»Do we just hear or are we listening to each other?« (LUK, SI)

Within the project »Early marriage – culture or abuse?« a discussion for local general public »Do we just hear or are we listening to each other?« was held on Thursday, 29th September 2016 in the premises of Ljudska univerza Kočevje.

Brane Novak, Leading officer of working group for work in multicultural community, Ministry of the Interior (retiree), shared years of experiences of his work in multicultural community, mainly Roma community. He was honestly speaking about his work with Roma, approaches of solving conflicts or problems, social status of Roma, their culture, habits etc. We should be aware of different culture, habits, language as well as way of life within different Roma communities when working with specific Roma community. The key for successful resolution of Roma issues lies in a constant presence of “Roma mediator” in local Roma settlements. After many years of working with Roma he learnt Roma language which led to better communication and easier work, since »Roma accepted him as their own«. He also highlighted, the problems must be addressed immediately, later might be already too late. A discussion continued with a workshop, demonstrating the differences between habits or way of life (in general) of Roma and majority population. Two volunteers, representing the majority and the Roma community, were standing at the same side of the room and listening to a variety of statements (e.g. “Each year our family is going on vacation.” “I wake up early and go to work.” …) read out by Mr Novak. For each statement the volunteer could identify with it, had to take a step forward. At the end, the representative of the majority population came to the other side of the room, while the representative of Roma community didn’t move at all. For many participants the result came as a shock, but the situation is in many cases not very far from the reality. We should be more aware of the differences between us. The participants of the discussion showed a very positive reaction on the addressed topic and shared constantly their opinions, views, doubts and questions.

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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

 

Inter-institutional meetings (FormAzione, IT)

In the frame of the Daphne project “Early Marriage: culture or abuse?” three meetings have been organized with representatives of public and private institutions working in direct contact with Roma communities of the territory, in order to start a dialogue between the civil society, Roma communities and local institutions and to find shared solutions to the main problems emerged.
The main topics of these meetings have been the door-to-door visits to Roma families, carried out by our cultural mediator Demir Mustafa, the Prevention Programmes implemented at some of the schools of the 5th district of Florence (“Quartiere 5”), the prevention of early marriages and collaboration and exchange of best practices between professionals working in the field of prevention and socio-educational services.
Inter-institutional meetings have contributed to identify the most crucial issues we have to focus our attention to:

  1. Improve the living conditions of the most disadvantaged families (especially those living at the “Poderaccio” Roma settlement) – we have observed a strong link between the living conditions and social integration. We suggest discussions that involve also representatives of the Municipality of Florence or of the district.
  2. Invest in education and focus on drop-out prevention – we have observed also a strong relationship between the educational level and the age of getting married: people with higher levels of education usually get married later. This means that education has a fundamental role in preventing early marriages. That’s why our priority is to support children with learning difficulties (through ripetitions and support with their homework after school), to raise awareness in the Roma communities through door-to-door visits and discussions by involving also Roma who have completed their studies or even university, to speak with them about contraception.

The meetings have revealed that early marriages within Roma communities are not so common anymore and parents prefer their kids to finish school first and find a job before getting married. Nevertheless, professionals who participated at the meetings consider it necessary to implement an awareness raising campaign on sexuality and contraception methods at the gynaecologist studios in order to reach young girls, as these topics usually are not addressed within the family. Furthermore, all participants agree that it’s necessary to continue the implementation of the Prevention Programmes at schools, as feedbacks of both teachers and pupils have been extremely positive.

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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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