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Meetings in Europe to spread knowledge about our work in Vidin

Ms. Donka Panayotova

Chair, NGO Organization Drom

9 FEB 2018

NGO Organization Drom celebrated 20 years of its launch in December 2017 which brought to Vidin former Directors of our partners - Open Society Foundation (Budapest), European Roma Rights Center (Budapest), Bulgarian Helsinkii Committee (Sofia) and many others. Shortly afterwards, we received invitations from three organizations to attend events in Europe, which we accepted.

On January 25-26, 2018 the Chair of NGO Organization Drom travelled to Budapest to take part in a workshop on Segregated Education of Roma Children in the Elementary Schools, which brought organizations from Central and Eastern Europe –Bulgaria, Czech Rep., Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. The workshop participants responded to questions that relate to segregated education – how do we address the issue; how does it affect our society; what can we do to address it; what can we learn from the failures and how to influence decision-makers?

18 years have passed since desegregated education for Roma was launched in Bulgaria by NGO Organization Drom. The results of our work speak for themselves – 4,000 Roma children have received quality education by studying with their non-Roma peers in the mainstream schooling system; about 400 Roma from Vidin have graduated colleges and universities in Bulgaria and abroad. Today, the process is irreversible as parents and children find their own way to the mainstream schooling system in Vidin without a need for Organization Drom to motivate them extra. Still, organizations in Europe discuss pros and cons of segregated education, while we have proved that the problem is solved by closing down segregated schools and putting Roma children in regular mainstream schools where they belong.

On January 26, Ms. Panayotova travelled to Vienna, Austria to meet with representatives of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights ( The agency operates as independent and trusted Center of Excellence on Fundamental Rights. It produces reports which influence governments in Europe on issues related to human rights. They offer hands-on support and evidence-based advice to many countries in Europe.

Ms. Panayotova met with Dr. Andrey Ivanov, Head in the Department Roma and Migrant Integration and Ms. Sheena Keller, Research Officer in the Equality and Citizen’s Rights Department to discuss the Roma situation in Vidin and Bulgaria in the field of access to housing and education. She received important advice and support for future initiatives.

Ms. Panayotova had the opportunity also to present on Access to Housing for Roma in Vidin: Key Challenges and Policy Recommendations to key staff and interns at FRA. Mr. Joannis N. Dimitrakopoulos, Head of Equality and Citizen’s Rights Department (right on the photo) chaired the meeting, which included also an active discussion on issues, like how can Organization Drom benefit from FRA’s experience and support. The discussion was extremely fruitful and a concrete proposal was offered. Ms. Panayotova was invited to present the work of NGO Organization Drom at the biggest event of FRA this year, which will take place in Vienna in September. Organization Drom will also contribute to FRA’s 2018 annual report with inputs from the access to housing project in Vidin.

FRA staff and interns at presentation, offered by Ms. Donka Panayotova on Access to Housing for Roma in Vidin; Venue: European Agency for Fundamental Rights, Vienna, Austria. 26 Jan., 2018.

On January 29-31st staff of NGO Organization Drom took part in a seminar, organized by European Roma Rights Center in Budapest, which focused on video advocacy work. Participants from Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Macedonia, Romania, and Ukraine participated in the event, which invited top lecturers, namely: Dr. Sue Gunawardena-Vaughn, Manager in the Human Rights Initiative Program of Open Society Foundation (New York), Mr. Alex Alex Johnson, OSI DC Policy office and Mari Berbec, OSF-Budapest.

During the event, Ms. Panayotova had separate meetings with Ms. Mari Berbec, who is responsible for the Human Rights Initiatives Program at OSF-Budapest. The Program supports the Access to Housing project in Vidin. Ms. Berbec was very instrumental in providing advice and support for the implementation of the project and she still continues to be very important adviser in the video advocacy campaign which we are planning for 2018-2019 within the framework of a capacity building project.

During the event in Budapest, Ms. Panayotova met also with Dr. Bernard Rorke, Video Advocacy Manager at ERRC-Budapest. He has supported the work of NGO Organization Drom between 2000 and 2006 as key staff of Roma Participation Program at OSF-Budapest. NGO Organization Drom and staff have benefited tremendously from the advice, provided by Bernard and we hope this collaboration will continue in the next years through collaboration with the European Roma Rights Center in Budapest, which has been our partner for many years.