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Donetsk region: Roma women and authorities decided on how to protect children from shelling
The round table gathered more than 20 participants who discussed the problems of Roma multi-child families during warfare Photo: Olga Rudenko’s Facebook
The round table gathered more than 20 participants who discussed the problems of Roma multi-child families during warfare

On 29 April, a round table took place in Dzerzhynsk of Donetsk region with participation of experts and researchers of Roma issues, representatives of public organizations, state institutions and Roma community. They talked on how to protect Roma families during war conflict – not only from shelling but from legal and social problems as well.

During the meeting “Actual problems of safety for Roma multi-child families during shelling of the city and ways of their solving” difficult issues for Roma families of Dzerzhinsk were discussed. Poverty of Roma families became a large issue since warfare in Ukraine started, all of them have to struggle to survive.

- Problems of Roma rights protection, for example, education, labor, property rights, social state, and healthcare have not been solved in Ukraine and in Dzerzhinsk, specifically. Roma are left on their own together with their problems, they feel negative treatment from other people and from authorities, - Olga Rudenko, the head of the board of City community organization “Ecology and social protection” says.

At the same time, Roma public activists say that they are ready to be “socially included”.

- But we understand that we are unable to protect our children during the war on our own, without specialists and support from local authorities, - Roma activist Mariya Vishnyakova added.

Director of Roma programme initiative of International “Renaissance” Foundation Olga Zhmurko and vice-president of International charity organization “Roma women fund “Chirikli” Zemfira Kondur discussed the first steps and opportunities to help Roma families. Organizers of the round table thanked guests that they came to Dzerzhinsk to witness the situation and to support local activists.

Olga Zhmurko said that the meeting was very necessary and on time and confirmed that the Foundation will look into proposals and ideas of Dzerzhinsk activists:
-    International European structures have developed enough programmes, recommendations and ordinances on Roma integration in the community. International “Renaissance” Foundation has been working on enabling all the conditions for Roma minority’s protection and integration for more than 20 years. Our Foundation is ready to look into your proposals and ideas and support those, which correspond with the aim of our open competition. Besides, Foundation gives scholarships for Roma youth who wish to continue studying in higher education institutions. Our meeting is well timed, as there is a group of people who strive for changes; there are local institutions ready for cooperation. Foundation will support collective address to local authorites, which will not have conflicts of interest in solving Roma problems according to Roma national Strategy’s plan of actions.

Zemfira Kondur, the coordinator of Council of Europe Programme ROMED2 “Support of integration of Roma community on local level” in Ukraine, supported local initiatives as well. She invited local activists to attend international event on Programme ROMED2 implementation in Kyiv, and thanked Roma women and public activists that they combined their efforts and solve the problems of multi-child families.

Representative of Antidiscrimination center “Memorial”, which recently presented report “Roma and war. Roma people from Eastern Ukraine who suffered from war: refugees, internally displaced persons, victims of violence”, also took part in the event. Serhiy Mikhayev, the lawyer of organization, told about problems of Roma connected with war and asked all the sides who are trying to regulate the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, to pay attention to Roma, not to allow violence and discrimination, assist in IDPs legalization. Lawyer asked the government to implement and develop “Strategy of protection and integration of Roma national minority into Ukrainian society until 2020” accordingly to recent events in the country:
-    We should pay attention to problems of children – they should be able to obtain education and medical care, support of sick and disabled people, multi-child mothers, - Serhiy Mikhayev said.

Representatives of state and communal services also shared their views on solving the problems of Roma community. Olena Reva, the head inspector of State firefighting rescue squad #22, explained how to act during shelling from her own experience. Volodymyr Fedorov, the head of Dzerzhinsk state law enforcement department, offered to address the authorities in order to engage Roma mediators in providing of administrative services, as very often Roma cannot obtain services on their own. There are different reasons: lack of knowledge, skills, money to pay taxes, property.

- I want to address the state to find premises where Roma without property rights can be registered, so that they have equal access to community’s resources, - Volodymyr Fedorov said.

The representative of public activists Olga Rudenko voiced the proposal to local authorities: to work on local programme “Plan of special activities to teach principles of civil defense to Roma community” to increase the safety of Roma according to their social and ethnocultural needs. Working group consisting of Roma and public activists, state representatives will be created. Participants of the event agreed on following steps:

1.    Take part in 4 meetings of consultation working group to achieve effectiveness of project events.

2.    To set up a new commission or to use an existing one which will be responsible for instructing Roma community on safety of children during warfare.

3.    To conduct seven activities on training 30 Roma how to act during shelling in order to prevent deaths of civilians.

4.    To allow access of 30 representatives of Roma communities to bomb shelters in order to give instructions on how to act there.

5.    To make budget institutions and providers of public information use two information boards in Roma settlement in order to provide important information to Roma in time.

6.    To participate in training “Red card to stigma, racial discrimination and violation of human rights during warfare”.

7.    To apply to volunteer organizations in order to receive systematic humanitarian aid for multi-child Roma families.

8.    To conduct a training on safety for specialists.

9.    To publish booklets for Roma community about protection of children lives.

10.    To conduct work meetings of Roma community with social services.

11.    To use available information resources for informational support of the project.

12.    To address the authorities on social Roma hostel.

13.    To make contract with authorities on ROMED2 programme implementation.

The event took place within the implementation of the initiative “Activities of authorities and safety of Roma community during warfare” within the project “Public activities supporting Crimean and Eastern Ukraine” implemented by Public union “Education house of human rights in Chernihiv” supported by National Endowment for Democracy. The project is part of action plan of All-Ukrainian educational programme “Understanding human rights”. Organizers and activists of the initiative do not necessarily share the official position of Public union “Education house of human rights in Chernihiv”.

Information and photo: Olga Rudenko’s Facebook

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