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Norway Grants supports Prague 3 Municipal Department with hiring Romani advisor to aid Romani residents

10.2.2022 8:17
Veronika Polášková, the Prague 3 Municipal Department's Roma Advisor (2022). [PHOTO:  Zdeněk Ryšavý, Romea.cz]
Veronika Polášková, the Prague 3 Municipal Department's Roma Advisor (2022). [PHOTO: Zdeněk Ryšavý, Romea.cz]

The Prague 3 Municipal Department has established the full-time position of a Romani advisor to help Romani residents resolve various situations - the Roma are the largest minority in this part of the Czech capital and, according to Deputy Mayor Ondřej Rut (Greens), still face discrimination there in accessing education, employment and housing. Rut made the announcement at a press conference broadcast live online by ROMEA TV

Referring to qualified estimates, Rut stated that between 2 000 and 3 000 representatives of the Roma minority reside in Prague 3, making them the largest national minority in the Municipal Department, which is home to about 77 000 inhabitants. According to the Deputy Mayor, many Roma still face discrimination there. 

"The Romani community keep to themselves, have difficulty communicating their problems to outsiders, and usually do not ask for help. As a result, we don't really know much about their problems," the Deputy Mayor said.

According to him, the goal of the Romani advisor's work is to monitor the development of the Romani minority's situation, identify their needs and any risks threatening the group's standard of living, and at the same time to look for opportunities to support them; Veronika Polášková has been hired as the advisor who is supposed to help local Roma with finding housing and jobs, negotiating with bureaucracies, handling benefits or enrolling children in school. She is from Ústí nad Labem, where she worked for child welfare authorities and then at the Probation and Mediation Service, experiences that brought her in touch with clients who are Romani. 

Polášková told reporters that since her arrival in Prague 3, she and her clients have been dealing mainly with the debt relief offered by the Czech state's "Summer of Mercy" program or the problems associated with rising energy prices. "I am ready to advise and help those interested in applying for benefits and housing solutions, as well as to accompany them when they visit different bureaucracies," she described the scope of her work.

"I also provide support for children's school attendance and enrollment," she said. Polášková will also aid Romani residents with completing applications, forms and requests related to court proceedings. 

The advisor will be available in person at the Prague 3 Municipal Department office on Seifertova Street on Mondays and Wednesdays, or by e-mail at polaskova.veronika@praha3.cz. An important role will also be played in her work by a newly-established working group, the members of which include employees of the Prague 3 social welfare department, representatives of the project's partner organizations R-Mosty and Slovo 21, the City of Prague's Regional Coordinator for Roma Affairs, representatives of the RomanoNet NGO network and the NGOs ROMEA and Romodrom, and the Cimburkova Primary School operating in the third city district. 

"Prague 3 has been active in social inclusion projects for many years and we are honored to once again be invited to collaborate with them," said Jakub Čihák, director of R-Mosty, about their partnership in the project. "Our ambition is to pass on to the town hall the proven, useful tools of the classic helping professions, as there are still a large number of Roma who live in difficult conditions and face a number of obstacles to their self-realization and access to dignified living conditions."

Jelena Silajdžić, director of Slovo 21, is also pleased to be cooperating in the project. "We have been operating in the field of Roma inclusion for more than 20 years and we hope that our experience will be beneficial for the Prague 3 district," she said. 

"Our cooperation will consist mainly in passing on our experience to the Romani advisor, but it will also involve activating young Roma and organizing a two-day cultural program in Prague 3 at the end of September this year," said Silajdžić. The working group will help the Romani advisor identify current problems in the Roma community, suggest ways to address the situation of the Romani minority, and provide assistance with the coordination of activities and events in the project. 

"The project is a comprehensive, interconnected set of activities, at the center of which is the Romani advisor, who can draw on knowledge from both the local authority and the non-profit organizations with which she will closely work," said project manager Ivana Parobková. "For the activities to be executed successfully, the project is also focused on broadening horizons through internships with the partner organizations or abroad."

"Last but not least, the project aims at activities directly supporting the Roma minority through educational workshops, and targets the general public through cultural events to bring Romani culture closer to them," Parobková said. The new Prague 3 Romani advisor then added: "This entire project seems like a great idea to me, and I believe its implementation will certainly make a significant contribution to supporting the Romani community in an area where the Roma are the most-represented national minority."

"I think inclusion of the Roma is a very current topic to which it is important to pay attention," the new Romani advisor said. The establishment of the position is part of a project for which the Prague 3 Municipal Department has received financial support from Norway Grants

As part of the project, a two-day cultural program is planned at the end of September, as is an event to commemorate the Holocaust and its Romani victims. Educational workshops for Romani minority residents will also be prepared. 

brf, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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