Roma in Serbia
By: Miodrag Stosic
Belgrade, Nov.5, 2009 (Serbia Today) - The Roma community is one of the oldest ethnic groups in the Balkans. Nevertheless, during last few centuries Roma were considered second-class citizen. After 2000 the state of Serbia initiated numerous reforms which were designed to improve conditions for the Roma minority in Serbia. Today, Roma in Serbia have much more political, economic and cultural rights than ever before.
Despite the fact that large numbers of Roma have made the Balkans their home, they are a people without a state or region to call their own. There status as a minority without a state has combined with a number of other factors that have left the majority of Roma without education, housing, or basic medical services.
The year 2000 was crucial for starting changes in all areas of Serbian society. Thanks to an increased liberalization in state politics and the contribution of funding and guidance provided by NGO’s, the Roma community started its first political parties – “Roma for Roma” and “United Serbian Roma”. In the last decade these parties played an active role in Serbian politics, and their representatives served in Parliament. The Roma community got its first television station called ‘Krlo e Romengo’ (Voice of the Roma) broadcasted entirely in the Roma language.
This year, Serbia was the host country of “Decade of Roma inclusion”. This campaign aims to promote Roma culture and highlight the problems that the Roma community faces across of the globe. Roma experts from affected nations everywhere will attend this event to make a concrete assessment of the position of the Roma in Serbian society today. The Serbian government was an active participant in this event.
Recently, the Belgrade City Administration, together with the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe), started new educational programs aimed at providing assistants in teaching in the Roma language. The most successful training students will be engaged by the Secretariat of Education from the City of Belgrade Administration as teaching assistants in selected schools in Belgrade. This program will take implemented between November 2009 and August 2010. These teaching assistants will be specifically assigned to the Roma who were recently displaced from the shanty towns under the Belgrade’s Gazelle bridge.
Roma pupils in Valjevo have recently received assistance in the form of 20 sets of textbooks. This donation was made possible by the Union Association of Roma in Western Serbia with support from the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights. “Our wish is that more Roma children complete primary school, at minimum, since these children often leave school in the fifth or sixth grade” said Sofka Vasiljevic Secretary General of the Union of Associations.
One of the most important steps in improving the lives of Roma was the recent opening of the first Museum of Roma Culture in Serbia. The opening ceremony was exhibition of the written legacy of the Roma called “A word of Roma”. The organizer of the exhibition was Dragoljub Acković and whole event was supported by was supported by Belgrade Mayor Dragan Djilas and the Serbian National Library. “It is important to change the image of Roma because they are an integral part of Serbia and Belgrade, and their contribution to our culture and history is enormous. The museum is a good way to show that” said Djilas.