Czech town of Obrnice receives award in Strasbourg for Romani integration projects
The Mayor of Obrnice, Drahomíra Miklošová, has been awarded a prize in Strasbourg. The award is given by the Council of Europe as part of its "Dosta!" ("Enough!") campaign for an innovative municipal project that either combats discrimination against Romani people, raises awareness about Romani culture and rights, or supports Romani integration (see http://www.coe.int/t/dg3/romatravellers/dosta_en.asp).
The prize, which was created in 2007, was also awarded this year to the town of Heraklion in Greece and to the local government of the Kocaeli district in Turkey. A seven-member jury chose the three recipients from among the 12 nominees selected for the final phase of the competition.
According to the Council of Europe's press release, the prize for examples of good practice should serve to inspire other local governments and regions in Europe. Miklošová said the award is also scoring the municipality points when designing projects that require outside funding.
"This shows that when we do these projects they are of genuine benefit to the issue. They aren't being done so someone can make a living running them, the money is spent in a meaningful way," she said.
The mayor noted that during the past seven years Obrnice has created many projects that have contributed toward improving coexistence between the majority population and Romani people, as well as toward improving Romani integration. The town has created an organization, funded from its budget, that provides four kinds of social services, including a drop-in center for youth, and the provision of social services in the field.
Other projects have aimed to support employment and address the issue of housing. "We have halted the privatization of the town's housing stock and we are buying apartments back so we can influence who moves into them. The municipality has repaired many of its properties," the mayor said.
Anna Gabčová, a Romani staffer at the social center in Obrnice, confirms that the situation in Obrnice has improved in recent years. She has lived there since she was a child.
"It was worse before. People were afraid to go outside or to leave anything outside. During the past seven years, the new municipal leadership has changed many things for the better," Gabčová said.
Gabčová believes that what has contributed to increased security in the municipality was introducing a CCTV system, crime prevention assistants, and social services provision in the field. "I'd say that relations between neighbors are seen in a better light here and are heading in the right direction, the community is united and I believe there is no longer a problem," she said.
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