New Roma Community Centres in Zarkapatska oblast will address multiple challenges for the minority group and local integration
UNHCR is working closely with local communities and authorities to support and empower Roma communities and strengthen social inclusion.
Mukachevo, 6 February 2024: Today, a new Roma-led Community Centre (Roma Hub) will be officially opened in Mukachevo, Zarkapatska oblast, followed by another Community Centre to open in Berehove later this month. UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and its local NGO partner NEEKA have supported the renovation and refurbishment of the two new centres.
The hubs will work as multifunctional spaces to support Roma communities, in particular Roma women and girls, complementing the Government of Ukraine’s National Roma Strategy. Building on experiences and lessons learnt from a similar Roma Hub – run by UNHCR and partners in Uzhhorod since 2022 – a broad range of activities will aim to strengthen Roma communities’ access to rights and services and reinforce their capacities and integration into local communities.
The activities at the centres will be organized in strong coordination with local authorities, Roma-led community-based organizations and other partners, including other UN organizations.
More than 40,000 Roma people are currently estimated to be living in Zarkapatska oblast. While the region has traditionally been home to a large part of the Roma minority in Ukraine, the population has further grown after Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022, as many Roma communities were displaced to Zarkapatska from other areas of the country.
Engagement and dialogue with Roma communities have emphasized that Roma women and girls face multiple risks due to poverty, discrimination and marginalization. Many families live in dire conditions without access to clean water, electricity and dignified sanitation. Some are undocumented or at risk of statelessness. Others cannot read or write, have not attended school, and only speak local dialects of Romani or Hungarian, which further limits their access to basic services, education and social protection.
The Roma Hubs will serve as a unique platform for UN agencies and other humanitarian and development actors to support and empower both Roma people and their local communities – and activities will include literacy and Ukrainian language classes, vocational training, child education, awareness raising on gender-based violence and response as well as on civil rights and duties. In addition, UNHCR and partners’ mobile teams will regularly visit the community centers to provide legal assistance on access to civil documentation, birth registration and social services as well as psychosocial support.
UNHCR plans to build on the experiences from Zarkapatska oblast and expand the approach to other areas in Ukraine hosting displaced Roma populations.
The official opening of the Roma-led Community Centre in Mukachevo will happen Tuesday 6 February at 9.30 with participation of the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Denise Brown, Deputy Head of Zarkapatska Oblast Administration Dobromilsky Petro, the UN Women Representative Sabine Freizer Gunes, UNHCR’s Assistant Representative for Protection Karen Whiting, as well as other representatives from local authorities, partners and Roma-led organizations.
“We are here today to demonstrate our support for Roma women and girls working courageously to improve their lives and lives of those in their community. We look forward to the Roma Hub in Mukachevo serving as a platform for the critical work of Roma civil society organizations, alongside local authorities, from providing vocational training and child education, to gender-based violence response and birth registration services,” says Denise Brown, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Ukraine
“It is important that as different members of the UN Country Team we came today to visit the Roma community, especially to hear the voices of Roma women and girls. They face many challenges, which have become even greater since the start of the Russian large-scale aggression. Women Roma leaders are organized and responding to meet the needs. UN Women is proud to support the Voice of Romni (Golos Romni) through the Women Peace and Humanitarian Fund (WPHF) to aid Roma women from Uzhhorod and displaced women. We look forward to continuing this support and cooperating with more women from the community,” says Sabine Freizer Gunes, Representative, UN Women Ukraine
“For a number of years, UNHCR has provided Roma communities with free legal aid to increase their access to identity documentation, and we look forward to supporting Roma community organizations and Roma mediators, to help them bring their communities out of the shadows of discrimination and marginalization. As Russia’s war has only exacerbated the dire situation for vulnerable groups, including Roma people, this has become even more vital. We are happy to join forces with partners, local government and the UN family in these Roma Hubs, which we hope will be the catalyst of positive change for the Roma and the communities that they live in,” says Karen Whiting, Assistant Representative, UNHCR Ukraine
For more information, please contact:
UNHCR, Elisabeth Haslund, +380 95 239 0072
UNHCR, Alina Kovalenko, +380 50 950 45 19
UN Women, Anna Serdyuk, +380 50 343 93 04