Discussions with / for Roma women (LUK, SI)

The discussion topics, directly or indirectly linked to early marriages, were selected in cooperation with several participants of our project. The main source presented Roma mediator together with representatives of local public institutions, involved in the interinstitutional team. Conversations on physical and psychological maturity, sexuality, contraception methods are not really a subject of discussions in Roma community. Considering also the results of the research carried out in local Roma settlements, informations on contraception should be provided by the medical staff (according to the experiences, unfortunately in many cases when the girl is already pregnant). Furthermore, the topics were discussed with the representatives of interinstitutional team, where the Roma women, working as Roma assistant on local primary schools, were present as well. A common opinion was identified to focus on Roma girls, aged from 12 to 17 years, representing the most vulnerable group. Local Roma girls, with few exceptions, rarely successfully complete compulsory primary education. Thus, ending their educational path very early.
With strong support of Roma mediator, the discussions were successfully organized. At the first meeting, the main subject was dedicated to maturity, sexuality and contraception. After obvious embarrassment, the debate opened questions related to early marriages and consequences of early parenthood. Nowadays, local Roma community still doesn’t decisively address, act and react in cases of cohabitation before the age of 18. Debating on topics as future, independence, maternity, some of the girls expressed the wish to continue their education. Without exception, hairdressing and beauty services were selected as the most interesting topics. And this was the topic of our next gathering! The discussion was completed with a short workshop, creating clay jewellery.

Our second gathering in the premises of Ljudska univerza Kočevje attracted even more Roma. Obviously more relaxed atmosphere than during our first meeting is an excellent opportunity to address again some of the topics already discussed. Deep and open thoughts on growing-up brings up facts, the maturity process follows the same rhythm regardless of gender, ethnicity. The majority of girls starts dreaming about boys and vice versa. The puberty is the time, when hormones start moving in their own way, with boys and girls, regardless where you’re coming from or who you are. Our gathering continues in a local beauty centre. The group of girls is accompanied by the local journalist, responsible for preparing news on Roma community in Kočevje region. Our host firstly presents her educational path. Of course, the most interesting part was the working process, where girls actively participate as a client and beautician. At the end, some girls voluntarily presented our gathering in front of the TV camera.

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Media coverage:

RTV SLO, TV SLO 2, “So vakeres”, 4.10.2016 (10:33-11:42), prepared by: Tjaša Šerkezi

 

Final conference of the project »Early Marriage – Culture or Abuse?« (LUK, SI)

The final conference of the project »Early Marriage – Culture or Abuse?« took place on Friday, June 10th 2016, in Ljubljana, Austria Trend Hotel.
Following the introductory speech of the directress of People’s University of Kočevje, Maja Rupnik, the large number of participants of the conference were addressed by dr. Andreja Barle Lakota, Secretary of State, Ministry of Education, Science and Sport, mag. Stanko Baluh, Director of the Office for National Minorities of the Republic of Slovenia and dr. Vladimir Prebilič, the Mayor of the Municipality of Kočevje.
The lead partner and organizer of the conference, People’s University of Kočevje (SI), together with project partners Development and Education centre Novo mesto (SI), Center Amalipe (BG) and FormAzione CO&So Network (IT), presented project activities, targeted and achieved goals and main conclusions of the project.
Main part of the conference, round table»Hand in hand for better interlinking of Roma community and majority population«, was opened by dr. Vladimir Prebilič, the Mayor of the Municipality of Kočevje. The Mayor presented examples of an active and successful cooperation at local level to address Roma issues and pointed out still open challenges that still need to be tackled. Senior police inspector, Manuel Vesel and founder of Center Amalipe, Teodora Krumova joined the discussion. Also the audience joined the conversation and shared their experience mainly in the field of successful integration of Roma children in education in recent years.
Representatives of non-governmental organisations, working in the field of nonviolent communication and fight against human trafficking, expressed huge interest in developed teaching toolkits (playing cards and video) and greatly evaluated their use in performing their own prevention activities.
The project »Early Marriage – Culture or Abuse?« introduces a broad set of prevention activities in preventing early marriages, which include various target groups – from professional workers, Roma community, schoolchildren to general public – and establishes valuable engagement and cooperation between local public institutions and Roma community. The project approach was assessed as an example of a good practice to be shared and further developed. Interlinking and cooperation of all included, public institutions, NGO and Roma community is the key to desired changes in preventing early marriages.

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Media coverage:

STA (Slovenian Press Agency), 10.6.2016, Final conference of the project about early Roma marriages.

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RTV SLO, TV SLO 2, “So vakeres”, 21.6.2016 (3:12-5:49), prepared by: Enisa Brizani
So vakeres

RTV SLO, Radio Prvi, “Naše poti – Amare Droma”, 20.6.2016 (19:22-28:00), prepared by: Enisa Brizani

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Round table »Wealth of multiculturalism – yesterday, today, tomorrow« (LUK, SI)

As a part of the project »Early marriage – culture or abuse?« a round table for general public »Wealth of multiculturalism – yesterday, today, tomorrow« was held on April 5, 2016 in Kočevje.
The guests shared experiences of their general and family life as members of specific majority, confrontations with stereotypes and prejudices, as well as the role of women and intercultural coexistence today and in the future.
Janja Rošer, the president of Council of Roma community of the Republic of Slovenia as a representative of Roma ethnic minority and Faila Pašić Bišić, the president of Humanitarian society Up, as a representative of Islamic community in Slovenia, were honestly speaking of their personal experiences as well as views of communities they represent. Beside stereotypes and prejudices they were facing when growing up, they talked about how the role of women is changing in their communities. The status of women, being powerlessness and in an inferior position to men, is successfully changing. Individual women, who decided to cross the boundaries of being just mothers and housewives, present the role models and motivation for all women. When speaking about women and mothers the debate addressed also early marriage issues. They both strongly criticised and highlighted the different views of practicing arranged (forced) marriages within different groups in each community. Janja Rošer highlighted the need of separating different Roma communities in Slovenia regarding different way of living, different culture and language and finally practicing different forms of marriage. Roma communities in Prekmurje (North East of Slovenia) and Dolenjska (South East of Slovenia) are not familiar with arranged early marriages. In both regions, early cohabitations in a form of so-called “elopement” are known and practiced. A young couple decides to “marry” and start to live together. In most cases, without parents’ knowledge or despite their disapproval. When searching for possible solutions, it is important to stress out that it is not possible to isolate the issue, since it’s complex and connected with many other issues, but it is vital that the community itself recognises the problem as unacceptable in a modern world.
Coexistence is only possible in a tolerant society, with active inclusion of both sides, members of minority as well as of majority population, being willing and prepared for respectful cooperation, intercultural dialog, equal inclusion in decision-making process, always and everywhere.  Not only the differences alone enrich us but also common values, wishes and fears which we not often highlight.
At the end the visitors joined the debate with their opinions and questions and their response to the content and organization of the event was very positive.

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A short video on round table was broadcasted on national TV channel RTV SLO2 in the Roma programme “So vakeres?”.

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Prepared by Tjaša Šerkezi.

Press article: “Early Marriage – Culture or Abuse?” (Dolenjski list, SI)

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Newspaper: Dolenjski List, 5. 2. 2015
Author: M. Leskovšek-Svete