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Olga Rudenko: "Mediation is the only way that can help Roma community protect their rights"
Olga Rudenko, mediator, head of NGO "Ecology and social protection" (Toretsk) Photo by Olena Orlova, IRC "Legal Space".
Olga Rudenko, mediator, head of NGO "Ecology and social protection" (Toretsk)

Roma Women Fund Chiricli continues to publish stories of Roma mediators in the framework of the implementation of the next phase of the project "Support to the network of Roma health mediators" that is being implemented in Ukraine with the support of International Renaissance Foundation. Today's story is by the mediator Olga Rudenko.

"I'll start my story with the fact that now the Roma in our city are living very difficult. Everyone probably knows that on August 7 two Romani families in our city have suffered from the attacks and one family in which 6 people lost their house. With the support of volunteers, activists and just concerned people we are trying to help these families. It should be noted that the local government virtually eliminated from assistance to the victims. So they and the rest of the Roma here feel extremely vulnerable.

For example, on the evening of 24 August, when everyone celebrated the Independence Day, the shelling of the city started, powerful explosions were heard. The military that were with us at the feast hurried to their posts. And those Roma families who wanted to hide in a bomb shelter that should have been prepared by the local authority failed to do so, because of the mess. Our city government is not ready to defend their people on the front line. Roma families, especially large families are still with this trouble alone.

Life of the Roma families is difficult because our social security does not grant social benefits to mothers for 2-3 and sometimes 4 months. The situation, as you know, is quite complicated.

Of course, the public activists who help Roma have something to do every day. I am deeply convinced that today mediation is the only way that can help members of the Roma community protect their rights. In fact, without a mediator it is almost impossible to survive in the specific conditions of life in our city. Questions and phone calls are coming from the early morning till the late evening. I'm sometimes at a loss – how to help everyone effectively? A lot of work. Because we want to protect human rights, help to receive the access to resources. As they say, September 1 is coming soon, children should be sent to school. And due to the benefits unpaid people can’t afford to deliver kids to school.

But despite the difficulties, we have positive aspects in communication and cooperation with the Romani community. The adult Roma vocal group has been formed. We get together twice a week, prepare an interesting program. New Roma activists who began their work went to the training in Kyiv, they realize that we can achieve some progress and results only through uniting our efforts.

So personally I see the results of the project Roma health and social mediators and are grateful to the Roma Women Fund Chiricli that they found me and I became a mediator".

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