An unjust Kingdom
Project “Your identity - a chance for legal rights”, our successful project within the PHARE 2005 - Accelerating the deployment of National Strategy for Roma, addressed the need to release identity documents for Roma people in Vrancea County, a social class exposed to social exclusion because of the lack of documents proving their birth or marital status.
Roma that never had civil status acts are in a most difficult situation, as the absence of these documents leads to the impossibility of relating with the Romanian state authorities and also excludes them from exercising the rights derived from citizenship: social assistance, social security, political rights, legal employment. Basically, a person who was not registered at birth does not exist in terms of administration for the Romanian state. This explains the fact that at the Statistics Population in Romania (2002), 535140 of those surveyed said they were Roma, while some research conducted on nationally representative samples estimate their number at 1.5 million.
Consequences and risks for society: human trafficking, illegal adoptions, incomplete realization of political rights, poor access to social and economic rights.
Social innovation heroes
To solve the problems described in paragraph 1, which were not on the public agenda until that time, we gathered for the first time, local authorities (mayors), specialized services (Public Service for People Vrancea County and local community public services ), NGOs (Association “Rom for Rom” with the support of Panciu IBO Italy). We managed to obtain the support of the leaders of Roma communities in the county, with a significant role in ensuring the success of project activities. Vrancea County Council was the project leader.
The innovation journey
Steps taken to implement the legality of the Roma population in Vrancea County:
1. Information, target group awareness of the importance of coming into law.
2. Coming into law – for that to succeed, we used an innovative method, which consisted in using mobile station campaigns inside Roma communities, in direct communication with target group members.
3. Free legal assistance for people who never had birth certificates and did not exist in the Romanian state administration. We followed the target group members in this situation from their identification, to the issue of birth certificates, involving all the stakeholders in this process. This way, processes that could have lasted several years (due to the bureaucracy of the system) were completed during the 10 months of the project. Furthermore, sociological research was conducted and we brought to the attention of the public and those responsible the problems of Roma communities.
The project impact:
- 1113 Roma persons received IDs and civil status documents becoming able to access the rights of Romanian citizenship;
- local authorities have allocated funds and they have developed projects for solving the problems of the Roma communities identified by the project;
- the strengthening of the collaborative relationships between NGOs and public sector (this relationship was almost nonexistent at the beginning of the project);
- the inclusion on the public agenda of the issue of the social exclusion of the Roma people, due to the lack of identity documents.
The bureaucracy, the difficulties encountered during the process of birth registration (for those who never had birth certificates), the indifference of some public institutions regarding the problem of the target group. With support from our partners and due to the media support, we have managed to overcome them.
The way back home
In present times the lack of legal identity is a problem acknowledged by policy makers, who have developed local projects that are continuing what Vrancea County Council started during the PHARE Program. Some other problems of the Roma communities, like quitting school, the lack of utilities (gas and water supply, electricity, sewerage), the poverty, a high level of unemployment, begin to find resolutions and the public institutions in our county are paying now attention to them. The Vrancea County Council has maintained the partnership that has been created during the project. Together we are continuing the efforts in and we are assisting other institution in solving problems and ensuring social inclusion of the Roma people.