It is estimated that up to 400,000 Roma people live in Ukraine. According to the OSCE Situation Assessment Report (2014), Roma are a heterogeneous community that lives in different regions of Ukraine. The largest concentrations of Roma live in Transcarpathia, Donetsk, Luhansk, Odesa, Kyiv, Dnipro, Kharkiv, Cherkassy and Poltava.
Commonly, among major challenges of Roma in Ukraine, experts note the following:
- low education level of Roma;
- low incomes and high unemployment;
- poor housing and limited access to social and health care services;
- human rights violations, hate speech and discrimination.
The Report on the Implementation of the State Policy towards Roma, released in 2015 by the International Renaissance Foundation, together with the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner of the Ukrainian Parliament, indicated that, 24% of Roma respondents reported having no education, 16% – primary education, and 37% – incomplete secondary education. According to the mentioned survey, 63% of Roma are unemployed (unemployment among women being even higher – 83%), with a further 22% working only part-time.
These numbers clearly demonstrate that the Roma in Ukrainian are disadvantaged. Romani children suffer the effects of all of these issues to an even larger extent as poverty, lack of access to education and healthcare, malnutrition, and facing prejudice from a very early age create a vicious cycle and build almost impassable barriers on a child’s way towards balanced development and integration to the society.
Many Roma families lack not only the basic material possessions (such as shoes and adequate clothing) to send their children to kindergarten or school but also do not see the long-term value of the educational system, especially one where their children will most certainly face prejudice and discrimination. As many Roma families have children at a young age, they also lack the necessary parenting skills and have virtually no access to relevant training programs. Many children are forced to leave school early both because of prejudice and bullying and to help their families generate income. Many Romani girls drop out of school due to early marriage.
As a result, an overwhelming majority of Roma children do not receive adequate care and development assistance, especially during preschool and early school years, which are crucial in laying the foundation for a successful future. Most health care and social service providers either do not want to work in the Roma communities or lack necessary capacity and resources to do so, this results into systemic neglect of the Roma children’s basic medical and social rights. This, combined with malnutrition, physical and mental abuse, also contributes to further alienation of Roma from the ‘mainstream’ society starting from a very early age.
The Ukrainian Step by Step Foundation
REYN Ukraine is hosted by the Ukrainian Step by Step Foundation. The main purpose of REYN Ukraine is to create a national network of professionals and paraprofessionals involved in providing and facilitating Early Childhood Development and Care services for Roma children and families. REYN Ukraine focuses on the professional development of its members and promoting exchange of knowledge and best practices.
Besides, REYN Ukraine will look for new capacities and opportunities to develop and implement new projects and initiatives for Roma communities and young children. The network consists of more than 100 individuals, including Roma NGO’s representatives and activists, early childhood professionals, practitioners and teacher assistants.
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