In Central and South East Europe
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A new project to protect children belonging to ethnic minorities in Moldova

2018-03-07

Only half of Roma children in Moldova aged between 7 and 15 years attend school, compared to almost 100% of their non-Roma peers, show UNICEF studies. Roma parents say they prefer to keep their children at home because they fear that sending them to school will expose them to discrimination and bullying. These are one of the main reasons of school drop-out among Roma children. Nevertheless, discrimination is rarely reported to authorities, as Roma people have a low trust in them and lack knowledge of appropriate mechanisms to claim their rights.

These issues are the target of an ambitious project - "Sustainable community partnerships to support the rights of persons belonging to minorities in Moldova" - that was launched on February 23 by Terre des hommes Moldova (Tdh) with the financial support of the European Union. Through this project, implemented in partnership with the Institute for Rural Initiatives and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Research, Tdh Moldova aims to achieve real changes in combating discrimination against ethnic minorities, primarily Roma people, in 20 beneficiary communities selected from all over the country. The project's expected results include the strengthening of the school's role in educating and promoting tolerance, diversity and social inclusion; ensuring the interethnic dialogue among community members; mobilizing Roma people to take an active role in eradication of stereotypes and prejudices and to stand up for their rights; and empowering communities to facilitate the ethnic minorities’ access to local protection systems.

Among major challenges, mentioned by representatives of project partner communities who attended the event, are lack of tolerance, migration, and low initiative and trust in the communities. At the same time, they highlighted the need for such a project in their communities and expressed hope that after two years of implementation, things will improve.

Ludmila Ungureanu, director of Tdh Moldova, noted that the beneficiary communities were selected very carefully and, although they are different, from different contexts, they are united by their courage to engage in a challenging project, the spirit of initiative and the conviction that human rights are for everyone. "You made a commitment to fight discrimination in your communities, to promote inclusion and tolerance. Moreover, you are aware that this responsibility lies not only with the national authorities, but belongs to each community. We are honoured to work with you", said Ludmila Ungureanu. She also emphasized that Terre des hommes and the Institute for Rural Initiatives are not newcomers in this kind of initiatives, both of them having extensive experience of working in the field of human rights in general and minority rights in particular.

Present at the launching event, Viorelia Moldovan - Batrinac, Chief Advisor to the Prime Minister on social policies, expressed her joy for the start of a project aimed at the minority rights protection in Moldova, especially the Roma group. She underlined that Roma integration issues is not a problem that belongs only to communities where Roma live, but is related to education of tolerance in the society on the whole. "I am glad that this project aims first of all to educate tolerance. Tolerance can be educated and must be cultivated from early years and you will have our support in this approach." Ms. Moldovan-Batrinac also expressed her appreciation for the innovative social theatre method selected by the project's authors to promote tolerance and inclusion: "I want to emphasize and I appreciate the unusual and innovative approach of the social theatre, which will promote the collaboration among children of different ethnicities and this, I believe, is the key of change."

Marco Gemmer, Deputy Head of Operations of the European Union Delegation in Moldova underlined the significance of educating tolerance among children. "We are aware that discrimination is still present and our joint duty is to prevent it. We know it is difficult to change the mind of older people, but we have the chance to change the mind of young people, to become the drivers of change. Therefore, the concept of this project is to work with the schools, with the social mediators, to go to the communities and to see what needs to be done in the future." Marco Gemmer encouraged the representatives of communities to evaluate at the end of the project whether it was successful and achieved its goals.

"We will try to offer full support, encouragement and will strengthen the spirit of mobilization, so that all 20 communities of the project achieve improved integration and diminished discrimination. We also hope that this project will generate a working model for integration of children from different backgrounds, to be replicated at both local and national level", ended the series of presentations Ruslan Stanga, president of the Institute for Rural Initiatives.

Moving forward, Tdh Moldova will conduct a consultation process with professionals, parents and children from these communities in order to evaluate their knowledge, attitudes and practices on social cohesion, diversity and tolerance. Based on the survey results, the methodologies, programmes and learning materials that will be further used in the project will be designed.

Developing a training programme for teachers who will work with children and parents, and a social theatre pilot-programme for pupils; setting up a network of at least 200 children who will act as agents of change and contribute to promoting tolerance, diversity and inclusion by using the social theatre methodology; establishing an Academy for young leaders which will promote human rights through social activism; and providing small grants – these are some of the activities that Tdh Moldova aims to develop along with IRI in the selected beneficiary communities.

Tdh Moldova will develop the programmes and learning materials in cooperation with Ministry of Education, Culture and Research and the good practices of the project will be presented to the Ministry for scaling up at national level.

The "Sustainable community partnerships to support the rights of persons belonging to minorities in Moldova" project has a two-year implementation period, staring December 2017 until January 2020. The total value of the project is 400,000 EUR of which 380,000 EUR is the European Union contribution.

Photos from the launch event can be found HERE.