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DSC08459Representatives of 10 member organizations of Bulgaria’s National Network for Children (NNC)and from three partner organizations in Macedonia have been working together for a period of 2 months looking at ways to successfully enter Roma communities to work with young children and parents.

Our operations director from the Ruse complex – Milena Vlahova – attended a seminar in Sofia during September to present our broad range of experience in the field of early childhood development. Spheres of work covered included our programme undertaken with the city’s maternity unit preventing abandonment of newborns and ensuring that multi disciplinary teams intervene as early as possible to support families whose children have disabilities or developmental problems. She showcased our mixed-ability play group for parents with young children and our actions in two Roma communities focusing on parenting, education and healthcare for very young children.

Under a project funded by the World Organisation for Early Childhood Education and the International Step by Step Association (ISSA) and managed by the NNC National Network for Children, Svetla Mejri who leads the team in our centre of social support spent 13 and 14 October in Macedonia’s capital, Skopje. She shared her impressions of the visit and that the problems encountered in both countries when working with Roma are similar and the exchange of experience and know how is essential.

Problems relate to high levels of illiteracy, significant unemployment, early marriage (leading to teenage childbirth) and international migration. Roma children tend to be over-represented among school drop-outs. However, in Macedonia under the Roma Decade initiative that runs until 2025, there are effective initiatives that are improving the numbers of children who go through secondary school, tools and resources for mediators and free travel passes for students. In Macedonia,Roma children can learn to read and write in their own language and success in this initiative provokes parents to enroll for literacy classes.

Experts from both countries are convinced that a key consideration when thinking about Roma integration is the elimination of stereotypes. EQ is committed to long-term efforts in this direction.