Vasilisa, like Raisa, believes that the most difficult for a Roma woman is to get a job. "In general, this is a serios issue for Roma women, especially if she goes to find a job dressed in traditional clothes. She is either declined directly or asked for a phone number to return with an answer, but, in the end, she is not called back, or they say that they have already hired someone else. I had a case with a woman, who wanted to work as a janitor at the Housing Administration Service. They suggested to her that the locker room was common space and that she could steal something, and they did not accept her.”
There have also been cases of discrimination against men at work. A typical case is when the employer accidentally finds out that his worker is of Roma ethnicity and fires him. In such situations, the women activists, together with the organization's lawyer, collect all the necessary evidence and go to court. Often, they record the incident of discrimination with their mobile phone and present the evidence in the mediation process or to the de-facto authorities.
Raisa and Vasilisa themselves face sometimes a discriminatory attitude when they go to various institutions to obtain documents for Roma people or to establish their degree of severity of disability and receive social allowances. Then, in the discussion with the officials, they refer to a series of provisions that guarantee the rights of the Roma people and convince them that their breach would hold them accountable.
Lack of trust, the root of problems
According to Vasilisa, one of the most critical problems of the Roma in the region is society's distrust of them and even distrust in their community. "When people see that we are doing something and not just talking, the attitude changes. For example, we help them to obtain identity documents. Some are afraid that we will use their personal data for various frauds, to get a bank loan, for example. But when they see that we are honest, they trust us."
Vasilisa and Raisa claim that thanks to the One UN Joint Action "Cross-River Support for Human Rights", funded by Sweden, the situation regarding respect for human rights on the left bank of Nistru has improved.
Thanks to a UNDP grant, the knowledge of members of the organization “Шатер на Днестре” in computer literacy, mobilization and managing Roma Women`s Club has been improved. Thus, the organization is ready to pilot the institution of the Roma community mediators in the Transnistrian region, following the similar model on the right bank of the Nistru river. 7 Roma community mediators have been selected, of which 2 are women, these being Raisa and Vasilisa. All mediators will be trained and will start their activity in September 2021.
"I felt the changes on my myself. If I go to an institution to help a Roma in case of breach of their rights and I present myself as an ordinary person I can be ignored, but as soon as I present myself as a member of the organization «Шатер на Днестре», the attitude of officials changes immediately and then I can solve any problem," says Vasilisa.
Volunteering consumes a lot of Raisa and Vasilisa’s energy, but the activists continue to help their community and do not spare their forces, so that their peers have equal opportunities for a decent life and their rights are respected.
According to a study conducted in 2018 by «Шатер на Днестре» with the support of the One UN Joint Action, 7,500 Roma live on the left bank of the Nistru river.
* The Line of Goodness was created with the support of Sweden, provided through UNDP, in the framework of the One UN Joint Action "Cross-River Support for Human Rights".