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Bitola (Битола) is the second largest city in the “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" and it is the administrative, cultural, industrial, commercial and educational centre for villages in the surrounding area. It is estimated that out of the 95 385 inhabitants of the city, 2 613 are Roma, living for the most part in the Bair neighborhood. The number of Roma living in Bitola might however be much higher - since the figure provided so far was collected during the last official census in 2002. In fact, unofficial estimates place go as high as 4 500 people.
Besides the ROMED Programme and the existence of the CAG initiated, in the municipality there is also a Roma Information Centre as well as activities lead by the NGO “Bairska Svetlina”. The NGO focuses its activities in the settlement of Bair, close to the Roma community. Generally speaking, the Roma community faces several issues in Bitola: unemployment, lack of education (there is only a small percent of Roma who are enrolled in high education and Universities), drug use among the youth in the municipality (Roma and non-Roma).
Indeed, one of the main concerns of the CAG in Bitola is the lack of space where the youth can recreate or have alternative constructive activities.
Most of the members of the Community Action Group (CAG) in Bitola come from the local Roma neighborhood – Bair where around 90% of all Roma from the municipality live. The CAG is composed of a core group of 8 members with up to 15 members joining according to their availabilities. The group is composed of young and active students, men and women, as well as older and more experienced participants who have worked in NGOs and other organisations or institutions.
The group is open and there all always new interested involved members, especially youngsters.
The community action group in Bitola has defined two short term priorities:
The long term priorities of the community concern mainly:
- the Municipal Council of Bitola granted the premises of the CAG for a period of 4 years through a municipal decision.
- the long term priority for improvment and better education to the Roma community in Bitola, started with implementation of the project "Tutors' support for Roma children from 4th to 6th grade in primary education".