A dignified life for every Roma child

Young Roma say that they face stigmatization every day

UNICEF Montenegro
Mladi Romi u Podgorici
UNICEF Montenegro / Duško Miljanić / 2022
07 April 2022

PODGORICA, 7 April 2022 – Discrimination, stigmatization, poverty and a lack of personal documents are the biggest problems facing young Roma in Montenegro, according to a video poll conducted by UNICEF’s young reporters with their Roma peers on the occasion of World Roma Day (8 April). The young reporters’ interlocutors said that every Roma child has suffered some form of discrimination.

Nineteen-year-old Ajša Krasnići is calling on institutions to resolve the legal status of the Roma and Egyptian population as soon as possible.

Ajša, mlada Romkinja
UNICEF Montenegro / Duško Miljanić / 2022
Ajša Krasnići

“Documentation is our biggest challenge. This is not the problem of one person, but of our entire community.”

Ajša Krasnići

Her sister, Elmedina Krasnići, points to unemployment as the most worrying problem. “I’m finishing high school soon and I’d like to find a job,” said this 17-year-old girl.

Young Roma say that they face stigmatization every day. Fifteen-year-old Admir Osmani had problems at school. “Friends sometimes called us Gypsies and we quarrelled,” said Osmani, who believes that this kind of attitude towards Roma and Egyptians friends can be improved through conversation amongst peers.

His brother, Armin Osmani, has experienced derogatory comments from his schoolmates, mockery over his skin colour and his wardrobe.

“They tell me – ‘Here is this Gypsy, he has nothing to eat, see what his sneakers look like…’”

Armin Osmani
Armin, mladi Rom
UNICEF Montenegro / Duško Miljanić / 2022
Armin Osmani

UNICEF Montenegro’s young reporter Elmedin Špatolaj, who interviewed his Roma and Egyptian peers, was sad to hear them talk about the discrimination and poverty they face.

“It is not justice if one child has much more than he/she needs and another lacks even basic things. We need to change that in Montenegro,” says Špatolaj.

His colleague, UNICEF young reporter Ana Lazović, thinks that the video poll that she helped produce with young Roma and Egyptians points to the need to fight against bullying in Montenegro.

Mladi reporteri s romskim vrsnjacima
UNICEF Montenegro/ Duško Miljanić / 2022
Young reporters in conversation with Roma peers, Podgorica, 2022.

“Instead of sharing with others, some young people are mocking their peers whose parents cannot provide them with fancy clothes, for example. This is not the problem of Roma and Egyptians or other young people growing up in poverty. This is the problem of the entire society – why are we cruel to others? Why not share instead, and ensure that every child has everything he/she needs?” 

UNICEF young reporter Ana Lazović

UNICEF’s study on Multidimensional Child Poverty finds that the stigma of poverty significantly affects the lives of poor children and adolescents when those children are subject to psychological aggression if they cannot afford socially acceptable clothing or shoes, which can contribute to the decision to drop out of school. The same study shows that Roma children aged 0–6 years are particularly deprived in early childhood development, nutrition and access to adequate housing.

UNICEF Montenegro Representative Juan Santander reminds that, according to the latest Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), only 16% of Roma children attend preschool, 77% complete primary school and 7% secondary school, while 29% of Roma aged 20–24 years got married before age 15.

Mladi reporteri i mladi Romi
UNICEF Montenegro / Duško Miljanić / 2022
Young reporters prepare to record a video poll with young Roma, Podgorica, 2022.

“On International Roma Day, UNICEF is calling for implementing of policies which simultaneously tackle multiple dimensions of child poverty and are able to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty. In practical terms, this will require providing quality education to every Roma and Egyptian child from their early years, ensuring access to adequate nutrition and that children live in housing of a decent standard. We are also calling for the raising of the minimum age for entering into marriage to 18 years of age, without exception, and working with Roma and Egyptian parents to support their children to finish high school and to find a job before marriage in order to be able to offer a better quality of life to their children”, Santander said.

UNICEF, together with other UN agencies in the country, is continuing to work with its national and international partners to support the social inclusion of young Roma and Egyptians.

UNICEF Montenegro