Best practices for Roma integration awarded by the European Commission: when Civil Society is active, good things happen.

Roma inclusion is of major concern for EU and it represents a great challenge in the area of fundamental rights. The EU has made great efforts in this field and demanded to Member States to tackle the poor living conditions of Roma and social exclusion within their societies. Good results are to be reached only if there is a multi-level cooperation between the EU, Member States, local authorities and civil society. Roma people are also present in the enlargement countries and their living conditions are not better that those experienced in the EU countries, therefore the European Commission decided to award NGOs from Western Balkans and Turkey for their programs which support Roma inclusion.

 The awarding ceremony took place the 1st October in Brussels and the aim of this competition was that of raising visibility over the problems faced by Roma people in the enlargement countries. During the ceremony Štefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, pointed out how important the work of civil society is and how the inclusion of Roma people is not only a matter of equality, but also represents an “investment to the benefit of society”.

The projects awarded are primarily addressed to women and children and the aim is that of building bridges between Roma and civil society. The means used are different but they all offer training to Roma women and education to children, since the lack of these represent two of the major obstacles for their inclusion in the relative societies and into the job market. Without education and training it is impossible to improve their working conditions and also their access to health care and housing.

But how are structured these projects and what makes them more successful than others? Here there is a short description of the selected projects by the Commission:

– Albania: Roma Active Albania with the project “Empowerment Campaign for Roma Women”. This project is addressed to Roma women and it has the aim to empower them to advocate for their own problems and also to build the capacity of dealing with decision-making authorities, by articulating their concerns in an effective matter.

– Bosnia and Herzegovina: Citizens Association for the Promotion of Education of Roma-Otharian with the project “Enhacing Basic Education for Roma in Bosnia and Herzegovina”. The project promotes education of Roma children by addressing Roma parents and institutions on the importance of education and promoting directly formal and informal education for these children. Their Roma Youth and Culture Centre represents a place where Roma and non-Roma children can meet and interact with the result of developing social skills. They also have a Mobile Intervention Team formed by an outreach officer, a municipal representative, teachers and social workers which makes home visits to Roma children who experience difficulties at school.

-Kossovo: The Ideas Partnership with the project “From Handouts to Hands-up through Handicrafts: the former beggar-women of Fushe Kosove who’ve now got their kids to school and taken their place in the labour market”. In those communities Roma children work as beggars and rubbish-pickers and do not go to school normally. This association offered Roma women training and work opportunities but they were asked to send their children to school. There are also other benefits for those involved in this project, such as: literacy and parenting classes, medical care, including contraception and antenatal care and advice. This association created also asocial enterprise “SaPune” which sells the handicrafts made by these women.

-Macedonia: Centre for Integration Ambrela with the project “A Good Start- Increased Participation in Early Childhood Development In Suto Orizari”. The activities of this project have the aim of informing Romani parents on the importance of health-care check-ups and of education for their children, starting from kindergarten. They also help them to obtain personal documents and have access to these services to preschool services and Early Child Development Services. The project was implemented by a team consisting of community mediators regarding education, healthcare, IDs mediation, special educators and also a speech therapist.

-Montenegro: Center for Roma Initiatives with the project “Action Against Forced and Early Marriages in Roma and Egyptian Community”. Early marriages are still a widespread practice among Roma in Montenegro. This project denounced cases of abuse and also raised awareness in these communities by encouraging women to tell their stories and by using a Travelling Caravan to tell real stories to the several communities. The result was that of other women who reported cases of abuse. In order to raise awareness, they organised street protests, advocacy and lobbying activities. This organization also implemented Forum Theatre shows which allowed the audience to participate and find solutions to the problems presented.

-Serbia: Hands of Friendship with the project “Mother-Child Educational Project”. This project also was focused on improving access to early childhood education for Roma children. They used a multi-level approach to the issue which consists in lobbying local authorities for a higher level of inclusion and by encouraging and supporting Roma parents to enroll their children. They also created an alternative early childhood program in the form of Toy Library and they addressed mothers in order to empower them to decide what is best for them and for their children.

-Turkey: Sulukule Roma Culture Development and Solidarity Association with the project “Sulukule Childrens Art Atelier”. This Atelier is based in a Roma neighbourhood and wants to help children to be proud of their identity and culture, it provides them with education, music and art classes and also organises culture workshops for the communities. They have a Roma Youth Orchestra and a hip hop theatre group. The hip hop band Tahribad-ɪ Ysian, well-known in Turkey, emerged from that Atelier and their children also perform in international concerts and TV series.

These are all projects which could be implemented also elsewhere, with small variations in order to take into consideration different contexts, and they really can make the difference for Roma communities and build a bridge between them and the rest of the society.

(Ana Daniela Sanda)

To know more:

Štefan Füle’s speech at the Conference

Report on the implementation of the EU framework for National Roma Integration Strategies

Adeline Silva Pereira

Après avoir effectué la deuxième année du master Sécurité Globale analyste politique trilingue à l'Université de Bordeaux, j'effectue un stage au sein d'EU Logos afin de pouvoir mettre en pratique mes compétences d'analyste concernant l'actualité européenne sur la défense, la sécurité et plus largement la coopération judiciaire et policière.

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