The Bulgarian Roma Youth Platform took place online on 29 January 2021 between 9 and 11 am CET. More than 75 young Roma, high-school and university students took part in the meeting, organized by the Roma Youth Voices in partnership with the Center for Interethnic Dialogue and Tolerance Amalipe, Arete Youth Foundation and the Standing Roma Conference from Bulgaria.
The meeting was opened with a welcome address by the Executive Director of the Phiren Amenca International Network, Marietta Herfort. Presentation in Bulgarian language on the outcomes of the ‘Roma Youth: Challenges and Perspectives’ surveys followed.
Official guest of the meeting was Mrs Rositsa Ivanova – National Roma Contact Point for Bulgaria. Mrs Ivanova welcomed all the participants of the Bulgarian Roma Youth Platform. She explained the roles of the National Council on Ethnic and Integrational Issues and the National Roma Contact Point. Then she shared with the participants that since 2015 within the National Council for Ethnic and Integrational Issues there is a Commission to follow the implementation of the National Roma Strategy. Mrs Ivanova added that currently the Bulgarian Roma Contact Point is implementing a project funded by the European Commission – namely ‘National Roma Platform’. The National Roma Platform project is aiming at having dialogue with all national and local authorities on Roma inclusion. Mrs Ivanova shared that the draft of the New Bulgarian Roma Strategy was uploaded for public consultations on 10 December 2020 end the period for receiving civil society proposals on the Roma Strategy was extended until 31 January 2021.
An open discussion among the young Roma and the National Roma Contact Point followed. The questions raised were concerning how young Roma can participate in the processes of Roma inclusion; what specific measures there can be for digital skills of Roma students; Internships schemes for young Roma at the National Roma Contact Point and the public administration; forced evictions of Roma taking place; closing of Roma neighborhoods and discrimination during the COVID-19 pandemics; employment schemes for young Roma and others.
Towards the end of the meeting the Bulgarian Roma Contact Point shared that she will seek partnership with Roma youth networks; that currently there is no possibility for internships, and that they can fund small-scale initiatives proposed by young Roma. Mrs Rositsa Ivanova re-confirmed its engagement with sending Roma young people to the ‘Dikh I na Bistar’ Roma Genocide Remembrance Initiative taking place annually at Auscwitz-Birkenau.
The current draft of the Bulgarian Roma Strategy up to 2030 is failing at effectively addressing Roma youth, women and other intersectional groups of Bulgarian Roma having multiple vulnerabilities. Roma youth and women are mentioned only once. To remedy this, the Roma Youth Voices Team of the Phiren Amenca International Network sent official recommendations to be taken into consideration in elaborating the text of the new Roma strategy in Bulgaria.