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Byala Slatina is located in the North-West of Bulgaria, in the rural and economically underdeveloped area of Vratsa Province. It comprises the town of Byala Slatina and 14 villages with a total of 23.200 inhabitants, being among the least densely populated areas in Bulgaria and in the EU. Concentrated in a single neighbourhood, the Roma are the biggest minority in Byala Slatina, with 2.600 inhabitants. Among them, there are several sub-groups as the Kalayzdhi and Reshetari. From point of view of religious beliefs, the majority of the Roma is Muslim, with additional proportions of Adventists, Orthodox and Evangelists.
According to a World Bank study from 2014, before the end of the communist regime, the vast majority of Roma living in Byala Slatina considered themselves better-off and closer to the ethnic-Bulgarian citizens. Since then, an important number of young Roma emigrated, exploring new sources of income and setting different prospects for their families. It is worth mentioning for instance that the number of university graduates among the local Roma has increased in the last years, and that this has a positive impact on the political participation of the community. The Roma population participates actively in elections and is traditionally represented in the Local Council. Presently, there are 4 Roma Councillors in the City Council of Byala Slatina.
Byala Slatina joined ROMACT, with the signature of the Letter of Commitment by the Mayor, on 3 October 2013. The Community Action Group was set-up with the support of the facilitator by the end of January 2014 and gathers a core group of 7 members, mostly women (5) who meet in a room rented for them for a symbolical amount by the municipality. The CAG had initially more members, but family issues, work search elsewhere and the slow proceedings of the last period led to the departure of some of them. By the end of October 2014, the representatives of the municipality, together with members of the CAG, had identified and agreed upon the priority development needs of the Roma community. The agreement came after two meetings among the CAG members, a round table on “Improving the situation of Roma communities in the municipality of Byala Slatina” and monthly meetings organized with the Mayor.
The identified needs and priorities are addressed in the Joint Action Plan elaborated within the process. The measures included in this Plan are as following:
The Joint Action Plan, which was included in the Municipal Plan for Integration of Roma 2015-2017, was adopted by the Local Council on 10 December 2014. Some of the needs tackled in this document are addressed already, notably those concerning education, through the project “Me and my family”, for early childhood development, supported by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy. Currently, as a result of the project, a building was renovated and refurbished. The targeted beneficiaries of these services are 2.825 children and 630 parents.
The CAG and the municipality cooperated on different aspects, identified and sorted out different issues, notably on the infrastructure of the neighbourhood. As a result of this work,