“Everybody calls me Meca. I am 65 years old, I have four children, 15 grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren. I have lived in Otaci [a town in the Republic of Moldova] my whole life, making a living out of my agriculture business and other small enterprises.

In the past, I opened a hairdresser salon and a tailor shop and employed a few women and girls. But I want to do more. I want Otaci to become a town developed by its own population. I want to create jobs and I want every resident of the town to have a decent life. I want women to be promoted and employed. I want people who are living in poverty to have the possibility to bring up their children in better conditions.

I am disturbed to see Roma people excluded from the public life of the town. We are being discriminated. But this must stop. We are citizens of this country and we have equal rights. I will promote diversity and show people how they can contribute to the country’s development.

In 2018, I participated in an awareness campaign for Roma people. I went from door to door and talked to everyone about how important it is to go vote. I also talked to them about the procedure. I showed them the papers necessary to vote and told them who has the right to vote and who can stand for elections.

I decided to run for local councillor in the 2019 local elections because I want to represent Roma women and girls. Nobody cares about the lives of Roma women and girls in our town, because there is no representative from the Roma community in the local administration. And I won. On October 20, 2019, at the General Local Elections, I managed to obtain the 4-year term of councillor in my city.

I want to become the voice of Roma people in the north of the country. I will defend our cause with words and with actions. It is important for young Roma to get an education. And I will insist that young mothers and girls who graduate from school be employed. The time when the life of a Roma woman was limited to being a wife and a mother who stays mostly at home needs to be over.”

***

In 2019, two elections are organized in the Republic of Moldova. Parliamentary elections took place in February and general local elections in October. The awareness campaign and civic education targeted the Roma because their participation rate in elections is still low.   

According to a 2016 study conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics, with UNDP and UN Women Support, the average number of years of education for Roma women aged 25-64 years is almost 4 years being about 3 times less compared to non-Roma women. The average number of full years of education of young Roma women aged 16-24 years is a bit more than 4 years, compared to about 11 years for non-Roma women.

All these result in reduced participation of Roma women in the education system (starting with the pre-school), which is mirrored in absenteeism and early school drop out due to early marriages, lack of resources and the need to take care of household and personal reasons, such as parents’ and own visions with regard to the sufficiency of education, its value and the need for it in the future.      

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