Centre for Civic Education (CCE), on the occasion 8 April – International Roma Day, indicates that position of this social group is still extremely bad in all crucial life aspects, from the social and economic status, caused by bad approach and quality of education, to complete exclusion from political participation.
The latest public opinion survey on perception of discrimination conducted by the CCE in February 2016 showed that Roma are at the top of the list of most discriminated groups in Montenegrin society. According to data from the last population census of 2011, the number of Roma living in Montenegro is around 8 000, although this data is not precise enough due to fact that statistics about this group and its characteristics are underdeveloped, which hinders the process of creating a comprehensive and effective policy of social inclusion as well as monitoring and evaluation of their implementation.
Marginalization and social exclusion of Roma is mostly caused by bad access to education, as well as by bad quality of that education that some manage to get. According to available data, over 40% of Roma children of school age do not attend school. Educational achievements of Roma are rather limited, the majority has no educational qualifications or have incomplete primary education, while the number drastically decreases as one considers higher levels of education. Efforts of the relevant institutions in the past few years, have achieved a certain progress in quantitative terms hence the number of Roma at all levels of education increased, but compared with involvement of non-Roma population it is not satisfactory. Deficiencies and limited sustainability of scholarship programmes and support in learning through mentoring system remains a challenge in achieving better educational results of Roma pupils and students.
Bad education entails also unfavorable position and prospects of Roma in employment process, therefore almost every second Roma is unemployed and at serious risk of extreme poverty, largely due to non-use of available social benefits. Employed Roma are often exposed to discrimination and violation of labor rights that they do not report for fear of losing their jobs, but also because of ignorance of legal and institutional protection possibilities.
Roma are segregated from the rest of the population and live mainly in settlements that are separated from settlements of non-Roma population, therefore due to such physical separation grows also every aspect of social distance and exclusion.
There are no Roma even in the political decision-making in Montenegro, which is one of the most important problems in the protection of and access to rights. Participation in decision-making process is reduced to elections and voting, whereby, due to dramatically bad economic situation in which they live, the Roma who have a legal status are manipulated and their right to vote is often abused. Roma have no authentic representatives in the Parliament of Montenegro nor in local parliaments, although this right is provided to all other national communities. Amendments to the Law on Election of Councillors and Members of Parliament from 2014 did not include changes in regards to creating conditions for greater representation of Roma, and the census for entry into the municipal and national parliament remained elusive for this minority group. Problem of political underrepresentation is actual, and recognized as such also in previous strategies for improvement of situation of RAE population in Montenegro, which only indicates that objectives outlined by strategy are not being implemented.
Media content dedicated to the promotion of Roma culture are very rare, as well as the content in school curriculum, although the education system should have the most important role in strengthening the inclusion.
Numerous prejudices that exist against Roma are strongly marginalizing them and contributing to social exclusion thus depriving society of valuable resources that they have and contribution to speed and quality of social development.
CCE will, through its educational programs, continue to work on elimination of prejudice and stereotypes against Roma, both among the wider community and among the members of the Roma population themselves. At the same time we will try to, via public appearance, advocate for creation of effective social inclusion policies and their effective implementation.
Petar Đukanović, programme coordinator