Child rights

Monday, 18 April 2016

Praxis Held Workshops on Prevention and Elimination of Child, Early and Forced Marriages

In April 2016, Praxis held two two-day workshops for Roma women and men in Leskovac and Kostolac, aimed at prevention and elimination of child, early and forced marriages. The workshops were organized as part of the activities on the project “Legal Assistance to Persons at Risk of Statelessness in Serbia”, funded by UNHCR.

A total of 52 women and girls and 40 men and boys took part in the workshops. The goal of the workshops to open a discussion and jointly name the causes and consequences of this harmful traditional practice through a discussion, and to come up with proposal of mechanisms that would lead to prevention and elimination of child, early and forced marriages. We discussed about the importance of the healthy early child development, respect for children’s needs and wishes, necessity of regular health protection, with special reference to sexual and reproductive health, but also about the key importance of timely education. In this way, we incited the participants to further discuss about the role of a woman and a man in the Roma community, causes and consequences of child, early and forced marriages and how to prevent them. 

The participants identified poverty, low risk of education of families living in informal settlements, high unemployment rate among the Roma and patriarchal cultural tradition, as the main causes of child, early and forced marriages in the Roma community.

“It means a lot when a Roma girl preserves her virginity; when you preserve your virginity, you save your face, honour and respect for your family. It means a lot to us.”

"Life expectancy for Roma is 50 to 55 years. Short life expectancy is often just the result of early marriages, both for women and men. Roma women and men get married early, they early give birth to children, they become parents early. They do not know how to nurture their children. The parents take care about children the least, grandparents decide on everything."

“ I do not support that children get married at 13 or 14. It doesn’t befit a girl to get married so young. It is important how parents bring her up, and the composition of a settlement where a family lives is also important. In mixed settlements, young Roma usually go to school and learn, and in the Roma settlements parents are usually illiterate, so kids are mostly illiterate. "

"A lot of us are a traditional, patriarchal; parents accompany girls to school so that they would not lose their virginity before marriage. "

"Why do parents sell their daughters? When I go to the Social Welfare Centre to ask for cash social welfare, they say - you're healthy and fit, go to work! And where can I get a job - nowhere! And the situation is getting worse. Why would I send a child to school when there's nowhere to get a job." 

In the second part of the workshop, the video clips Avoid My Destiny and I’m a Roma Woman were played. The former is about testimonies of Roma women who are victims of forced marriages and domestic violence, and it left no one indifferent. The impressions varied from “this is sad and scary, but it is not happening here”, through "all this is true”, to the fact that some participants recognized themselves "This is my story when I was 17, that’s it, what can I do, my father sold me”, and some felt ashamed “Never in my life have I felt ashamed, but today I felt ashamed because I am a member of Roma community”. The latter, with its affirmative concept, inspired the participants and directed them once again to perceive education as a path to better future for all girls and boys.

In the following period, we will conduct community meetings in Leskovac and Kostolac which will gather the representatives of all relevant institutions at the local level.

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Praxis means action
Praxis means action
Praxis means action
Praxis means action