Roma Program Initiative: Protection, Education & Integration

Roma Program Initiative: Protection, Education & Integration


Children in a drop-in shelter where street children come to learn, eat and play. The sign says “hvala,” which means “thank you.” Photo: Center for Youth Integration

The Roma are one of the most marginalized groups in Serbia. Roma face drastic inequalities, transferred from one generation to the next in a perpetuating cycle of poverty. The cycle is reinforced by stereotypes and discrimination as well as legal and institutional gaps. As a result, most Roma end up with fewer skills, worse job prospects and poorer living conditions than their fellow citizens. The cycle continues with each generation.

Our team in Europe is helping to break this cycle for Roma families. Working with local partner Alfa, we offer learning and social support to pre-school children to make sure they have the needed math, literacy and language skills to fully participate in and gain the bene ts of education. We also support illiterate Roma women, who are socially excluded on many levels. Through literacy classes and vocational training, participating women are better educated and more prepared to enter the labor market and begin earning income. This year, our team expanded support for Roma women to include decoupage and woodworking training to 20 women. We worked with 10 selected women to provide them with the official vocational education certificate in an adult learning center, which gives them an opportunity to seek formal employment or register a shop.

CWS and the Center for Youth Integration work to support one of the most vulnerable groups in society: street children. Our teams help provide nurturing, safe and stimulating environments in which these children are able to develop their skills and have a refuge from living and working on the street. The program provides intensive social support to the children and their families to ensure that children are enrolled in school and have the proper food, clothing, supplies and support to go to and stay in school.

Of the 277 children participating in drop-in shelters for street children this year, 204 have either stopped working on the street or spend considerably less time doing so.