The National campaign for counteracting contemporary models of gender-based violence, which started on the 17th September 2015, continues through long-term activities in schools across Bulgaria and through the dissemination of materials developed during its course through different media outlets.
The campaign was realized by the Applied Research and Communications Fund (ARC Fund), Association “Parents”, teachers, educators, social workers and a group of teenagers from 6 high schools in Sofia. All of these participants actively contributed to the development of the idea for the campaign and subsequently for the creation of different informational materials, which include a handbook for teachers, the online campaign #облечисебе (dress up), t-shirts, posters, pens, flyers and stickers.
The idea for the campaign came from a study conducted by the Applied Research and Communications Fund, which showed that a large percentage of teenagers in Bulgaria, especially those between 15 and 17 years of age, have been victims of some form of violence, conducted by their intimate partner – sexual, physical, emotional. For this reason, a key goal of the project from the very beginning was to form a working group of young volunteers, aged between 15 and 18, who are to participate in the development of the different elements of the campaign.
In December 2015, after receiving tens of applications, a jury selected 17 girls and boys who participated in a two day workshop, during which they discussed the topics of online popularity and reputation, as well as the risks coming with the inappropriate ways through which young people strive to attract attention on social media. After an introductory presentation and discussion on how to do a successful campaign, the teenagers begun to work on the creation of messages and ideas for the informational materials of the campaign. Also, they identified young people between 12 and 18 years of age as a target group for the campaign and a special focus was given to youngsters coming from vulnerable backgrounds – young people who have experienced some form of violence or young people coming from marginalized groups of society. Parallel to the workshop for teenagers, another workshop for parents and professionals from the educational sector also took place that same weekend.
During the course of the campaign, with the participation of over 170 teachers, educators and social workers from 7 Bulgarian towns, a methodology for prevention of early sexualization was also tested and created. This led to the creation of a lesson plan, which was subsequently tested with students from all grades (1st to 12th) in a total of 32 schools in 27 Bulgarian towns, as well as in the Bulgarian school in Barcelona, Spain. The teachers who tested the lesson plan sent feedback with their impressions from the activities to the project team, which stated that all students were very interested in the topic and all classes went very well. Apart from feedback, the teachers also sent recommendations for the improvement of the methodology. At a final meeting with experts in the month of March, the updated and finalized methodology was approved and a handbook “Internet and early sexualization” was issued. The handbook is being disseminated upon request to many schools all over the country and it is also accessible in the Bulgarian sections of this site and the site of ARC Fund.
Since the beginning of 2016, during series of meetings with professionals from “Reforma” advertising agency, the group of teenage volunteers developed a vision for the national campaign. In order to attract the attention of their peers to the campaign, the volunteers chose the idea for an online campaign #облечисебе (dress up), through which they wanted to challenge other teenagers to take dressed up selfies and publish them with the hashtag on social media.
The campaign was officially announced on the International Safer Internet Day, which was marked on February 9th 2016. For this occasion, different informational materials were prepared and disseminated – flyers, cards, pens and a special banner for pictures, all of which were approved by the teenage panel. Also, during that same day many Internet users, among whom MEP Eva Paunova, took dressed up selfies and posted them online to show their support for the ideas of the campaign. The Facebook post with information about the campaign was seen by 40 000 people only on SID. At the time of publishing of this article their number exceeds 80 000.
In March, the campaign was also introduced at the 9th Annual youth conference, organized by the Youth Parliament of Gorna Oryahovitsa, as well as at the “Walk a mile in her shoes" event, which took place in Sofia.
As a final event for young people ARC Fund, with the help of Association Debates Sofia, hosted the public debate “For and against uploading a sexy selfie” on April 26th. Over 30 young people attended the event, which was also streamed live on Facebook. The recording of the debate was uploaded and is still being watched on YouTube and on the official Facebook page of the Bulgarian Safer Internet Center.
The official video of the campaign reached 31 000 Internet users and that number is still rising, due to its unorthodox approach to the topic of online nudity. You can see the video at the bottom left corner of this page.
Although the project has officially ended, the National campaign continues through activities in schools, the hashtag campaign #облечисебе (dress up) and the dissemination of the video and other informational materials.
*In the bottom right corner of this article you can see one of the stickers, developed during the campaign, which says "May the clothes be with you". This is one of the few stickers that were developed and are still being disseminated to teenagers from all over Bulgaria.