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Monday, 16 March 2015

Praxis Organises Meetings for Relevant Actors Dealing with Roma Rights in 10 Municipalities in South Serbia

During February and March, Praxis organised two meetings in the local communities, with the aim of bringing together all relevant actors involved in the protection of rights and improving the situation of the Roma population - representatives of municipal authorities, service providers and civil society, and improving their cooperation.

The Praxis’ extensive experience in dealing with the rights of Roma revealed the need for the networking of all the stakeholders working on the issues of Roma rights, as well as the need for coordination of their joint work and exchange of information. In addition, it has turned out that dealing with these issues at the local level is of great importance because it is the easiest way to identify and effectively solve problems specific to a particular municipality.

The first meeting was held in Prokuplje on 25 February and the second one took place in Aleksinac on 11 March. The meetings were attended by representatives of municipal authorities, institutions and civil society. The meeting topics were related to the areas of employment, education, housing, social protection, health care and discrimination. The main conclusions are: as regards employment there is a low percentage of applicants for self-employment grants and the lack of interest for the offered retraining and additional training programmes, and the entire procedure of granting subsidies should be simplified. As regards social protection, common problems were mentioned, such as complicated procedures, limitations of the right to financial social assistance for the beneficiaries able to work, and extreme arbitrariness/abuse of discretionary powers by some social workers. It was concluded that Roma children were not fully included in the education system. The Roma minority is usually exposed to indirect discrimination.

According to the participants, the meetings have contributed to increasing their knowledge and the formulation of joint conclusions that will facilitate easier problem solving in the future.

After these two, eight more municipal meetings are planned to be organised by the end of September in: Leskovac, Bojnik, Prokuplje, Kuršumlija, Bor, Bela Palanka, Kruševac, Lebane and Knjaževac, while the final, joint roundtable for government representatives, service providers and NGOs dealing with Roma rights at the national and local levels is scheduled for October. The conclusions previously reached at the mentioned municipal meetings will be presented.

These activities are conducted within the framework of the project entitled Legal Aid and Advocacy - Access to Rights and Combating Discrimination against the Roma, implemented in the period 1 January – 31 December 2015 with the support of Civil Rights Defenders. The project aims to facilitate equal access to justice without discrimination for the Roma population, through the provision of free legal assistance and legal counselling relating to socio-economic rights and protection from discrimination. The project also includes the activities such as monitoring and advocacy, which should contribute to improvement of legislation and practice of local institutions and service providers.

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