Sustainable integration of Roma through local institutions

Article, 27.04.2018

10% of the Bulgarian population is Roma, but they are almost invisible and are rarely represented in institutions. Most live in deprived urban areas and are socially isolated. Their children are often not in school because there is none nearby. Those who do attend school encounter major difficulties related to discrimination and to learning a new language, and do not complete their education. Access to basic healthcare is also problematic, leading to epidemics and other health issues.

Four Roma children pose for the camera.
Sustainable integration of Roma through local institutions © Inès Blondel / SDC

Sustainable inclusion of Roma in Bulgaria through institutions

Governmental institutions in Bulgaria at national and local levels are directly involved in the Roma social inclusion programme. This involvement of the ministries concerned and the municipalities allows for better prospects for sustainability and a better understanding of the local realities through cooperation with the different actors on the ground (NGOs, mediators, schools and health centres). But sustainable inclusion also requires active involvement in developing communities so that they are represented in decision-making bodies. It is also necessary to combat discrimination within the majority population of the country, in order to enable long-term progress in integration.

Education and health:  two key conditions for successful integration

The cooperation programme between Switzerland and six municipalities in Bulgaria through the Health and Education for All (ZOV) project aims to provide high-quality early years education in kindergartens and to facilitate access to primary healthcare. For example, in the Roma neighbourhood of Nadezhda in Sliven, the construction of the kindergarten and the medical centre has now been completed and they will be in operation from autumn 2018. A door-to-door campaign was conducted by educators to encourage parents to enrol their children in the new kindergarten, which will be able to accommodate 150 Roma children up to 6 years of age. Health mediators meanwhile informed residents of the possibility of benefiting from medical consultations and free contraceptives. They also carry out information campaigns on sexual health and family planning, and inform pregnant women that they are entitled to free follow-up during pregnancy even without insurance. The results obtained by the local ZOV team are very encouraging. The future running of the kindergarten is guaranteed through state funding from spring 2018. While ZOV will continue to support extracurricular activities with parents and children until December 2018, solutions to continue them after that date are being actively sought. Health promotion activities will also be pursued through the national network of health mediators.

Publication year 2018
Month 03
Publisher SDC

The voice of Roma educators