Thirty young Roma men and women selected at a public competition are currently undergoing a three-month training to acquire knowledge and skills after which they will be engaged at local governmental or non-governmental institutions. The training is organized by UNDP, UNHCR and United Nations Volunteers (UNV) in Serbia to assist participants to influene social and political processes in cities and municipalities in which they live, and to contribute to better social inclusion of Roma.
Miloš is a thirty-two-year-old man from Subotica, whose dream is to contribute to development of his country through engagement in diplomacy. Although he still needs to work hard to be able to turn this dream into a reality, with a bachelor’s degree in Pedagogy and soon a Master’s degree from the Faculty of Security Studies he has come a long way towards his goal.
While Miloš dreams about a career in diplomacy, many other young Roma who live in Subotica settle for much less, often because they lack education, do not speak the Serbian language well enough and come from low-income families.
The number of Roma living in the City of Subotica according to the census is 2,959. This includes domestic population, internally displaced Roma, as well as returnees from the EU countries. To earn for a living, Roma people most often work as street vendors, musicians or secondary raw materials collectors. There are many unemployed Roma, and 93% have not even completed an elementary school.
Miloš says that low education level is among the key obstacles Roma people are facing. “Education changes your views and gives you opportunities in life. It is great that there are affirmative action measures that allow young Roma to study at the expense of the state, at the faculty of their choosing. However, I think that we need to pay more attention to education, and especially education of young Roma after the elementary school, so that they could have equal opportunities. They can have a good future only if they work hard and if they have equal opportunities regardless of nationality and where they come from.”
Milos now has the opportunity to put his knowledge to a good use and help solve the issues Roma in Subotica are facing.
Miloš and other young Roma men and women are learning about human rights, discrimination, legally invisible persons, access to rights for vulnerable groups and local mechanisms for social inclusion. Once they complete the training, the participants will be engaged at one of the local institutions in 30 municipalities in Serbia: Bačka Palanka, Bela Palanka, Beograd/Čukarica, Beograd/Zvezdara, Beočin, Bujanovac, Kostolac/Požarevac, Kragujevac, Kraljevo, Kruševac, Lajkovac, Leskovac, Niš, Nova Crnja, Novi Beograd, Novi Bečej, Novi Pazar, Novi Sad, Obrenovac, Odžaci, Pančevo, Prokuplje, Smederevo, Subotica, Surčin, Valjevo, Vladičin han, Vranje, Vrnjačka banja i Zaječar.
In this way they will have the opportunity to get involved in social and political processes in their municipalities and advocate for the interest of the Roma community at the local level, in cooperation with various stakeholders.
Miloš would like to engage in helping Roma children living in Subotica get a better education, but he will support Roma community wherever it is necessary because he wants to help. This training is a valuable experience for him, and will get him one step closer to his goal.