Gender Equality and Equity – Follow Up to CEDAW and Romani women
The project had two primary audiences: Roma women’s NGOs and young Roma women activists. There were three additional audiences: local government officials; young people, Roma and non-Roma; and, officials of Roma political parties. This focus sought to address in a practical way the weakness of Roma civil society organizations, and particularly those led by, and working for, Roma women, in undertaking advocacy on behalf of their own people.
The grantee accomplished a great deal with the small amount of funds provided. It built on the strategic plan developed for 2008-2010, and its earlier project “Implementation of CEDAW for Romani Women”, as well as follow-up initiatives (2005-2008). Through an extremely careful allocation of funds to different areas of activity, the organization was able to undertake a long list of activities and, thus, achieve its own objective. Yet, from an external perspective, it is apparent that there were insufficient funds for some activities, where follow-up was badly needed.
Lessons from Project
There was a lack of continuity and follow-up in some areas of project work. This suggests that the project tried to include too many elements within a single project with limited resources. In the future, it is recommended that RCS be prepared to make some difficult choices in determining priorities, in order to ensure that adequate resources (including management time) are assigned to all project resources. The grantee would have benefited from advice about the benefits of focusing and concentrating its efforts on a shorter list of components, each pursued further, thus enhancing the prospect for impact.
In two of its components, the project was fighting an uphill battle to get the attention of potential partners. The first component concerned Roma political parties, and, the second, municipal government and cooperation with the Equality Commissions (committees) of the municipal councils. The lack of interest by these partners highlights the absence of effective political representation of Roma and their interests in a “patron-client” political system, where parties do a poor job of representing the priorities of their constituencies, or of responding to their concerns. The parties saw no benefits in opening themselves to cooperation with an NGO which they did not trust. There seems to be little interest on the part of local government units in committing resources to Roma issues, and Roma tend to be invisible in local decision-making. The work supported by the project in two of the three municipalities was useful, but had no impact in changing the disposition of local government towards Roma and Roma women’s organizations.
Most project components were short of funds. All delivered the planned outputs, so commitments were lived up to. Yet all components of the project ended abruptly when they could have benefited from further work or follow-up. A more results-focused approach to budgeting might have brought about a change in the pattern of allocation of funds and the dropping of some components in favor of optimizing impact.
The initiative to train young women activists to undertake research on the socio-economic conditions of Roma women in local communities was effective both in terms of the training and the value and relevance of the data collected. Working with two partners, the grantee was responsible for the development of the Shadow CEDAW Report in 2005, submitted to the UN CEDAW Committee. The document is regarded as highly credible and is widely used by both domestic and international organizations. It is also an effective advocacy tool. The new data will be used in compilation of the next Shadow CEDAW Report.
Despite earlier expressions of interest, at a time leading up to national elections, and despite persistent efforts by grantee, the political parties proved to be unwilling to share their programmes, or to meet with the expert retained by grantee to discuss the issue of gender equality. The grantee prepared a short, informative handbook, “Because It Matters: Empowerment of Women in Political Parties”. A public meeting was held to launch the publication, and, among others, representatives of three of the six official Roma parties attended. Copies were distributed to all the Roma parties, as well as to NGOs and women activists. While this alternative was very much a “second best” option, it did represent a thoughtful way to rescue the situation and keep the issue alive.
It is essential that the grantee finds ways to stay in contact with young people with whom it has worked. How best to provide further support to trainees who have participated in various short-term training programs, such as those supported in this project? For example, the establishment of an internet-based youth network, which would facilitate communication among young people who have been involved in training programs, allow grantee and others to post notices and share news, while also providing a forum in which ideas for new initiatives can be put forward and explored.
The particular attention to Roma women was important, since this is a group whose interests are particularly poorly-served by public programs, and which often lacks voice in its own community. Projects of this kind deserve attention, since they tend not to fit with the priorities of most other donor organizations.
The training curricula and methodologies for delivering the training were very effective in the case of both the youth empowerment initiative and the preparation of young women activists to undertake field research on the situation of Roma women in local communities. The grantee may have discovered a niche for itself in training young people as a means to supporting their engagement with the public realm.
By focusing on Roma youth and young activists, particularly, though not exclusively, young women, the project sought to address in a practical way the weakness of Roma civil society organizations, and particularly those led by, and working for, Roma women, in undertaking advocacy on behalf of their own people. There have been few opportunities for Roma NGO representatives to benefit from systematic training on rights issues of urgent concern to their communities or to acquire practical skills to support social change.
The project built on the strategic plan that grantee had developed for 2008-2010, and its earlier project “Implementation of CEDAW for Romani Women”, as well as follow-up initiatives (2005-2008). All project components were designed to address issues deriving from the research conducted through the previous project.