Empowering Roma communities

Action, research and documentation (ECMI Synergy Wheel stories) - European Centre for Minority IssuesSupport in taking driver’s licenses, sewing trainings, and in including Roma performances in cultural events; these are some of the activities that ECMI Caucasus has backed up in its second Roma project.

The second Roma project of ECMI Caucasus was carried out through 2012. It was small-scale and practice-oriented and aimed at empowering the Roma communities of Georgia in many ways.

The results are tangible. For instance, several men have taken driver’s licenses that enabled them to be hired as drivers. For some, it was the first permanent job they ever had.

Many women were offered and made use of tailoring and sewing trainings, and obtained certificates of vocational skills. As a side effect of parents’ educations, several children started attending school; the over aged ones taking school certificates in an accelerated system.

Spin-off in the margins

In the margins of the project, several Roma children were selected to participate in an international multiethnic tolerance camp, organized by the local Jewish foundation.

Also, participation in the Art Gene Festival in early August enabled Roma adults and children to present their rich musical culture in a newly formed band. Subsequently, the band proved rapidly to be able to make a living for the musicians. It is now playing at various private and public events.

Overview and sponsors

The 2012 Roma project was aimed at further advancement and empowerment of the Roma community. It was particularly oriented towards creating a positive environment for better economic, social and civil participation of all marginalized Roma communities in Georgia.

The project has particularly focused on:

  • Enhancement of knowledge of the state language among the Romani community members;
  • Enhancement of the social inclusion of Roma children through establishing and equipping kindergartens in Roma settlements;
  • Improve the technical skills of adult Roma through vocational training courses;
  • Increase the participation of the Roma community in the civic and political life;
  • Preservation of Roma cultural identity through encouraging the formation of musical groups;
  • Empowerment and support to the Kutaisi nomadic Kurdish-speaking Roma.

The project is supported by Open Society Georgia Foundation (OSGF). It carries the title: Support and Development of Roma Communities in Georgia.

Coordinated by Elena Proshikian

The second Roma project of ECMI Caucasus was coordinated by Elena Proshikian. Proshikian is of Roma background herself. While working with ECMI, she has regularly been appearing in the public media as a young generation spokesperson on Roma issues.

Watch: Our Yard at the Georgian Public Broadcasting’s 1st channel. Proshikian takes part in the panel from around 17:30. She is number two from left. Also ECMI Researcher Giorgi Sordia appears in the emission. He is the first from left.
Listen to: Our Georgia talk show at Radio 1.

Elena Proshikian, ECMI Project Assistant
ECMI Project Assistant Elena Proshikian. Photo: John Petersen

 

Facts: Previous Roma related activities by ECMI Caucasus

The Roma people in Georgia are one of the least protected and marginalized ethnic groups. Unlike other ethnic communities, the Roma have attracted very limited public attention over the years. Modest positive changes for the community have been seen only since 2008.

ECMI has been one of the first organizations in Georgia to start dealing with the Roma community. As an entry point for engagement with this group, ECMI prepared two policy papers in 2008 and 2009 outlining the history and contemporary life of the Roma in Georgia.

It assessed the current situation of the Roma population with a detailed demographic and geographic overview. Based on this assessment, ECMI initiated small interventions as part of existing programmes aimed at supporting the Roma community in Georgia.

As a result, a series of activities have been implemented ranging from training in basic human and social rights for selected Roma community members and facilitation in the establishment of two Roma community based organizations – in Leninovka village and in Kobuleti’s Roma settlement.

Moreover, school textbooks and clothing were distributed in both settlements. Given that many of the members of Kobuleti Roma community appeared to be talented musicians they were also supplied with musical instruments in order for them to organize a music group.

To meet educational needs by enrollment of Roma children in public schools, bus transportation was provided for Roma children, along with a few Georgian children from the same village.

Since September 2010 the Georgian authorities have taken over the costs of transportation. Also the introduction of integration classes for Roma children resulted in 30 children enrolled into preparatory Georgian language and math courses in order for them to be prepared for attending regular classes.

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