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SECTION A – ROMA EMPOWERMENT MEASURES

CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION: ROMA EMPOWERMENT MEASURES
1. INTER-MINISTERIAL COMMISSION ON ROMA, CZECH REPUBLIC
2. GOVERNMENT COMMISSIONER ON ROMA AFFAIRS, SLOVAKIA
3. ADVISORY BOARD ON ROMANI AFFAIRS, FINLAND
4. ROMANI ADVISERS IN GOVERNMENT, CZECH REPUBLIC
5. LOCAL-LEVEL ADVOCACY: ROMANI BAHT, SOFIA, BULGARIA
6. LIAISON OFFICER POST, PETERBOROUGH, ENGLAND
7. ROMA SELF-HELP BUREAU, LOM, BULGARIA
8. WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT PROJECT, FIRENZE, ITALY


INTRODUCTION: ROMA EMPOWERMENT MEASURES

The fundamental challenge for pluralistic societies in Europe is to ensure that minorities participate on an equal basis in the exercise of power. If minorities have limited access to, or are excluded from the exercise of power, this violates the principles of democracy and human rights and creates a society based on ethnic domination and subordination.

Roma across Europe have experienced exclusion from the exercise of power in society for centuries. The means have been either direct oppression and segregation rooted in anti-gypsyism, or enforced assimilation as under the communist system. The effect, varying in degree from country to country, has been the destruction of traditional resources, skills and identity, leading in turn to social and economic marginalisation and dependence.

To rectify this exclusion, there is a need for Roma to become empowered at all levels and in all spheres so that they can participate fully in determining both their own future and that of the wider society in which they live. This is recognised in ECRI's Policy Recommendation No.3, as well as in other international documents and programmes, including the EU Accession Guidelines adopted at the Tampere Summit in 1999 and the programmes of the Open Society Institute. In particular, the ECRI document stresses the need for institutional arrangements for Roma participation in decision-making at local and national levels, for establishing consultative mechanisms and partnership structures, for training provision to equip Roma with knowledge and skills to implement their rights, and for support for Roma organisations which can play an essential role in mobilising Roma opinion and participation.

The entries that follow provide examples of the above kinds of empowerment mechanisms at both national and local levels. Beginning with the national level, the first entry describes the Czech version of the type of 'inter-ministerial commission' on Roma issues that has now been established in a number of countries of Central/Eastern Europe. The second entry describes the currently unique post established in Slovakia of Government Commissioner on Roma Affairs. The third documents the Finnish version of the more conventional type of consultative or advisory body, of which a number of variants may be found across Europe. None of the above, however, have any significant executive authority, and remain essentially advisory structures. Other mechanisms for promoting Roma participation in decision-making include the Hungarian Roma Self-Government Councils (both national and local) and the seat in the Romanian Parliament allocated to the Roma community. There is an urgent need for the effectiveness of these various government-led mechanisms, several of which have proven controversial within the Roma community, to be subject to monitoring and evaluation.

A further empowerment mechanism within the government structure, to date mainly at local rather than national levels, has been the introduction of posts of Romani Adviser. The fourth entry describes this scheme as introduced in the Czech Republic. The fifth entry focusses on empowerment at the local level by means advocacy on the part of Roma NGOs, whether legally-oriented or in the form of direct representation to public authorities. The sixth entry focuses on how the appointment of a Roma/Gypsy liaison officer at the local level can contribute to community empowerment and mediation with public authorities. The seventh entry presents an example in which the emphasis in the approach to Roma empowerment is placed firmly on the philosophy of 'self-help' and local community development, while the eight and final example focuses on women's empowerment at the local level.

The theme of 'Roma empowerment' should not be regarded as separate from other sections of this booklet. Several of the examples in the other sections also illustrate mechanisms for Roma empowerment, including the empowerment of women and young people. Once again it must be stressed that the examples given can only be a small sample of many initiatives across Europe, few of which have yet been adequately documented or evaluated.


1. INTER-MINISTERIAL COMMISSION ON ROMA, CZECH REPUBLIC

The Inter-Ministerial Commission for Roma Community Affairs, which was established in the Czech Republic in 1997, was the first of a number of inter-ministerial structures on Roma issues to be set up in Central/Eastern Europe. Its role is to advise on, initiate and coordinate policy of the Czech Government regarding the status of Roma in Czech society.

The Commission was established following a comprehensive report (the Bratinka Report) on the situation of Roma in the Czech Republic. Initially it was responsible directly to a Government Minister who acted as Chair. In 1998, however, the Government established a more broadly-based Council for Human Rights, and the Inter-Ministerial Commission is now chaired by the Commissioner for Human Rights. The Inter-Ministerial Commission is composed of an Executive Vice-Chairman (who is responsible for the Commission Office), twelve representatives of the main Government Departments, and twelve appointed representatives of the Roma community.

The functions of the Commission include the following: to review draft government measures concerning Roma; to evaluate the effectiveness of such measures; to propose, monitor and evaluate allocation of funds for the advancement of Roma; collect data and report on conditions in the Roma community; to inform Roma about government measures; and to cooperate with Roma/pro-Roma organisations in the development of projects and programmes. The Commission is therefore more than simply an advisory body, since it plays a potentially important role in communication and in initiating, monitoring and facilitating government policy and practice. However, it does not have any executive powers in these areas, and (as pointed out in the second ECRI report on the Czech Republic) its capacity is limited by the modest resources available to it.

*** Contact:

Inter-Ministerial Commission for Roma Affairs
Office of Government of the Czech Republic
Vladislavova 4,
110 00 Prague 1
Tel: +420-2-9615.3573 - Fax: -2494.6615

 

SIMILAR EXAMPLES:

In Romania, the Government's Inter-Ministerial Commission on National Minorities is accompanied by a Sub-Commission for Roma Issues. Roma NGOs, concerned about their exclusion from policy-making, formed a Working Group (GLAR) to negotiate with the Government on the elaboration of its PHARE-funded national strategy for Roma. Roma representatives nominated by GLAR now participate in the Sub-Commission, which is chaired jointly by a GLAR representative and the Head of the Government Office for Roma.

*** Contact: National Office for Roma, Department for Protection of National Minorities, 1 Victoria Square, Bucharest; Tel: +40-1-230.62.08 - Fax: -221.61.37

In Bulgaria, the National Council on Ethnic and Demographic Issues (NCEDI) has established a Roma Working Group composed of representatives of Roma NGOs. This Group has elected delegates to work jointly with ministerial officials to implement the various sections of the Government's 'Framework Programme for Equal Integration of Roma in Bulgarian Society'.

*** Contact: NCEDI, 1 Dondukov Blvd, 1000 Sofia; Tel: +359-2-987.83.26 - Fax: -986.27.32


2. GOVERNMENT COMMISSIONER ON ROMA AFFAIRS, SLOVAKIA

In Slovakia, the Government has established the post of 'Plenipotentiary of the Slovak Government for the Solution of Problems of the Roma Minority' (also referred to as 'Government Commissioner on Roma Affairs'). The post is located within the Office of the Government. The Commissioner has his own Advisory Board, and is supported by a small Secretariat.

This post expresses the Slovak Government's specific commitment to address issues concerning the Roma minority, within a broader policy framework focussing on human rights, and minority issues generally. Within the Parliamentary Commission on Human Rights, a Sub-Commission on Roma serves as an advisory body to the Government on Roma Issues. The Government has also established an Advisory Council on National Minorities and Ethnic Groups, chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister who has responsibility for these issues. Three of the fourteen members of the Advisory Council are representatives of the Roma community.

The role of the Commissioner is to coordinate the Government's policies on Roma issues, and to make recommendations to individual ministries. Following his appointment, the Commissioner conducted a fact-finding mission in eastern Slovakia. Based on his findings, he prepared a proposal for a long-term government programme to improve the situation of Roma in the Slovak Republic. In September 1999, the programme was adopted by the Slovak Government as the 'Strategy of the Government for the Solution of Problems of the Roma National Minority, and a Set of Measures for its Implementation - Stage 1'. The latter cover areas such as education, language and culture, employment, housing, health and social welfare.

Following a further programme of meetings with mayors, regional and district authorities, and representatives of Roma organisations, the Commissioner drew up a more elaborated package of measures for the implementation of the strategy. This 'Stage II Package of Concrete measures for the Year 2000' was approved by the Government in May 2000. The measures require action by both central and local authorities, and provide for extensive participation by NGOs and the Roma community.

This unique and relatively new post has allowed a member of the Roma community to spearhead government policy initiatives on Roma issues. How effective the role of the Commissioner can be in ensuring the implementation of these initiatives remains to be seen. As ECRI has pointed out in its second report on Slovakia, it will be essential for the Government to ensure that the Commissioner's office has the necessary powers and resources to fulfil its task.

*** Contact:

Commissioner of the Government of the Slovak Republic for the Romany Affairs
Office of Government SR
Namestie slobody 1
SK - 813 70 BRATISLAVA 1
Tel: +421 7 59 364 305 - Fax: +421 7 59 364 421

 


3. ADVISORY BOARD ON ROMANI AFFAIRS, FINLAND

In Finland, which has a population of approximately 10,000 Roma, a national advisory structure has been in existence since 1956. The present 'Advisory Board on Romani Affairs' was established by the Council of State in 1989. Its purpose is to promote equal opportunities for the participation of Roma in Finnish society, and to improve their social, cultural, economic and educational circumstances. The Board advises on both the development and implementation of government policy. It also monitors and advises on the implementation of the rights of Roma under international agreements and conventions.

Members of the Board are appointed for a period of three years. Half of the 18 members are appointed on recommendations from the main Romani associations. The other members are representatives of government, and consist mainly of representatives of national Ministries, including Social Affairs and Health, Education, Labour, Environment, Interior, and Foreign Affairs. The Board has a Secretary-General, who is herself a member of the Finnish Romani community. The Board is located within the Ministry for Social Affairs and Health, which has overall responsibility for Romani Affairs within the governmental structure.

Within the Ministry of Education, there is also a Romani Education Unit in the National Board of Education. The role of this Unit is to develop and implement national-level policy on the education of Roma, and to promote Romani language and culture. An executive group, which includes representatives of the Romani community, directs the activities of the Unit. The Unit also organises seminars and courses (for both Roma and the majority population), provides training for contact persons, and publishes a bulletin and learning materials.

Provincial Advisory Boards were established on an experimental basis in 1996, and aim to strengthen Roma participation at municipal and county levels. The Provincial Advisory Boards aim to stimulate new initiatives and projects at local and county levels across a wide range of fields: education, housing, employment, health and welfare, and so on. The Boards bring together Roma and local and county officials, and meet the need to disseminate information, promote tolerance, combat prejudice and racism, and mediate between public authorities and Roma.

In 1999, on the recommendation of the national Advisory Board, the Ministry of Social Affairs commissioned a comprehensive review of the situation of Roma in Finland, with the requirement that it should make proposals for the future development of government policy regarding the Romani community. Its report, Strategies of the Policy on Roma, contains a wide range of recommendations. These include that the legal status and resourcing of the national Advisory Board should be strengthened, and that it should be relocated within the Ministry of Education. It also recommends that the Provincial Advisory Boards should be formalised, and that mechanisms for Romani participation and joint-planning at municipal level should be introduced.

*** Contact:

The Advisory Board on Romani Affairs in Finland
Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
PO Box 33, FIN-00023 GOVERNMENT
Finland
Tel: +358-9-160.4306/4308
Fax: +358-9-160.4312

 

SIMILAR EXAMPLES:

Sweden: Since 1996, the Swedish Government has been cooperating via a government-appointed Working Group with the national umbrella organisation, the Roma National Union. The aim is to improve the situation of Roma in Sweden, and raise awareness of Roma issues.

*** Contact: Cissi Storck, Secretary to the Working Group, Division for Immigrant Integration and Diversity, Ministry of Industry, S-10333 Stockholm, Tel: +46-8-405.11.96

Spain: A Consultative Commission advises the Spanish Government on its Gitano Development Programme which was established in 1988. Its membership is comprised of representatives of national NGOs concerned with Gitano issues, and of Gitano NGOs operating at the level of the autonomous regional administrations. The Government provides substantial funding to NGOs to implement this programme, and the Commission advises on the allocation of these funds. While the Spanish approach directly involves Gitano representatives in policy development and implementation, there has been concern that it can also create conflicts of interest for the participating bodies.

*** Contact: Comission Consultativa dal Programa de Desarrollo Gitano, Ministerio de Trabajo y Asuntos Sociales, C./JosÚ Abascal 39, 28003 Madrid; Tel: +34-91-347.74.77 - Fax: -347.74.58

Switzerland: The Swiss Government finances the umbrella organisation of the Swiss Jenish/Manush Travellers community, the 'Radgenossenschaft der Landstrasse'. It has also created and finances a tripartite 'Foundation for the Future of Swiss Travellers', on whose board are represented the federal government, cantons, communes and the Radgenossenschaft der Landstrasse. The Foundation's role is tackle discrimination against Travellers in fields such as education and the provision of local stopping-places.

*** Contact: Federal Commission Against Racism, 3003 Bern; Tel: +41-31-324.1283, Fax: -322.4437

Ireland: The government has encouraged the participation of Traveller organisations in consultative and advisory committees at national and local levels. Traveller organisations participate in bodies such as the National Economic and Social Forum, the National Economic and Social Council, and the National Agreement negotiations. This ensures that the concerns of Travellers are brought to the attention of bodies that predominantly represent the interests of the settled community. Traveller organisations also participate in the national and local advisory/consultative bodies that focus specifically on Traveller issues, e.g. in education, accommodation and health.

*** Contact: Equal Status Division, Department of Justice, 43-49 Mespil Road, Dublin 4; Tel: +353-1-663.2615


4. ROMANI ADVISERS IN GOVERNMENT, CZECH REPUBLIC

Several national governments have sought to promote Romani participation by means of the appointment of Romani Advisers. Hungary, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic have all appointed Romani Advisers to national ministries, although the precise role, terminology used, and specific ministries vary between different countries.

However, the main effort in the Czech Republic has been to appoint Romani Advisers at the local level of administration. This reflects the fact that most decisions affecting Roma are made locally, and that national policy is anyway highly dependent for its implementation on actions taken at this level. Moreover, the specific needs and circumstances of Roma vary from locality to locality, and Roma community development is most appropriately undertaken at this level.

Under a government resolution of 1997, Romani Advisers have been appointed to all Districts of the Czech Republic with substantial Roma populations, as well as in the three largest cities (Prague, Brno, Ostrava). In some instances the Advisers also have Assistants working with them. Appointments have been made at the local level, but training courses have been organised at the national level to provide support.

The main function of the Advisers has been to improve the communication between the public authorities and the Roma, to support Roma community development, and to help Roma to gain access to services and to secure their rights. In practice, Romani Advisers have mainly been engaged in 'social work' activities, providing assistance to Roma clients.

It is widely recognised that the introduction of Romani Advisers has been an important step forward, but some limitations of the original scheme have also been identified. For example, the quality of those appointed to the post has been variable, and many were not themselves Roma by ethnic background. Also, the concentration on social case-work has meant that less attention has been paid to issues of local government policy and to improving mainstream practice with regard to the Roma community. Recent proposals submitted to the Czech Government by the Ministry of the Interior envisage a strengthening of the Romani Adviser role by establishing Coordinators of Romani Advisers at the regional level.

*** Contact:

Inter-Ministerial Commission for Roma Affairs
Government Office of Czech RepublicÁ
Vladislavova 4
110 00 Prague 1
Tel: +420-2-9615.3573
Fax: -2494.6615

 

SIMILAR EXAMPLE:

Bulgaria: More recently in Bulgaria, Romani Advisers have also been appointed to each of the 28 administrative regions. As a network, they are coordinated by the National Council for Ethnic and Demographic Issues (NCEDI), and national training courses have also been provided. At the same time, Regional Councils on Ethnic Issues are being established in each region.

*** Contact: NCEDI, 1 Dondoukov Boulevard, 1000 Sofia; Tel: +359-2-987.8326 - Fax: -986.2732


5. LOCAL-LEVEL ADVOCACY: ROMANI BAHT, SOFIA, BULGARIA

The 'Fakulteta' District of Sofia is the largest Roma district in Bulgaria, with around 35,000 inhabitants. Although it has been established for many decades, the settlement does not have a proper legal status, and basic public services are almost entirely lacking. The area is characterised by extreme poverty, with around 95% of the population being unemployed and therefore dependent on welfare benefits. Relationships between Roma and the public authorities are generally poor, and marked by ignorance and mistrust on both sides.

The 'Romani Baht' Foundation is a Roma NGO based in the Fakulteta District and formally established in 1996. The staff consists of both Roma and non-Roma. The Foundation aims to support the local Roma population and represent their interests to the public authorities. Its approach is to remain fully independent of the authorities, and to maintain close and continuous contact with the everyday life of the local residents. Over time, it has built up trust and confidence with the local Roma community. It has also gained the respect of the local state institutions, who seek its assistance with mediation and problem-solving.

A major component of Romani Baht's work programme is the "Godi e Romenge" Project. The aim of this Project is to assist Roma to exercise their basic rights as citizens. Much of the work involves providing legal assistance and advocacy. The Project provides pro bono legal assistance for Roma people, especially in cases where human rights abuse occurs. Consultation sessions are held daily by the Legal Programme Director and her Assistants, and a network of lawyers with different specialisms helps with individual cases. Advocacy is undertaken by the Project on behalf of Roma before both local and state administrations. Romani Baht's 'Public Council', composed of Roma leaders in Fakulteta, decides which cases will be prioritised and taken forward. The basic goal is to ensure equal access for, and equal treatment of Roma before the administrative offices and the courts.

Successful resolution of cases is important not only for Roma clients, but also for promoting good practice by the public authorities. The Project routinely monitors breaches of rights by police and others, and notifies the competent authorities of incidents that come to its notice. It also monitors the progress and outcomes of cases. From time to time the Project organises public meetings to draw attention to violations and the need for them to cease.

As well as providing practical legal assistance, the project also has an educational component. This is designed to increase the legal awareness of Roma people, covering both their rights and obligations. Partly this is achieved by informing individuals who come to the Project for personal advice or assistance. A second method is to hold meetings to advise residents on legal means of solving problems, as opposed to criminal solutions (e.g. obtaining access to electricity supplies). The third, and in the long run the most important method, is undertaking legal education programmes in schools. The Project has been working with high school students in '75 School' in Fakulteta, using a curriculum created at Georgetown University in Washington DC and adapted by the Legal Programme Director to the Bulgarian context. Interactive methods and debates are used as well as giving basic information on civil and legal rights.

*** Contact:
'Romani Baht' Foundation
8 Nov Zivot St, 1373 Sofia
Bulgaria
Tel/fax: (359-2-) 23-13-03
E-mail: baht2000@rtsonline.net


6. LIAISON OFFICER POST, PETERBOROUGH, ENGLAND

The Peterborough District of East Anglia, together with its adjacent County of Cambridgeshire, is an area of England with one of the largest populations of Gypsies and other Travellers. The East Anglian Gypsy Council (EAGC) was formed to represent this group: it currently has a membership of some 700 families, and represents the interests of many others as well.

During the 1970s and early 1980s, a recognised local community leader, Mr Peter Mercer, was acting regularly in a voluntary capacity on behalf of the EAGC as a liaison worker and mediator between Gypsy/Traveller families and the public authorities. At this time there was no formal recognition of his work, and he was paid no fee although his expenses were covered.

In 1988, the Peterborough City Council acknowledged the importance of this work by formally establishing the post of Gypsy/Traveller Liaison Officer, and engaging Mr Mercer to undertake this role. The post involves liaising with the full range of public and voluntary sector organisations on behalf of members of the local Gypsy and Traveller population. The scope of the Liaison Officer's work includes provision of advice to Gypsies and Travellers regarding employment, education, housing, planning and environmental issues, health, policing, and the courts.

The Liaison Officer both acts as an adviser to and representative of individual Gypsy/Travellers and their families, and also advises the public authorities directly on policy and practice. However, although a member of a local authority team, Mr Mercer (as an established resident on a local traveller site) has also remained firmly a member of and a leader within the Gypsy/Traveller community, thereby enabling him to represent the interests of this community effectively and with high credibility.

For example, with regard to matters of policing and justice, his role would include: advising and assisting members of the community of their rights as victims or suspects with regard to crime; mediation in any incidents involving police presence on travellers sites or disputes of any kind; assisting members of the community attending court; liaising with other relevant professionals such as probation officers; attending local police-community consultation meetings; and contributing to training courses for police and other public officials.

This form of structured local partnership, rooted in a community development approach, for managing the relations between the civic authorities and the Gypsy/Traveller community has been seen as a model of good practice within the UK. However, Mr Mercer has recently retired from this post, and its future in Peterborough is uncertain.

░ Contact:

Mr Peter Mercer,
East Anglian Gypsy Council,
Oxney Road Traveller Site,
Peterborough, PE1 5NX, England
Fax: +44-1733-893.418

 

Related examples:

Italy:
Opera Nomadi, based in Rome, is an established NGO with long experience of acting as mediator between state agencies and Roma communities, both in order to protect their rights and to promote interventions by public authorities designed to improve the conditions of Roma.

*** Contact: Via di Porta Labicana, 00185 Rome, Italy; Tel: +39-06-4470.4749, or -4470.0166; http://operanomadilazio.supereva.it

Ireland:
Pavee Point Traveller Centre, a well-established NGO based in Dublin, provides a mediation service which was set up to resolve disputes between Travellers and other sectors of the population. It brings together the various stakeholders involved in potential or actual conflicts, including police, politicians and local government officials, and seeks to develop innovative approaches, as well as providing educational and training workshops.

*** Contact: 46 North Great Charles St., Dublin 1; Tel: +353-1-878.0255 - Fax: -874.2626


7. ROMA SELF-HELP BUREAU, LOM, BULGARIA

Following an initiative by CEGA (Creating Effective Grassroots Alternatives) and Roma activists in 1994, a number of Roma-Self Bureaus have been set up in various areas of Bulgaria, including Sofia, Plovdiv, and Lom. In each area the Bureau has been established by local Roma organisations, with the aim of developing an integrated programme of community-based work. The project as a whole is currently supported by Novib and Matra as an integrated large-scale programme.

In Lom the Bureau is operated by the Roma-Lom Foundation. Lom is a municipality on the Danube in northern Bulgaria, with a population of 40,000. One-third of the population are Roma, who live in four isolated neighbourhoods. The industries on which Lom depended have collapsed, leaving more than two-thirds of the populace unemployed, and an estimated 95% unemployed in the Roma neighbourhoods.

The long-term goal of the project in Lom is "the higher social emancipation of the Roma population through stimulating its self-organisation potential and self-help initiatives". The short-term objectives are to increase the educational level of Roma children, to promote the creation of self-help groups, to provide technical assistance for solving social and economic problems of the community, and to develop partnership relations with local authorities and other civic associations.

To achieve these objectives, the Roma-Lom Foundation has developed a wide-ranging programme of activities. In the field of education, activities include pre-school preparatory classes, parent-teacher cooperation, provision of meals and other practical support for school attendance, interest clubs within schools, and a wide range of school-linked extra-curricular activities. In the 'Romiteli' football team, for example, participation is dependent on school attendance and good class scores, and the captain is the one with the best class scores not the best soccer player.

Work with community initiatives and self-help groups is mainly focussed on mobilising young people to plan and implement projects in the various Roma neighbourhoods. Projects have included street-cleaning, construction of sports facilities, and the establishment of a youth centre in a local school. Assistance with social problems extends from provision of information leaflets, consultations and mediation, to work on public health, drugs prevention and tackling juvenile crime. On the employment side, assistance with finding jobs and provision of training have been complemented by an innovative project in which some 40 families have become engaged in farming on land supplied by the municipality.

Much of the above has only been possible through the effective cooperation of the Bureau and the Municipality. Signed agreements are made with the various institutions, and various premises and access to facilities have been provided free of charge. A joint initiative with the local Police Department provides assistance for Roma to obtain the new identity cards being required in Bulgaria. In these and a variety of other ways the Bureau has developed a complex programme of integrated activities designed to empower Roma to help themselves and to engage effectively with the public authorities.

*** Contact:

The Roma-Lom Foundation
4, N. Bozveli Street, 3600 Lom
Bulgaria
Tel/fax: +359-971-28751
E-mail: roma_lom@roma_lom.org

 

SIMILAR EXAMPLE:

Romania:
In the small town of Nusfalau, in Salaj County, the NGO Romani CRISS and (subsequently) the 'Impreuna' Community Development Agency worked with the SPOLU Foundation and Medicines Sans Frontiers to assist a self-help programme which has enabled Roma to develop a brick-producing project and other income-generating initiatives. This then led to the development of a social housing project, and in due course to the preparation of a local comprehensive development plan aimed at improving living conditions of Roma. The project demonstrated the capacity of community development methods to empower Roma at the local level, and to promote their integration with the local authorities and the majority society.

*** Contact: Impreuna Agency, 30 Louis Blancstreet, Bucharest, Romania; Tel: +40-1-213.6603; E-mail: impreuna@dnt.ro


8. WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT PROJECT, FIRENZE, ITALY

In her report on "The Situation of Roma/Gypsy Women", prepared for the Council of Europe, Nicoleta Bitu observes that little attention has been paid to the issue of Romani women, whether by governments, international organisations, Roma NGOs, or women's organisations generally. She identifies a need to raise awareness on the issue, and to identify practical measures to help empower Romani women.

One important type of initiative is to provide support for Romani women activists, and in particular for women among the young generation of Romani leaders. A second is to ensure that there is a gender dimension in all policies and strategies relating to Roma. However, for many Romani women, their opportunities are shaped by traditional Romani culture and expectations regarding women's roles. As a result, their future lies mainly within their local communities, together with some rather specific forms of interaction with the wider society. Women's empowerment programmes therefore need to take account of this social and economic reality, and include measures for empowering Romani women within the context of family and local community settings.

An example of a very local initiative of this latter type was undertaken in the Fourth Quarter of the City of Firenze (Florence) in Italy. The project Laboratorio Donne Rom "Kimeta" (Roma Women's Workshop "Kimeta") provided training in sewing skills to Romani women living in the Campo Rom Poderaccio, to enable them to make and then sell items of clothing and ornamentation in local markets. It was organised by the Centro Educativo Popolare of the ComunitÓ dell'Isolotto, in association with the training agency IAL Toscana.

The locality is one with high levels of poverty and unemployment. In addition, the Romani women's lives and opportunities tend to be highly constrained, not simply by their lack of formal education and training, but by the boundaries imposed by conventional gender roles and their practical responsibilities for the rearing of children. The project aimed to empower the women by providing them with skills which would in turn produce a financial return and increased autonomy while still being compatible with traditional Romani culture.

It was soon discovered that the workshop needed to address a broader agenda of skills than simply sewing. Firstly, in order to produce garments the women needed to be skilled in cutting, pressing, embroidery and other techniques required for the production of garments. Secondly, basic literacy and numeracy needed to be provided to enable them to manage the purchase and sale of materials, deal with banks, and for basic record-keeping. Thirdly, there were the skills and confidence required to form a cooperative to support and promote their work, and to conduct business effectively in interactions with Gaje (non-Roma).

Following a two-year formative period, the Laboratorio 'Kimeta' is now functioning as a productive unit, and has been established on a legal basis within the framework of a regional non-profit association (Associazione Genitori ComunitÓ Incontro di Pistoia).

*** Contact:

Eros Cruccolini, Chair
Council of the 4th Quarter
Via delle Torri 23, Firenze, Italy
Tel: +39-05-5276.7134; Fax: -5276.7123
E-mail: seg.pres.q4@comune.fi.it

Tiziana Rizzardi

Office of Secretariat of Chair
Council of 4th Quarter
Tel: +39-05-5276.7113

Other examples:

In Romania, the NGO Romani CRISS, with funding support from the EU, has developed a project to train Romani women to act as health mediators. As well as helping to improve health conditions among Roma, the project has assisted Romani women who have some basic education to return to work and play a developmental role in Romani communities.

*** Contact: at: 19 Buzesti Street, Bucharest 1, Romania; Tel: +40-1-231.41.44 – Fax: -212.56.05

In Spain, the Gitano National Development Programme includes specific provisions for women. The Programme of the Autonomous Government of Andalucia offers a particularly good example as it prioritises the situation of Gitano women, and includes provisions covering all aspects of life and also a section of equal opportunities for women.

*** Contact: Comission Consultativa dal Programa de Desarrollo Gitano, Ministerio de Trabajo y Asuntos Sociales, C./JosÚ Abascal 39, 28003 Madrid; Tel: +34-91-347.74.77 - Fax: -347.74.58