Community investment fund Peshtera
More than half of Bulgaria’s Roma live in risk of eviction and demolition of their only home, and without electricity and water. The main reason for that is the lack of urbanization in Roma neighborhoods and the neglect from government and municipalities. The present project seeks to empower Roma communities to vocalize these challenges by raising awareness and capacity building training's of the existent pathways to change that.
The towns of Rakitovo, Septemvri, Bratsigovo and Belovo in Pazardzhik District, Republic of Bulgaria
Pazardzhik District has many small settlements inhabited by compact Roma communities, most of them occupying seasonal agricultural work. Most Roma neighborhoods have spontaneously emerged in areas beyond the boundaries of city territories that the municipality does not want or cannot urbanize. Municipal authorities often do not show the necessary initiative and openly neglect this type of problem and thus exacerbate the problem, because Roma communities are constantly growing and increasing. This is why the local community needs to be more active in seeking their rights and solving these types of problems, and the advantage that the Foundation will offer them, is to support them in this activity and to apply good practices and experience from previous projects that it has implemented.
Our idea is to disseminate good practices already established form our experience. In variety of projects implemented in the town of Peshtera, we have proven the effectiveness of setting up local initiative groups - community councils, as a good mediator in solving a numerous of problems. These groups are selected by community representatives and show that they can uphold their interests and protect their rights. In addition, local initiative groups are a sustainable organism of developed on a voluntary basis, in service of their community, and through their competence, manage to gain buy in from local authorities and to mediate relationship between local communities and the administration.
The problem of illegal housing in Roma neighborhoods affects every person regardless of their social or financial status. Illegal construction has been carried out in these neighborhoods for years. illegal construction is being "inherited" and even "sold", and despite the unclear status and increasing the problem, almost none of the authorities has taken action to solve it. At the same time, if the state allowed for "construction amnesty", because of the residents' profile of the neighborhood, they could not benefit from it. This is why it is necessary to create competencies for local people to be members of local initiative groups and with the help of the Foundation to assist their community.
Roma settlements like any other community has its own internal dynamic of relationships and recognized leadership. Through a series of meetings and capacity building training's with formal and non-formal leaders, the community will select prominent residents following open and transparent nomination procedure to be trained on their role as members of Community Councils and to form a group of active citizens to be presented to the local administration. Also, through a series of joint meetings and initiatives between this group of citizens and the administration, a roadmap consisted of set of steps will be developed to tackle the problems of illegal construction in neighborhoods, and develop and/or amend zoning plans to formalize housing dwellings.
The main result will be the creation of groups of active citizens in each community. By working on a specific issue, they will improve the organizers' skills and knowledge to vocalize other challenges important for their community, With a well-organized approach and a clearly organized action plan, the project will give a clear signal to both: the initiative group and the administration, that people's problems need to be heard and solved. The effectiveness of the local initiative groups and their interconnectedness will give them additional strength in asserting their rights, and greater involvement of the local administration in the problems of the Roma community.
Projects promoting active citizenship on EU values, such as the representative democracy are at the heart of civil society. The EU, with its many institutions and bureaucracy, often does not hear the problems of citizens, and this is obvious and accountable, and that is why projects operated by civil society are existent. By promoting grassroots movements, Europe will be enriched and problems such as the lack of connection between communities and their problems and the local and national administrations avoided. The project is aimed exactly at creating a network of grassroots groups that are organized to defend their interests and protect their rights.
Encouraging active citizenship in general is a challenge, especially in a context of heavy legacy and nostalgy to past regimes. It may be rather difficult to apply similar concept among Roma communities, who have different priorities – securing daily income for their families and surviving especially in the context of the pandemic situation. However, Roma mutual assistance is that is at the heart of the idea for united Europe and this has to be upheld and defended. Our work so far has been committed to this idea and we would like our knowledge and potential to be disseminated and thus contribute to the development of civil society as a whole.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
Personnel costs and payments under civil contracts – 16 000 ЕUR
Work meetings, trainings and seminars – 16 000 EUR
Travel and accommodation 10 000 EUR
Office expenses – 8000 E
We are open to advice and support from the Civic Europe online community, especially on topics of practical importance like working closely with state and local authorities, advocacy and networking.