and Support of Trafficked Persons is an open document. It is dynamic and should change in accordance with any changes in national legislation, new developments in the forms and methods of exploitation, new risk groups and regions, the evolving needs of the victims, and other shifting tendencies in the phenomenon which is trafficking in persons.
On November 23rd 2010 the Bulgarian National Anti-Trafficking Commission officially adopted the NRM.
The National mechanism can be downloaded here (PDF in Bulgarian and English ).
INTERNATIONAL INITIATIVES OF LA STRADA INTERNATIONAL