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SWAN Facilitated a Study Visit Between Bulgaria and North Macedonia

Between 1st-3rd of July, 2019, a team from HESED Initiative for Health and Social Development members from Bulgaria visited other SWAN members, HOPS and STAR-STAR in North Macedonia. This study visit was facilitated by SWAN within regional Cities Project funded by Global Fund.

Since Global Fund left Bulgaria few years ago, majority of services for sex workers were shut down, and the one existing in HESED was struggling to keep the bare minimum on voluntary basis. This challenging environment for services and the lack of adequate support also affects the level of community mobilisation and participation. So, to date, there is no organised sex worker-led group in the country. However, a few interested community members supported by SWAN member HESED, together with local lawyer and a service provider Initiative for Health, jointly visited North Macedonia to learn about Macedonian experiences in community mobilisation, the role of service providers and legal support in community mobilisation as well as strategies to sustain services and interventions within community.

The group met with street sex workers on outreach and visited drop in centre run by HOPS, where they had a chance to talk to community activists and paralegals, as well as social workers and lawyer, and visited the local sex worker-led organisation STAR-STAR where they discussed experiences in community mobilisation and capacity building processes.

The meeting ended with brainstorming and outlining future steps in Bulgaria on how to engage with community and initiate community gatherings and actions. SWAN will continue to support this initiative trough providing additional in-country community gathering and sharing between Bulgarian group and other activists from the region.

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