13 August 2012
Mariana Vincani (22, left) was able to learn sewing thanks to Brunilda Peqini, a national UN Volunteer empowering Roma youth and families in C?rrik, in the Elbasan District, central Albania. (UNV/Fabienne Copin, 2012)

Empowering Roma youth in Albania

In Albania, the country with the highest percentage of youth in Southeast Europe, Roma youth face heavy discrimination. Their exclusion from sports competitions, school events, vocational training and community life often has a negative impact on their self-confidence.

As they overcame the cultural barriers in their own Roma and Egyptian communities, four Albanians from Tirana, Elbasan, Fier and Durrës enlisted as UN Volunteers to share their experience directly with youth from nearly 2,000 Roma and Egyptian families, thus helping them exercise their rights to civil registration, child protection, health, education, vocational training and employment.

"In my own experience, volunteering has been the key to furthering my development"
UN Volunteer Saimir Nasufi (Albania)

Coming from the Egyptian community in Durrës, Saimir engages with youth during meetings where they can express their needs to authorities in the Nishtulla suburb of Durrës. As a result, minority youth have been able to participate alongside their peers in sport competitions, while cases requiring civil registration have been sent to the census or unemployment office. Thanks to this engagement, the 29-year-old Gentian Hidri was able to participate in a training initiative with a German bakery: "I can now bake brioches and croissants and want to set up my own business after the 3-month training."

"My first volunteer experiences were on small projects to combat illiteracy"
UN Volunteer Eduart Koci (Albania)

Eduart Koci oversees a program which provides welding and hair dressing training sessions for youth from the Levan, Mbrostar-Ura and Driza Roma villages (Fier district). Current residents of Fier, 30 18-25 year old men and women have already signed up. "A company is considering employing the boys to produce metal containers for oil reserves at the end of their 3-month training and the girls will be provided with a hairdressing toolkit to start their career with a potentially local customer base after 6 months of training," says Agrow Dule, Director of the Vocational Training Center.

"We mobilize volunteers to serve as community mediators in Elbasan"
UN Volunteer Brunilda Peqini (Albania)

Djella Ademi, 40, was Brunilda's first contact. "I met Djella through the church. Frequent meetings with her community and rebuilding the only bridge over river to the city eventually led people to trust us," says Brunilda. Assisted by Djella, she referred cases of children needing protection to legal advisors, worked with mothers to request the health care insurance booklet required for their children's medical check-ups and helped in the construction of a kindergarten. Djella also feels empowered as a community mediator: "I learned to know my rights and can now pass this knowledge on to my children."

"They should understand that they have the potential to shape the future for their children"
UN Volunteer Manjola Veizi (Albania)

Manjola Veizi includes students in her work to empower Roma youth in Tirana. After completing a social animator course and an internship in civil organizations, these students and their CVs shine as positive examples for people thinking about their children's future. At the same time, students raise awareness of child development for parents, helping them consider about their children's needs as they grow intellectually, emotionally and physically.

Following the success of the UNDP/UNV Joint Programme "Empowering the Vulnerable Communities of Albania", UNDP is now scaling up its support for the Roma community through a new joint programme that is being implemented by UNICEF, UNDP, UNFPA and with the advisory support of UNHCR and UNV in partnership with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. The intervention lasts for 3 years and has a total budget of 2.7 million US Dollars, with funding from the United Nations Human Security Trust Fund, financed by the Government of Japan.

Bio: Fabienne Copin is Communications Associate at the Communications Section of the United Nations Volunteer programme

SDG 17: Partnerships for the goals
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