The dream of a roma girl
When Aliona went to school, it wasn’t easy at all for her to adapt to it. When passing in the corridors of a big school from the neighbouring village, children were shouting after her: “Ei, tziganii (this is how Roma are called in Moldova)…let’s not talk or play with her”.
Every morning she has to wake up at 6 o’clock to get the bus on time. There is only one bus which goes in the morning to the neighbouring village, if she is 5 minutes late – she misses the whole school day. The same happens in the afternoons: sometimes she has to skip some important classes, because the buss doesn’t wait.
Aliona Cozma is the first child of a Roma family who lives in a very small village called Schinoasa situated in the centre of Moldova with a small number of 80 families, with no even small shops, no medical centre or school, no aqueduct.
Despite of huge poverty and often lack of jobs, Aliona’s parents have had the ambition to send their girl to school every day, even during the winters, when the roads in Moldova are snowy and impassable. Most Roma families don’t do this, considering children education not important. But the most difficult to face was the discrimination the little girl faced by many people from the school community: teachers, children, parents.
“In the beginning I was very upset, I was crying during the nights, but starting all over again next morning. Now I’m not crying anymore. I know that I have another scope in my life – to learn, to get new skills. I even talk to other Roma kids to convince them not to miss the classes, it is very interesting there and you have a chance to build a secure future… ” said Aliona.
Aliona’s school has 400 children, 52 from them are Roma. But only half of Roma boys and girls go to school regularly. The majority of them have no possibility to study because they lack shoes or warm clothes, or they are taken by their parents to work the land and earn money for their numerous families. The most deprived from school are Roma girls who get married and become mothers very early. The solution came from the Roma Community Mediator created with UNICEF support – a person selected by the Roma families and whom they trust the most – to help Roma in their social inclusion process. The mediator has helped Aliona and other Roma girls to go to school, to get vaccination and regular medical check-ups.
“When I became a Community mediator, two years ago, the situation was catastrophic –Roma children from our village didn’t go to school, get vaccinated or pass the medical examinations. Now the situation looks different: every morning I go and check if all 52 kids are in school, if not, I go to their home and talk to parents. I help them to get ID documents and obtain social cash benefits”, said proudly Ala Popcov, the Mediator from Schinoasa. “There’s less discrimination now – the principle and the teachers no longer offend our children, they treat them equally to others”.
The modelling exercise was done in the framework of “We contribute today, for a better tomorrow” project run by UNICEF Moldova jointly with the UN family, the Council of Europe, OSCE/ODIHR and Roma NGOs in the period of June 2010 - May 2011.
The overall aim of the project was to improve the access of over 200 Roma children and their families to education, health and social services. Due to the project, Aliona and other Roma children benefited from transportation arrangements which allow them to get to the school placed in a neighbouring village (10 km) every day (now the transportation is provided by the local authorities as a result of UNICEF Advocacy work).
The Roma Community Mediators model was based on the successful experience of some neighbouring countries from Eastern Europe, such as Romania and Serbia. A Council of Europe Recommendation from September 2012 formally acknowledges mediation as an effective tool for Roma integration.
The modelling exercise was done in 2010-2011 in 8 localities, including in Schinoasa to facilitate the social inclusion and help to bridge the existing gap between local authorities and Roma people, both in communication and access to social services. “The overall aim of the project was to improve the access of over 200 Roma children and their families to education, health and social services at local level and show to the Government available options in achieving Roma inclusion, with little financial implication, given the Government’s concern of limited available resources”, mentioned UNICEF Moldova Representative, Nune Mangasaryan.
Based on the positive results of the modelling exercise, UNICEF advocated for incorporating Roma Community Mediators in the newly approved Action Plan to support Roma ethnic group in the Republic of Moldova 2011-2015. As a result, in 2012 the position of Roma Community Mediator was included in the Registry of Professions of the Republic of Moldova. The UNICEF Country Office will continue to advocate for adequate training of these Mediators and for the allocation of appropriate budget resources to provide this service to the remaining 27 localities densely populated by Roma.