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ROMACT press release: Roma partnership is crucial to successful inclusion

29.9.2017 7:45
As part of community work, Romani residents of Vítkov, Czech Republic decide to apply protective paint to the fencing of the sports field on the grounds of the local Home for Children and Youth before winter sets in (17 September 2016).
As part of community work, Romani residents of Vítkov, Czech Republic decide to apply protective paint to the fencing of the sports field on the grounds of the local Home for Children and Youth before winter sets in (17 September 2016).

The ROMACT program in the Czech Republic has issued the following press release:

The necessity of a coordinated approach emphasizing the joint involvement of Romani communities and local municipalities is the aim of the ROMACT social integration program, which is one of the responses of the Council of Europe and the European Commission to the persistent marginalization of Romani people in Europe. In the Czech Republic the program has achieved significant successes, managing to find and connect municipal and nonprofit partners, to arrange Romani participation, to positively change the climate in socially excluded localities, and to contribute in an essential way toward making sure that individual projects prepared with ROMACT support take into account the actual needs of all vulnerable citizens in a much more sensitive way, including those of Romani citizens.

Since October 2013 when the program began as an initiative of the Council of Europe and the European Commission, ROMACT has been working in six European states, reaching 115 self-governing districts and supporting inclusive projects for 65 000 socially excluded citizens. In the Czech Republic the ROMACT team has worked in three localities - Budišova nad Budišovkou, Litvínov and Vítkov.

"ROMACT is unique and greatly necessary in several respects. It has brought Europe's multinational institutions, the Council of Europe and European Commission, closer to the people, demonstrating that these institutions achieve tangible results and have a human face. Through the direct participation of Romani people in the integration processes of municipalities, ROMACT has overcome the initial barriers and convinced many sceptics that change is possible - it has simply demonstrated that Romani people, if they get the opportunity, do want to change their position," says Kumar Vishwanathan, ROMACT project manager for the Czech Republic.

Community work is one of the pillars of ROMACT and aids with building trust between citizens and local governments and between majority-society members and socially excluded people. "The first decisive thing that ROMACT introduced was the bolstering of dialogue, after which collaboration on modifications and repairs to the living environments of local residents became significantly easier," says Pavel Jílek, Vice-Mayor of Budišova.

"Once the ROMACT team member began to work in our town, we unequivocally perceived that the atmosphere had improved, and we comprehended that this program is a step in the right direction," Jílek says. ROMACT's accent on an integrated approach involving the participation of excluded Roma also raises awareness about existing opportunities for Roma inclusion in addition to forming local action groups and supporting specific projects.

During 2017 the ROMACT team prepared thematic trainings for almost 80 representatives of municipalities, nonprofits and schools. A challenge for the ROMACT program is to eventually expand its collaboration to include the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion, which has concentrated to date on such localities.

Nikola Taragoš of the Romodrom organization, which provides administrative support to the program, points out that "an effective ROMACT is unimaginable without Romani participation." Taragoš says he also believes that "there is untapped potential for the Agency in Romani involvement."

press release of ROMACT in the Czech Republic, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Agentura pro sociální začleňování, Council of Europe, European Commission, Kumar Vishwanathan


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