Meet our community partners blog series!
Hello everyone! This is the fourth episode of our new blog series dedicated to Ecce Homo’s community partners, that is, all those non-profit LGBTIQ+ organizations around the world that are proud members of our Corporate Social Responsibility program! Last week, I introduced you to ‘Emantes - International LGBTQIA+ Solidarity’, and their initiatives regarding queer refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers. This week is all about those members of our transnational and colorful family that reside in Bulgaria. Our partner to this journey is the ‘Single Step Foundation’. In what follows, we are going to learn more about the state of LGBTIQ+ rights in Bulgaria, Single Step’s mission, and the invaluable programs they run. I want to remind you once again that this blog series is part of Ecce Homo’s long-term engagement to promote the visibility of its community allies by taking up the role of media sponsor. In addition, I hope it constitutes an opportunity for our customers and friends to be kept informed of the activities of the organizations they choose to support via their purchase, ensuring this way both their active engagement and the non-negotiable transparency of our CSR program.
According to Single Step, this was the state of the LGBTIQ+ rights and activism in Bulgaria when their Sofia-based organization was formed:
‘Although Bulgaria joined the EU a decade ago, efforts to build a civil society are still lagging behind. As a result, Bulgaria is still missing key elements in securing sustainable human rights protections, which puts minority groups, such as the LGBTIQ+ community, at a particular structural disadvantage. The stigma, prejudice, and discrimination experienced by LGBTIQ+ Bulgarians have no parallel elsewhere in the country. Many flee Bulgaria in pursuit of a better life abroad; those who stay behind experience a hostile and stressful social environment that often leads to mental health disorders, psychological and substance abuse, depression, suicide, or - at the very least - a life spent in hiding. There are no legal protections for LGBTIQ+ people in Bulgaria. The Bulgarian society at large is largely oblivious of these issues. The still-nascent discourse over human rights is still polarized over whether gay people deserve any rights at all. The few existing LGBTI organizations in the country have used primarily a campaign-based approach, which has proven ineffective in tackling those problems.’
In an attempt to change this abovementioned socio-political status quo, the Single Step Foundation, one of the most respectable, effective, and sustainable LGBTIQ+ NGOs in Bulgaria, was established in December 2016, and from their very first step they have adopted a new, pragmatic, bottom-up approach that allows for an active and empowered LGBTIQ+ community to grow and thrive. In this context, they tirelessly work towards:
To achieve these goals, they run several indispensable programs including, but not limited to:
They have created a space where queer youth, their families, and loved ones can find answers to their questions, feel supported, heard, and understood so that they do not feel alone. Everyone can contact their volunteers through their online support chat and their hotline. They also provide psychological support in 10 cities across the country with the help of a network of psychologists, whereas they have expanded the scope of their support services by launching support groups for LGBTIQ+ youth as well as parents of LGBTIQ+ youth.
Sexual Health Program:
Given that health is an integral part of the wellbeing of the LGBTIQ+ community, the Single Step Foundation operates the program ‘Sexual Health and HIV’ in order to support anyone who needs help or information related to sexual practices and HIV. This health program started with counseling services on HIV prevention and treatment and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), but it was later scaled up with the first-ever HIV self-testing campaign in the country, named #endHIVbg.
VentureOUT offers comprehensive, specific, and practical resources to both corporations and LGBTIQ+ people in Bulgaria as a two-pronged solution to the long-term integration of queer people at the workplace. On one hand, they promote a bottom-up approach, that works directly with queer job seekers on career development, seeking and preparation for a new job, and training on the essential skills for job seekers. On the other hand, through their top-down approach, they are working with corporate partners and clients on creating or improving their Diversity & Inclusion programs as well as rating the existing D&I efforts in their annual LGBTIQ+ D&I Index.
Everyone can count on Single Step’s legal advisor to answer their question, give advice, and provide information on LGBTIQ+ rights, whether it is about same-sex partnerships, discrimination, or specific legal cases.
Single Step owns and operates The Steps, a multifunctional community center, a safe space, which is run as a social enterprise. It features a bistro, cinema, exhibition space, club, and space for community events.
For more information, please visit: https://singlestep.bg (available in English & Bulgarian)