MINELRES: Action on Romani Womens Rights in Macedonia

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Sat Jul 30 13:52:43 2005

Original sender: European Roma Rights Centre <errc@errc.org>

United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against
Women (CEDAW) Hears Concerns at Situation of Romani Women in Macedonia

New York, Skopje, Budapest, 25 July 2005:     
The International Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) today undertakes pre-sessional
review of issues arising with respect to Macedonia's compliance with the
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination Against Women. The pre-sessional hearing is designed to
provide the Macedonian government with guidance as to what issues and
information it should present to the CEDAW during full Committee review
in January 2006.

In advance of today's session, the Roma Centre of Skopje (RCS), the
European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) and the Network Women's Program Roma
Women Initiative (NWP/RWI) have jointly prepared a submission to the
CEDAW highlighting major human rights issues facing Romani women in
Macedonia.  The submission provides results of new research indicating
high levels of rights deprivation and multiple discrimination against
Romani women in Macedonia. The ten-page document details preliminary
results of research undertaken in Macedonia by a network of Romani women
researchers in Macedonia. The coalition also proposes areas in which the
Committee may seek further information from the Macedonian government in
the run-up to a full review of Macedonia's compliance with international
human rights law in the area of women's rights, to be undertaken in
January 2006.

Areas of concern detailed by the coalition in its submission to the
CEDAW include:

Citizenship/Statelessness: An exclusionary law adopted by the Macedonian
government in the context of the break-up of Yugoslavia has left many
Roma lacking citizenship in their own country. As a result, many Roma
are prevented from accessing basic human rights such as education,
employment, health care, housing and property;

Education: Romani children are subjected to discrimination in the
Macedonian educational system. Romani children receive education of an
inferior quality than that provided to non-Romani children. There is a
higher level of illiteracy among Romani women than among Romani men. A
disproportionate number of Romani girls drop out of school, usually
after the fifth grade. Compared to Romani boys, Romani girls experience
barriers to attend school from within the family; these issues are not
the subject of effective policy in Macedonia;

Employment: Where Romani women are employed at all, this is often in the
informal economy, undertaking such work as selling baskets or cleaning
houses. Open discrimination by employers against Romani job applicants
is common. Verbal harassment of Romani job applicants and employees is
often reported. Roma are also often subjected to worse working
conditions than their non-Romani counterparts such as having to work
longer hours for less pay;

Health Care: The problem of statelessness has resulted in a number of 
Romani women having no access to state-sponsored medical treatment. Many
Romani women interviewed in the course of research in early 2005 stated
that they face barriers in exercising their right to access the public
health care system. There is widespread lack of trust in doctors and
fear as well as reports of mistreatment of Romani women by health
professionals. Racial segregation in health care facilities is also
reported. A very high percentage of Romani women suffer from illnesses
such as high blood pressure, bronchitis, asthma, mental illness; there
have been cases of untreated tuberculosis; and premature aging is

Inadequate Housing Conditions: Many Romani families are exposed to the
hazards of living in informal settlements without any security of
tenure. Romani women often live in overcrowded, improvised houses
without sanitation, infrastructure, electricity, and/or water.
Substandard living conditions contribute to the frequent transmission of
serious communicable diseases;

Physical and psychological violence against Romani women and girls by
members of their immediate and extended families is widespread, though
rarely reported to the authorities. There has been a near total failure
by the Macedonian government to date to address this extreme form of
human rights abuse.

Kosovo Romani Refugees who found refuge in Macedonia after the conflict
in Kosovo in 1999, are in a particularly precarious situation, most of
them being denied any form of durable solution to their status in
Macedonia. Around 2000 Roma from Kosovo in Macedonia, around 51% of
which are women, currently live in extremely substandard conditions and
under constant threat of expulsion from Macedonia.

The full text of the submission is available at: 

The coalition of groups involved in preparing today's submission are:
* The Roma Centre of Skopje (RCS)
* The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC)
* The Network Women's Program Roma Women Initiative (NWP/RWI)
The coalition's comments are derived from research undertaken in early
2005 in Macedonia by a network of Romani women researchers under the
supervision and guidance of the coalition. Financial support and
expertise for documentation was also provided by the UNIFEM office in

For further information on the initiative, please contact:
* Azbija Memedova (RCS): (389 70) 248 490, centar@mt.net.mk
* Tara Bedard (ERRC): (36 1) 41 32 246 or (36 20) 490 66 80, 
* Debra Schultz (NWP/RWI): (1 212) 548 0162, DSchultz@sorosny.org


The Roma Centre of Skopje (RCS), based in Skopje, is a local 
non-governmental organization working for the integration of the Romani 
community in Macedonia through the empowerment of Romani activists and 
Roma-led non-governmental initiatives. Through its activities for the 
empowerment of young Romani women, the RCS promotes gender equality and 
human rights of minorities.

The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) is an international public
interest law organisation engaging in a range of activities aimed at
combating anti-Romany racism and human rights abuse of Roma. The
approach of the ERRC involves, in particular, strategic litigation,
international advocacy, research and policy development, and training of
Romany activists. The ERRC is a cooperating member of the International
Helsinki Federation for Human Rights and has consultative status with
the Council of Europe, as well as with the Economic and Social Council
of the United Nations. Further information on the ERRC is available at:

The Network Women's Program (NWP), an initiative of the Open Society
Institute (OSI), promotes the advancement of women's human rights,
gender equality and empowerment as an integral part of the process of
democratisation. Its offices are in New York and Budapest with partners
in 25 countries. Since 1999, the NWP has been working in partnership
with Roma women activists on the Romani Women's Initiative (RWI).  The
RWI promotes the human rights of Romani women by empowering Romani women
activists in Central and Eastern

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