The regional conference “Forgotten Communities: Roma Men and Women During the Covid 19 Pandemic” was held today in Belgrade where representatives of Roma NGOs, authorities and international organizations discussed how the Corona virus pandemic has affected the Roma population in the countries of the region, and what are the methods of future joint action in the direction of preventing negative consequences for the vulnerable.
The conference was organized by CARE International Balkans in cooperation with the Roma Women’s Network of the Republic of Serbia, the Roma Women’s Network of BiH “USPJEH” and the Roma Women’s Network PRVA from Montenegro through the third phase of the project “For Active Inclusion and Roma Women’s Rights in the Western Balkans III”, which is funded by the Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC).
“CARE is an organization that deals with humanitarian activities. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have provided about 800 thousand euros of regional aid. We were able to help about 20 communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Northern Macedonia and Kosovo because we had organizations operating in the field. The aid reached more than 50,000 people and was aimed at marginalized groups, including the Roma population”, said Sumka Bučan, director of CARE International Balkans.
CARE International Balkans from the beginning of March 2020 until today supports partner organizations from BiH, Montenegro and the Republic of Serbia, which with their dedicated field work provide direct support and assistance to many local Roma communities. The experience of partner organizations shows that in the midst of the pandemic, the Roma community felt forgotten.
“It is important that Roma men and women are vaccinated, that the infection is stopped in places where people are most vulnerable. The Roma people will sit at the table equally, and no matter how much trouble there is, we invite you to show what is best in people”, said Gordana Čomić, Minister of Human, Minority Rights and Social Dialogue of the Republic of Serbia.
Steven Gligorin, State Secretary, Ministry of State Administration and Local Self-Government of the Republic of Serbia said that the message of this gathering is: “That we are constantly trying to make our state systems better, and to ask ourselves if we have done the best we could, to constantly strengthen the feeling that the health of some means the health of others, not to try to turn our heads away from problems”.
Vladimir Leposavić, Minister of Human and Minority Rights of Montenegro said that Roma people in Montenegro have not been forgotten by communities, but their rights have been forgotten.
„There is a practice of ignoring equal rights, so the need for actions of the whole society, in the first place, is state bodies“, he pointed out.
When it comes to the economic position of the Rom people, Bosnia and Herzegovina has adopted several documents, said Marina Ševkušić, Advisor to the Minister for Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
„In the last ten years from the budget and other levels of government, including donor funds, close to 51 million BAM have been allocated“, she concluded.
For the end of the regional conference “Forgotten Communities: Roma Man and Women during COVID 19” representatives of Roma NGOs from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, listed the key problems faced by Roma people in local communities in these countries: Persons without health records, increased domestic violence, a larger number of arbitrary child marriages, lack of water to maintain hygiene, insufficient information of Roma people about the possibility of protection and obtaining medical assistance, impossibility to access online classes for Roma children, impossibility of earning a living for Roma families
On these key problems, NGO and GO will work in future!