Bulgarian Women Face Up To Yet Another Taboo

Novinite Insider » EDITORIAL | October 31, 2003, Friday // 00:00| Views: | Comments: 0
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Bulgarian Women Face Up To Yet Another Taboo “Fear is more dreadful”, read posters of the breast cancer awareness campaign one can see across the country. The wives of US and Spain Ambassadors (middle and right) were among the most active campaigners. Photo by Juliana Nikolova (novinite.com)

By Milena Hristova

From the little news that emerges from small Bulgaria a group of women entered the broadcasts with a voice that overcame the clamor raging in the last days of the local elections campaign. To join the global campaign of breast cancer awareness.

"What we are trying to do is project the message that there is hope after breast cancer and to show women who have returned to their families and careers," says one of the most energetic activists in the campaign Kathy Pardew, the wife of US Ambassador to Bulgaria James Pardew.

This is the second campaign that the International Women's Club has been involved in, while the start-up campaign was launched three years ago. Organizers take pride in the bigger number of sponsors and people involved in this campaign, following the success last year which, in their own words, raised much awareness and compassion for the issue.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer for women in Bulgaria with more than 3 100 cases were diagnosed over the last several years. Statistics show that women ignore breast cancer signs, risking their lives by failing to seek early medical help. All it takes to speed early detection and cut false alarms is namely breast cancer awareness.

Fair of Health and Beauty, charity run, fashion show, the illumination of Sofia monument in the symbol color pink were all separate efforts running concurrently but trying to do the very same thing - making sure that the information is distributed everywhere and reaches even women in small villages. The events aim to highlight the situation and stretch throughout the year. And throughout the country.

"Women in the capital and the rural places start to realize that there is nothing wrong to hide. They talk about the issue very openly, without any shame or taboo," Emma Hernandez, wife of the Spanish Ambassador to Sofia, the other most active campaigner, says.

In her opinion a number of cultural and social factors have prevented Bulgarian women to talk about illness or body. "Changing that would take some time", she adds.

"I don't think that unwillingness to talk about breast cancer is particular to Bulgarian women", Kathy Pardew claims. "My mother is a breast cancer patient and she has never mentioned it to me. We do not talk about it. She would be horrified if she knew I was talking about this today..."

Women between 20-40 have been reacting very quickly to the events in the campaign, while older women are also interested but they do not feel confident or comfortable enough to show it openly.

What about the husbands? The message is getting across although they seem to be taking interest only after they hear they also may be affected.

Data shows that Western Europe is making a huge progress in coping with the problem, while the chasm in Eastern Europe is deepening. Why? Funding, of course, most of the readers would be quick to retort. Ability to talk about the issue openly makes a big difference, the campaigners say, claiming that the social factor is even more important than the economic issue.

The campaigners from the International Women's Club have no illusions they can solve the problems of the country's health system nor do they dare to judge the reforms in the health system.

Bulgaria can have the necessary facilities - this is the end of what we want, we have to start with education first, Kathy Pardew underlines.

With beauty therapy among the huge range of cures on offer for cancer patients abroad, a light in the tunnel of Bulgaria's problem-ridden and facilities-short health system are only its wonderful doctors, say the organizers of the string of events, which also involved the wives of Bulgaria's prime minister and president.

The best message I get from my Bulgarian partners is that the Bulgarian women are very brave, a complete human being with strength, focus and integrity. The best thing we can give them is the confidence they seem to lack, Hernandez says.

Confidence that they manage to give even though they will never get more column inches than mayor candidates.
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