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The municipality of Sliven is located 300 km away from Sofia in the South-Eastern Bulgaria and has 125.300 inhabitants. It consists of two cities, where the majority of people live, as well as of 43 surrounding villages. The manufacturing industry continues to be dominant in the economic structure of the municipality and employed 34.7 % of the local work force in 2010. Roma represent about 20 % of the population and live in two neighbourhoods in the city of Sliven, Nadezhda and Nikola Kotchev, and in 21 villages, where their share goes from 10 % to 60 % of the population. Located in an industrial zone, Nadezhda is the most disadvantaged area, notably because of the high incidence of illegal housing, which is up to 90% of the neighbourhood. Similarly, high unemployment rate prevails in the area. Besides these issues, there is a low level of education, also triggered by lack of preschool education, high number of early marriages, but also a lack of access to proper health services. Last but not least, Roma in Sliven are affected by widespread discrimination.
Sliven joined ROMACT with the signature of the Letter of Commitment by the Mayor on 28 October 2013.
The representatives of the municipality together with members of the CAGs identified and agreed on a package of priorities. These are addressed in a Joint Action Plan which includes the following measures:
- Raising the educational level of children and students from ethnic minorities;
- Prevention of school dropout and illiteracy among adult Roma;
- Inclusion and acceptance of Roma parents to the educational process and enhancing their participation in school life;
- Construction of a Community Centre within the Kindergarten in Nadezhda neighbourhood;
- Guaranteeing the right of equal access to quality education through the integration of Roma children and students in ethnically mixed kindergartens and schools;
- Reducing child mortality;
- Improving health care for infants and preschool children;
- Improving prevention activities among the Roma population;
- Improving access to health services;
- Increasing health awareness and information amongst Roma population;
- Establishment of a centre for outpatient health care and health services within the district kindergarten Nadezhda;
- Improvement of housing conditions, including the adjacent technical infrastructure;
- Providing access of Roma to the labour market and to various tools and initiatives for self-employment;
- Training and retraining of unemployed Roma and employed Roma in accordance with the occupations in demand on the labour market;
- Specific mechanisms to provide sustainable employment of Roma of working age with representatives of employers, trade unions, municipalities and organizations of the Roma community;
- Improving the efficiency of the police in multi-ethnic environment in compliance with the standards on human rights;
- Improving the efficiency of the Local Commission for Fighting Anti-social Behaviour in respect of children in multicultural environment;
- Achieving sustainable results in the cultural integration;
- Preservation, development and promotion of specific ethnic culture of the Roma as part of the Bulgarian national culture and creating conditions for equal access of Roma to public cultural life at different levels;
- Establishment of a Cultural Centre – “Unifying Centre for Cultural and Social Integration of Roma in the Local Community
The Joint Action Plan was adopted by the Local Council on 10 December 2014.
Additionally to what was selected for implementation through the Joint Action Plan, some initiatives were already approved by the municipality and their implementation involved the members of the CAG at different levels:
- The destruction of the illegal dumpsite in Hope and its replacement by a playground;
- The transport for school desegregation of Roma children from Nadezhda to another area;
- The municipality also provided the CAG in Nadezhda with meeting premises in order to facilitate its work.
In October 2015, a new municipal team was elected in Sliven that decided to continue to implement ROMACT.