International Roma Day in Montenegro

PODGORICA, April 7 – Photos and short profiles of 32 successful Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians living in Montenegro are exhibited in the Parliament of Montenegro on the occasion of the International Roma Day, 8 April. The exhibition “Barvale” or “Successful” in Roma language is a joint initiative of the UN family in Montenegro and national partners and it is exhibited for the second year in a row, this time in the Parliament. The basis of the project “Barvale” was formed by individuals, representatives of the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians community and stories about their professional and personal success that fight stereotypes and reject omnipresent prejudices.
The photo exhibition by the reputable Montenegrin photographer Duško Miljanić was opened by H.E. Mr. Ranko Krivokapić, President of the Parliament of Montenegro, Ms. Katja Saha, Acting Representative of the UNHCR in Montenegro and Ms. Behija Ramović, one of the individuals portrayed in “Barvale” who is a student at the Faculty of Political Sciences and President of the Managing Board of the Foundation for Roma Scholarship. They spoke about success of the portrayed people reminding all that everyone with a strong will can become successful in a society which provides equal opportunities to all.

The Parliament Speaker Ranko Krivokapić emphasized that the status of minorities is a measure of democracy. “I do believe that Montenegro has such democratic capacity, but before all such humane capacity.” He particularly referred to a very difficult life of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians: “Being a minority, you need to be better than others in order to be at the equal footing with the rest of people. And it is up to us, the state, with valuable assistance of the UN System, to incorporate your success and achievements into a successful story of Montenegro as a country of all its citizens, hence to represent a good example of a society where everyone is safe and comfortable.” – Krivokapić concluded.

Acting Representative of the UNHCR in Montenegro highlighted that “Barvale” exhibition offers a new image of the population living on the margin. “The images we still predominantly see in the media are stereotyped images of poverty and powerlessness. Such perception is one sided and that it is undermining the variety of skills, abilities and capacities that Roma individuals and communities have. The “Barvale” aims to overcome prejudice and stereotypes associated with this population. It portrays people from a different perspective and puts the sign of equality between them and the contemporary Montenegrin society.“

Ms. Saha also stressed the importance of enhancing social inclusion of Roma communities in order to decrease discrimination. “Through this exhibition, we would like to convey a positive and encouraging message and give support not only to the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian population, but also to other vulnerable and marginalized groups in Montenegro,” she said adding that the UN family in Montenegro was honored when “Barvale” was exhibited in the Council of Europe in October 2010.

Ms. Behija Ramović, portrayed as being among the successful ones“, pointed out that the exhibition is a confirmation of unbreakable ties between Roma population and Montenegro, referring to the multilayer value of such event. “The word Barvale in Roma language means a lot of things. It represents success and wealth. And all the efforts towards support of Roma population have one message and one goal – more successful and richer Montenegro with integrated successful and dignified Roma community within it.”

“By rejecting the social photography form that normally shows Roma and Egyptians living on the margin, through a focus of scarcity and poverty, I placed models in this project in the position of ‘pop icons’, and ‘movie stars’, which resulted in a different perspective and put the sign of equality between them and contemporary Montenegrin society”- says Duško Miljanić, author of the project.

Through their addressing, short words of wisdom – either their own, or quotes, those people have painted their life path for themselves and placed additional weight on this project that ended successfully, or in Roma language: Barvale.

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The 8 April was established as the International Roma Day at the First World Roma Congress, held in April 1971 in London. This day is marked throughout the world, in order to draw the attention to the difficult situation of the Roma population and to break deep-rooted stereotypes that present significant obstacles on the way to their integration in the society they live in.

By adopting the Action Plan for implementation of the Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005-2015 and the Roma Strategy 2008-2012, Montenegro committed itself to the development, promotion and implementation of Roma integration policies in order to improve their position and reach a higher degree of integration and socialization. Still, the RAE population in Montenegro faces considerable challenges of social inclusion.
Through a number of projects and programs in the area of social inclusion, the United Nations System in Montenegro is committed to provide support to advancement of living conditions for Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians in order to include these marginalized groups into Montenegrin society.

The UN Agencies in Montenegro have initiated a number of concrete activities for the registration of RAE population, such as: direct and free legal, medical and social assistance to RAE at risk of statelessness, education campaigns for local stakeholders and general public, education campaigns for the RAE population, employment generation schemes, as well as entrepreneurship development. On this very special day, the United Nations family wants to reaffirm its commitment to support the Government of Montenegro in its efforts towards the full integration of the RAE population into the Montenegrin society.