Friday, 8 April 2011

Thirty-First Sitting of the Gender Equality Committee

To commemorate 8 April, International Day of the Roma, the Gender Equality Committee held a sitting on 7 April in the form of a roundtable.



To commemorate 8 April, International Day of the Roma, the Gender Equality Committee held a sitting on 7 April in the form of a roundtable. The sitting was held in cooperation with the Serbian Government’s Gender Equality Council and the support of the OSCE Mission to Serbia, and was dedicated to the position of Roma women in Serbia.

At the beginning of the sitting, Committee Chairperson Gordana Paunovic-Milosavljevic said that according to estimates, 52% of the 500 000 Roma in Serbia are women who have the average life span of 48 years. Roma women are one of the most endangered social groups facing domestic violence and multiple discrimination in the society on a daily basis. They live in inadequate housing conditions, without health care and in poverty, stressed Paunovic-Milosavljevic.

The Committee Chairperson emphasised the need to improve the quality of life of the Roma by raising their literacy and education levels, as well as undertaking activities aimed at the implementation of laws and strategies on the local and national level.

Christina Davies, representative of the OSCE Mission to Belgrade, stressed the difficult position of Roma women in Serbia can be improved only through the cooperation of state institutions, international organisations and the civil sector.

Dragana Petrovic, Gender Equality Council Secretary, listed the low level of education mostly due to early marriage and unemployment which results in their poor social-economic position and multiple discrimination as the most important problems of Roma women.

Council member Slavica Vasic shared the data from the 2009 research stating that about 45% of Roma women have no personal documents, 35% of them have only elementary school education, 25% have finished high school and only 3% have a college or university diploma.

Danica Jovanovic of the Novi Becej Roma Association spoke about the violence against Roma women. She stated that one in two women is a victim of violence and as much as 98% of them have suffered violence for years. Prejudice and bad treatment of Roma women and women of other ethnic minorities have lead to an increased level of gender-based murders.

Vera Kurtic, coordinator of the “Women’s Space” NGO from Nis, briefed the participants on the topic: “Local strategic documents for Roma women: problems and practical application”.

Sofka Vasiljevic, Vice-President of the Roma ethnic community’s National Council, stressed that in the past years the participation of women in the National Council has risen.

The sitting was held as part of the Roma Women’s Activism Month lasting from 7 March to 7 April and realised by the Serbian Roma Women’s Network.


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