LYRA – Young Roma in Action

Tuesday 8 April 2014

Roma in Bosnia and Herzegovina (B-H) live in difficult conditions – high number of Roma have no medical insurance, many Roma abandon their education during primary school education or following the completion of primary school, they are not adequately informed about their rights, while children and young Roma are not properly included in social life. These are general conclusions of the researches conducted in five B-H towns within the project “LYRA - Young Roma in Action”.

The "Report on conducted action research - young Roma in action" was promoted on April 8, 2014 as a part of the marking of the International Roma Day at the conference “Inclusion of Roma in BiH – Challenges and obstacles” organized by the OSCE Mission to BiH. On this occasion, the BiH Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees, the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Delegation of the European Union to BiH/EU Special Representative in BiH, UNICEF, Save the Children and World Vision called for greater efforts from all sides to end exclusion of Roma in BiH. Access to adequate housing, employment, education, health, social services and equal political participation remain far out of reach for the vast majority of Roma population in BiH.

As a society, we are still facing challenges of registration of Roma children, ensuring that, when they are included in the education system, they achieve appropriate academic results and complete their education, access to health care and social services, warned Andrea Zeravcic, Save the Children in North West Balkans Director. “The indicators are immitigable and tell us that we all need to do more in order to ensure that the position of Roma boys and girls is not multiple times worse than the position of children coming from the majority population in our country. Save the Children believes that the key to ensuring the changes that will impact future generations of Roma lies in education.”

Save the Children started with the implementation of this regional project early in 2013, supported by the US Department of State. It aims at strengthening the skills and capacities of young leaders to identify common factors of exclusion and discrimination that Roma in these countries face, and then to prepare feasible and applicable action plans to address these issues by facilitating the interstate exchange and networking, and collaboration with civil society organizations and advocacy initiatives.

The project “LYRA - Young Roma in Action” is being implemented in five communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Sarajevo, Banja Luka, Tuzla, Bijeljina andMostar), Albania (Korca, Fieri and Pogradeci) and Kosovo (Prizren and Djakovica). From a total of 78 young people involved in the wider LYRA BH group, research teams were formed in each town, responsibile for field investigation, while other members provided administrative support to the research (keeping the minutes of youth meetings, updating LYRA project Facebook page, help in data processing, etc.). Before the research was conducted, young people have had the opportunity to participate in educational programs where they acquired skills necessary for successful implementation of the project.

For majority of the young researchers this was the first professional engagement during which they gained valuable skills and knowledge that will serve them in their future professional development, but also in proactive action to resolve the negative phenomena in the society that affect their lives.

“This project has a great potential in promotion of young Roma leaders, myself amongst them. I feel enriched, it improved my existing knowledge, I acquired new contacts, in Abania and Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina as well,” says Adnan Šubert from Banjaluka, one of the young Roma leaders involved in the LYRA project.

The Report represents an overview of the results of local researches that were conducted in Banja Luka, Bijeljina, Mostar, Sarajevo and Tuzla, in communities with the majority of Roma population. It is published in B/H/S, English and Romani language.

Researches included more than 280 respondents and each town had a different focus: in Banja Luka that was analysis of the current situation and problems of the Roma; in Bijeljina retention  of Roma children and youth in the education system was examined, in Mostar a social map of vulnerable Roma settlements was made; in Sarajevo the research focused on the social inclusion of young Roma; while in Tuzla the focus was on examining discrimination of the Roma population in the areas of information, immigration, employment and health.

Further project activities include three-day training in Albania which will be attended by 15 young Roma leaders from B-H, i.e. 60 young Roma and non-Roma leaders from Albania, B-H and Kosovo. The training will result in recommendations for advocacy initiatives by young Roma leaders that are applicable to the entire region, concerning better social inclusion and protection of the Roma population and based on the identified problems within the action researches. They will also develop national advocacy plans which will be implemented with the support of Save the Children and partners. Also, financial support to young Roma leaders to design and implement five local actions aimed at addressing issues identified through the conducted researches is planned within the project implementation.

Paid internships program is another activity that will be offered to young Roma leaders. Interested leaders will be able to apply to this two-month program that will be organized in cooperation with civil society organizations, companies and other legal entities, with the aim of professional training of young people and improvement of their competitiveness in the labour market.

Adnan Šubert was positively surprised with paid internship concept. “To me, it is very important that this concept of internship comes to life, and that such way of employment comes to life, because institutions and other stakeholders at all levels have not recognized sufficiently the importance of employment of young Roma.”

In the following phases of the project implementation, the young Roma leaders and Save the Children will actively cooperate with the Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees of B-H as well as with the Roma Advisory Board within B-H Council of Ministers. The cooperation will focus on implementation of the action plan programs in the local communities that are included in LYRA project and where young Roma leaders act as drivers of ideas and actions, as well as on networking with other partners at the local level to improve the situation of the Roma population.