*Excerpt of the Evaluation Case Study in Tetovo, by Blomeyer & Sanz s.l.
Tetovo municipality is one of the oldest and biggest municipalities in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, located in the north-western part of the country. Tetovo, the municipal centre, is considered as one of the most developed cities in the country with a developed private sector and two universities - the Tetovo State University, teaching in both Albanian and Macedonian languages, and the South East European University.
According to the last census in 2002, Tetovo has 86,580 inhabitants of multiple ethnicities, the majority of whom are ethnic Albanians. Roma residents in the municipality number 2,357. Based on interviews with the local administration and the representatives of Sonce, the population of the city is currently estimated to be much higher at over 100,000, with an estimated 4,000-5,000 of this number being Roma.
Roma live in six different neighbourhoods of Tetovo. Five of these neighbourhoods have mixed inhabitants from different ethnicities – mainly Roma, Macedonians, Albanians and Turks. Only Roma live in the Krasniki settlement. About 50 people live there in poor conditions, with no water or sewage supply and non-asphalted streets.
According to the interviews with local Roma representatives, the main income of Roma in Tetovo comes from relatives living and working in western Europe. The majority of Roma have been working in the local textile factories, although many of them are currently unemployed due to the downsizing of these industries as a result of past conflicts. During the crisis of 2001, there was a wave of immigration of Roma to Tetovo from other parts of the country. These Roma were well-accepted by both Macedonians and Albanians, as they were not viewed as taking sides in the conflict.
The local administration in Tetovo is very open to working with Roma NGOs and active citizens in the community. The Mayor himself has worked as part of the NGO community in the past. There are consistent efforts to develop strategic interventions in the area of Roma inclusion based on a consultative process with Roma. This is also supported by national policy in support of Roma inclusion priorities, as well as the mobilisation of significant funding allocated for that.
There are several Roma NGOs based in Tetovo. The Roma association Sonce, the National Support Organisation for the implementation of the ROMED2 Programme, is the most visible one with a history of working for Roma inclusion in the municipality with recognition from both the local authorities and the Roma community. The Roma community in Tetovo has formed a football team composed mostly of Roma players. There is a football team from each settlement and several tournaments per year are organised, notably on 8 April for the International Roma Day celebrations.
The Community Action Group (CAG) was established as part of the ROMED2 Programme at the end of 2013. The group consists of 14 people out of which only three are women. The core group that gathers more often numbers about eight people. Most of the members of the CAG have been working on various initiatives organised by Sonce for many years and the group has been receiving outstanding support from this NGO and its leaders respectively. The CAG uses the office of the organisation for meetings, as well as any other resources it can provide for the group’s activities.
The strategic and operational embedding of the CAG in the overall work of Sonce is a key factor in the development and sustainability of the CAG. The organisation has many years of experience, a well-developed structure and a very good reputation among the Roma community and local authorities. This has opened many doors to the CAG and the ROMED2 process and has also helped to grow the capacity of the group.
The group is very active and informed about the available options for solving specific problems of the Roma community. Its members have very good relationships with representatives of local authorities and a good image within the Roma community. The main motivation of members for joining the CAG is that the group provides a platform to communicate directly with the representatives of local institutions and plan together local programmes and projects.
The Mayor of Tetovo has extensive past experience of working in the NGO sector and is very familiar with Sonce, due to years of cooperation with them. From this perspective, ROMED2 was launched in an environment which was open and ready for the process suggested by the Programme.
The municipality regards the CAG and the ROMED National Support Organisation as equal partners and relies on regular meetings with them for formulating problems and looking together for solutions. The CAG, Sonce and the local administration meet on a monthly basis. There is also ongoing communication between the contact person in the municipality with the CAG and Sonce. This helps achieve an effective cooperative process and adaptation of priorities according to both long-term and emerging short-term needs.
One of the main results of this fruitful cooperation is that the municipality has appointed Roma in the local administration, as well as Roma to work on various projects and programmes. This was a response to the priority identified by the CAG in the Joint Plan.
One of the main long-term priorities of the municipality is the education of Roma. The municipality has a long-term education strategy which was developed in consultation with the CAG and the ROMED National Support Organisation. Through this strategy, the municipality has developed educational programmes for children from fourth up to eighth grade, for high school students, as well as for increasing adult literacy and vocational training. These programmes are supported by funding from the Ministry of Education. One of the main achievements is that 150 stipends were paid to Roma students upon completion of secondary education with a particular vocational specification which, in turn, secured employment. In addition, eligibility criteria have been adapted to increase the enrolment of Roma children and youth into schools.
The municipality and CAG representatives are also actively working together to reduce the number of children begging on the street.
The city budget has allocated funds for cultural and educational activities of the Roma community, which are spent in consultation with representatives of the CAG and Sonce. Activities promoting cultural interaction between different ethnic groups are also planned. On 8 April, the municipality allowed the representatives of the Roma community and CAG representatives to raise the Romani flag in front of the municipality.