in Serbia and Bosnia & Herzegovina

Empowerment of Roma

Poverty and marginalization of Roma, lack of basic resources for living, poor housing conditions, low level of education and extremely high unemployment rate, as well as discrimination and a strong dependency on social assistance are problems Roma face in South East Europe. A survey carried out by UNDP in 2006 showed that Roma population is further victimized by traffickers as a result of their vulnerable situation. Such a bad situation in all areas of life limits their chances to improve their position.

The Decade of Roma Inclusion (2005-2015) is the current framework for addressing the gap between Roma and the majority population in the priority sectors of education, employment, health care and housing and also related to issues of anti-discrimination, poverty reduction and gender equality, thus taking into account the Millennium Development Goals.

This project aims to help Roma people achieve an improved socio-economic livelihood and integrate into society in the region through:

  • providing the possibility for Roma drop-outs to finish primary education which will in turn enable them to access higher levels of education and vocational trainings,
  • helping Roma start-up and expand private business activities, and
  • raising awareness among Roma on the risks of trafficking.

Extremely vulnerable socio-economic situation, poverty and discrimination of Roma manifest the need for such interventions.

Key Problems Addressed

In both Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) Roma constitute the most discriminated and disadvantaged ethnic group. Both countries signed to the Decade of Roma Inclusion and commited to developing and implementing the Action plans for improving conditions for Roma in four fields (education, employment, health care and housing) considering gender equality as one of the related issues.

There are different sources on the number of Roma in Serbia and BiH but the differences between these figures are sometimes drastic. According to the official data (The Statistical Office of Republic of Serbia), there are only 108.193 Roma living in Serbia (1.44% of the population in Serbia), but it is estimated that the figure is between 450.000 and half a million (6 – 6.6%). Poverty Reduction Strategy of Serbia (dated 2003) states that Roma are the most endangered population in Serbia.

According to official statistic data in Bosnia and Herzegovina, there were 9.000 Roma living in BiH in 1991, while according to data from Roma organizations there were 80.000 Roma.

Lack of Education

Serbia

of Roma have completed only 4 grades or less

Bosnia and Herzegovina

of Roma are illiterate
have no educational qualifications whatsoever

Concerning education of Roma in Serbia, data show that 32% of Roma have finished only 4 grades of elementary school or even less, while only 0,3% of Roma population have higher or university education. It is estimated that in the Sumadija region, where this project is based, there are ca. 30.000 Roma, one third of them in the municipality of Kragujevac.

According to the OSCE report in Bosnia, 35% Roma are illiterate, while only 50% are semi-literate and 80% have no educational qualification. In Tuzla Canton, where this project is based, there are about 15.000 Roma and 50% of them have not completed elementary school. In the municipality of Tuzla live between 5.000 and 6.000 Roma.

Unemployment: The Numbers


Serbia

Roma are unemployed
non-Roma are unemployed
of Roma women are unemployed

BiH

Roma are unemployed
non-Roma are unemployed
of Roma women are unemployed

Unemployment

The high unemployment rate among Roma is conceived as both a cause and a consequence of social exclusion that is deeply rooted in systemic, institutional, cultural and socio-economic practices which are difficult to change.

The extremely high poverty rates point already at the dire situation of Roma on the labour market. Due to phenomena such as not declaring their identity in census taking, it is difficult to providing exact data on the unemployment rate and activity rate of Roma (see also chapter 2 Background). There exist different data sets on the situation on the labour market, but all of them reveal an extremely disadvantaged position of Roma in general and of Romani women in particular.

Employment in informal sector is extremely high. In Serbia: Roma 58% and non-Roma 13%. In BiH: Roma 78% and non-Roma 27%. The most common source of income for Roma is self-employment, especially in the sector of secondary raw materials collection and waste recycling.

The position of Roma women

According to our 2010 study, 89% of Roma are attending primary school (86.5% female and 90.4% male), but only 28.1% of Roma complete primary education.

In addition, only 19% of Roma children attend secondary school (17% female and 23% male).

Only 4% of Roma children attend pre-primary school.

The rate of Roma children enrolled in special schools is about 30%, which is extremely disproportionate considering that only 2% of the population is Roma.

What has been achieved:

Formal
education

Serbia

Bosnia and Herzegovina

In the first year of our project there were 19 Roma participants in catch-up classes for primary school dropouts in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and no participants for catch-up classes in Serbia. In terms of vocational training, there were 11 participants in Serbia and 4 in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In the second year, the number of participants in catch-up classes for primary school dropouts was 48 (Serbia) and 42 (Bosnia and Herzegovina). In terms of vocational training, there were 34 participants in Serbia and 14 in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In the third year, there were 52 Roma participants in catch-up classes for primary school dropouts in Serbia, and 19 in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In terms of vocational training, there were 19 participants in Serbia and 16 in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

What has been achieved:

(Self-)
employment

Serbia

Bosnia and Herzegovina

In the first year of our project, we gave 11 start-up grants and 6 business development grants in Serbia. 7 of these businesses still exist. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, we gave 11 start-up grants and no business development grants in Serbia. 2 of these businesses still exist.

In the second year, we gave 16 start-up grants and 7 business development grants in Serbia. 12 of these businesses still exist. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, we gave 4 start-up grants and 7 business development grants in Serbia. 6 of these businesses still exist.

In the third year, we gave 44 start-up grants and 7 business development grants in Serbia. 48 of these businesses still exist. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, we gave 24 start-up grants and 6 business development grants in Serbia. 28 of these businesses still exist.

What has been achieved:

Providing
data

Roma poverty in BiH

of families have monthly incomes of up to 100 EUR
of families have no home, or have poor housing

What has been achieved:

Life skills

Workshops

Holistic approach to Roma families

Empowering extremely vulnerable

Engage
non-Roma

of non-Roma participants

Involve both women and men

Quality vs. Quantity

Continuous capacity building of Roma organizations

During the evaluation process, one of our project beneficiaries, E.P. from Tuzla Canton, has written a personal story:

 

I am 29 years old, I have finished primary school and I am a Roma woman... I got married when I was 22 and gave birth to my daughter after that... In the year 2010 my world collapsed. I was left alone with a child with nothing, almost in the street. Yes, my husband left me because he didn't want to continue fighting. He simply fled from problems. I had to continue on my own. How?

I was given the helping hand of the Roma organization Euro Rom. They were familiar with my situaation, they knew I was willing to fight and that I needed help. I enrolled the women empowermnet workshops. During the first session I was afraid to speak. Shame, fear, I was simply a quiet and shy person who didn't know how to move foreward. However, as the time passed and workshops came one after the other, I was strengthening. I regained my undermined confidence. I also gained the opportunity to participate in the business trainings. I had the idea but not the funding for starting the business. Although I have finished my primary school, I was practically illiterate. I had no knowledge about registering the company, legal business... All of that I have learned during the trainings mentioned, I made my busines plan, submitted it to Euro Rom, and I passed. I received a grant and established a shop. My business was good.Talking with my colleague we had an idea to unite and work together, since her business was not so good... However, there was another idea, I wanted to advance, and open another business unit. Again, I took part in the business trainings organized by Euro Rom. I met new friends and gained new knowledge. And I received a grant. With the new funding I opened a market stand and provided the equipment and goods. Now my business partner works on an open market stand, and I work at the shop... We are good at our business and we hope to stay that way...

With the help of Euro Rom in the April of 2012 I have enrolled in extra-curricular classes of High School for Trade. I have sucessfully completed my first year. Additional schooling will provide me with a great help at work...

Now, I can say that I am a happy person, fulfilled and cheerful. I would not have managed to achieve all this if there wasn't for Roma organization of Euro Rom, for which I would be eternaly grateful.

Now I am a stong and independent individual.