Roma and Egyptian women (RE) in Berane do not know the corpus of their personal rights, nor do they know how to access the protection and realization of the same, Marijana Blečić who is teaching advisor at the Faculty of Philosophy in Nikšić concluded after a workshop with RE women in this city in northern Montenegro.
The situation in which these women find themselves is quite discouraging.
In a conversation with RE women, our instructor learned that they do not recognize the area of their rights at all, nor do they know the mechanisms of protection or exercise. For example, they do not know what the responsibilities of the Municipality of Berane, the Labor Bureau of Berane and the police are, neither do they know for which rights can they can contact them. All of these, as well as all other problems faced by RE citizens and their families in Berane on a daily basis, were the topics discussed at the workshop organized within the project “Civil society in action promoting and protecting Roma and Egyptian rights in Montenegro” which is funded by the European Commission – European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR).
The 11 participants of the workshop took the opportunity to speak about the very difficult living conditions. The primary problem is the large waste of garbage located in the settlement of Rudeš. However, none of the locals addressed the Municipality or the Public Communal Utility in order for them to remove the garbage, but rather the garbage accumulates and creates difficulties in maintaining the hygiene of homes, but also in general living conditions (unpleasant odor, waste that reaches the entrance to the house, etc.).
According to instructor Bečić, Roma and Egyptians women recognize that the problem could be solved by installation of additional containers and support from Public Communal Utility, which would come for waste on a regular basis, but no one has addressed the authorities for this type of support and solution to the problem.
Also, they point out that the neighbors themselves do not have the same attitude towards maintaining the hygiene of housing and common space (access to households), so they complain about this problem as well, which causes even more problems for those few who have a positive attitude towards it.
The problem, when it comes to hygiene, has worsened with the coronavirus pandemic.
As the women themselves have pointed out, they do not have the means to adequately maintain hygiene (personal, other family members / children, household). Although most of them are recipients of social assistance (MOP), the funds which they have received are not enough to adequately respond to the measures recommended by the NCT (National Coordination Body), so they themselves say that it is no wonder that ‘’there is more corona”, because they cannot respect the recommended measures, and because of that they care about the health of their children.
In the approach of exercising their rights, as well as the support they receive, RE women make big differences between the NGO sector and public institutions, says Mariana Blečić.
RE women state that they have received help from the Red Cross, which they shared in the Riverside neighborhood, but that this is always selective. Namely, they say that there is a significant number of those who have never received help, or mention that large families have received only one aid package, which is not enough. As they said, in their addresses to the Center for Social Work, they encountered constant rejections like: “There is nothing for you here”.
They have highlighted Help, from the organizations whose work they recognize, and from which they have received help. The work of the Health Center and the Elementary School ” Radomir Mitrović” stand out as positive from the public sector.
According to Marijana Blečić, the key problem is that Roma women and Egyptian women in Berane face bad economic conditions and do not recognize different ways and mechanisms to improve the situation.
For example, when it comes to resolving their legal status, none of them recognizes the mechanism of regular reporting to the Ministry of the Interior, and they mentioned the status of their children born in Montenegro, who do not have a resolved status so consequently are not Montenegrin citizens. Also, only one of the participants was registered at the Employment Agency and did not know about the mechanism of regular registration, so she was removed from the records for half a year. She was offered a seasonal job, which she had to refuse due to her distance from her family and her responsibilities to her children.
Blečić also said that four women stated that they would need help with applying to the Labor Bureau (they did not know that they had the right to work as foreigners), but also to do jobs of: cleaning, caring for the elderly, etc.
Also, none of them knew that despite not having completed primary school (only one of the participants has completed primary school in Macedonia whose diploma has not been validated yet, nor does she know that she should do so) professional qualifications, etc. they still have the right to be registered at the Labor Bureau.
As the goal of Help’s project, which we are implementing in cooperation with the partner Roma youth organization “Walk with us- Phiren Amenca”, is to help and empower this population and specially to acquaint them with the rights they can practise, Blečić recommended that there is work to be done on continuous informing of RE women about the corpus of their personal rights as well as the following;
- Provide support to RE women on access to rights (assistance with filling in forms, application forms, additional explanations);
- Provide support to RE women regarding the completion of primary education, but also the acquisition of professional qualifications that would recommend them for the labor market;
- Provide short-term assistance with RE households, primarily hygiene products;
- Ensure better cooperation with the Labor Office of Berane, regarding registration and job search without qualification. The informal network of employers should not be excluded, or individuals that they could formed, which could offer the services of RE women (cleaning of houses / apartments, help in rural households, help in caring for the elderly, etc.);
- Provide support to RE households on waste disposal in cooperation with public institutions, as well as in the repair of housing in both settlements (Riverside, Peštica).