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Roma Good Start Initiative

© UNICEF Serbia 2011
UNICEF Serbia Deputy Representative Lesley Miller opens the consultative meeting


Belgrade, 15 March 2011 - In a National Consultation on Roma Early Childhood Inclusion, attended by representatives of the various ministries, civil society organizations and academic institutions,  issues of the severe privation and discrimination of young Roma children in their access to health, education and social protection services were discussed.

Findings of the Serbia Roma Early Childhood Inclusion (RECI) Report were presented at the National Consultation. For young Roma children in Serbia, infant mortality rates are almost three times higher than the national average, prevalence of malnourishment is several time higher than the national average, none of them have books, 13 per cent of them have no toys, no data exist on enrolment in kindergartens; these are just a few challenges faced by young Roma children.

The RECI is managed jointly by UNICEF, the Roma Education Fund (REF) and the Open Society Foundations (OSF). The purpose of the Project is to gather data and information about the inclusion of young Roma children in early childhood services in four Central and Eastern European (CEE) and Southern European (SEE) countries: the Czech Republic, Macedonia, Serbia and Serbia. The research design was described by Dr. John Bennett, a senior European expert in early childhood development policy.

The RECI Reports document and analyse the major policy issues and concerns, propose policy solutions and highlight innovative good practices in respect of Roma families and children. The RECI reports focus on educational and care arrangements for children who are below the compulsory school entry age, and examine links with the family welfare-support, health, education, employment and social integration policy domains. The Serbia RECI Report has been researched and written by Zorica Trikić, Sunčica Macura-Milovanović, Marija Aleksandrović, national experts in the fields of early childhood and Roma inclusion.

The objective of the National Consultation was to discuss recommendations and further steps to address identified challenges.  “One of the most promising and effective strategies in combating poverty and discrimination and for the social inclusion of Roma – is Early Childhood Development,” said Lesley Miller, UNICEF Deputy Representative. 

The National Consultation provided an opportunity for policy dialogue and improved an understanding of the situation, progress achieved, successful strategies and remaining challenges with respect to early childhood development and addressing the rights of young Roma children.

The National Consultation was organized within the framework of the EU-UNICEF partnership for the Project the Roma Good Start Initiative (RGSI). Funded by the European Union, the project aims to address measures to promote Early Childhood Development (ECD) as an entry point for fostering the social inclusion of Roma children.  It is being implemented in six countries: Czech Republic, Hungary, Macedonia, Serbia, Serbia, and Spain.

The expected results of the RGSI are an increased capacity of relevant stakeholders and service providers to include Roma children in early childhood interventions and to strengthen and expand existing services to embrace and implement inclusive early childhood care and education approaches.

The activities of the project include research, advocacy, capacity development, and communication, addressing the importance of ensuring that all children, including the most disadvantaged and marginalized, such as the Roma, are given the opportunity to have the best start in life. 


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UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit:

For more information please contact:

Shakhlo Ashrafkhanova
ECD Specialist/Project Manager
UNICEF Regional Office for CEE/CIS
United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)
phone: +41 22 909 5578

Svetlana Marojevic,
Education Specialist
Phone: + 381-11-3602-100






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