New employment opportunities and coronavirus protection for Roma and other marginalized groups

The first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic led to the dismissal of about 200,000 people or 8% of employees in Serbia, and uncertainty in the labor market has a particularly negative impact on Roma, men and women and other marginalized groups. In order to be economically empowered, 210 hard-to-employ people will have the opportunity for additional employment through "Cash for work" jobs, similar to public works, it was announced today at the "Inclusion - Solidarity and Potential for Development" conference, organized by the German Development Cooperation and NALED together with the Association of Coordinators for Roma Issues.

Support for employment is planned in Vranje, Pirot, Aleksinac, Kruševac, Kragujevac and Subotica, where about 300 Roma and other people from marginalized groups will attend trainings for active job search in order to ensure their long-term employability.

We believe that employment and employment assistance are the most important ways out of the vicious circle of poverty. For several years now, the number of Roma in the National Employment Service records has been around 25,000. Social assistance measures for the poorest sections of the population and Roma families are the most numerous beneficiaries of this type of support. I would like to point out the increase of the parental allowance for the birth of the first and each subsequent child, increased access to child allowance, family counselor service, formation of teams to support homeless children, which the Ministry dealt with - said prof. dr Darija Kisić Tepavčević, Minister of Labor, Employment, Veterans and Social Affairs.

In the end, she wished success in the project implementation and expressed hope that at its completion, in August 2021, we can say that in the difficult times caused by the pandemic we managed to strengthen and employ Roma men and women and members of other marginalized groups and strengthen their position in Republic of Serbia. "This is not an easy task, but the fact that we have gathered here shows our strong desire to succeed," Kićic Tepavčević added.

- The COVID-19 pandemic, which we are facing, has brought great uncertainty into the daily life of local communities. Marginalized groups such as the Roma community, women and girls, the elderly and people with disabilities are particularly vulnerable and suffer significant consequences from this situation. Given the pandemic crisis, there is an obvious need for a better coordinated response by local governments to help their local communities, especially those most affected by the current situation - said His Excellency the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to Serbia Thomas Schieb.

- In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the Roma communities in Serbia extremely hard, primarily due to their lack of opportunities to take care of personal hygiene, living space hygiene, given the sanitary conditions and their living conditions in Roma settlements in general. I hope that this project will contribute to the improvement of the position of most marginalized groups in this society and that it will show that solidarity and partnership are essential for the entire society in such circumstances - His Excellency Ambassador Thomas Schieb added.

The second part of the "Improving the living conditions of Roma men and women and other marginalized groups in 18 local governments during the COVID-19 pandemic" project, which is implemented with the support of NALED and the Association of Roma Coordinators, will include 3,500 Roma families in 18 cities and municipalities, which will be informed about measures for prevention and recovery from coronavirus. This initiative is part of the German Development Cooperation project "Inclusion of Roma men and women and other marginalized groups in Serbia", implemented by GIZ.

NALED Executive Director Violeta Jovanović believes that we will overcome the health and economic consequences of the crisis through solidarity the fastest, while no group of citizens and workers must be left behind. Therefore, the goal is to support local governments through support to local crisis headquarters for emergency situations.

- According to official data, there are approximately 150,000 Roma in Serbia, and unofficially up to four times more. In order to achieve better communication with the Roma population and respond more quickly to their needs, the project plan is that in each of the 18 local governments, in cooperation with the Association of Coordinators for Roma Issues, local mediators will be hired and trained to work with vulnerable groups on informing and empowering them. Also, our goal is to make recommendations for the improvement of active employment measures and public works at the national and local level - Jovanović pointed out.

Assistant professor Verica Jovanović, Acting Director of the "Dr Milan Jovanović Batut" Institute of Public Health, agreed that this cooperation is the beginning of a joint contribution to improving the lives of marginalized groups through better access to all forms of health and social protection. A pandemic not only negatively affects the health condition, but also the mental health of the entire population, especially marginalized groups. Based on the needs assessments, the 18 selected municipalities represent the right choice, and also have the capacity to support the implementation of these activities.

Prevention measures, information and training in response to the growing presence of the virus will be implemented in Apatin, Bač, Belgrade, New Belgrade and Zvezdara, Kraljevo, Novi Pazar, Požarevac, Raška, Sombor, Valjevo, Vršac, Vranje, Pirot, Aleksinac, Kruševac , Kragujevac and Subotica.

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