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The municipality of Tundja ( Тунджа ) is located in South-East Bulgaria, in the Yambol region. It is the administrative centre of 44 villages and has a total population of about 25 000 inhabitants, out of which 15 - 20% are Roma.
Although the Roma population is spread throughout the different villages under the administration of Tundzha, those that are known to concentrate higher percentages are Zavoy (Завой), Boyadzhik (Бояджик), Krumovo (Крумово), Kukorevo (Кукорево), Drazhevo (Дражево), Hadzhi Dimitrovo (Хаджи Димитрово) and Botevo (Ботево). In these villages, the Roma population could be of one third - up to half - of the total population.
Like in all rural areas in Bulgaria, the residents of the municipality are facing economic deprivation. Opportunities of employment are provided by larger companies (mainly textile), wineries and furniture producers in the town of Yambol. The unemployment rate among Roma is estimated to be between 15%-20%, with the overall unemployment rate of the municipality evaluated at around 10%. Roma living in the surrounding villages are mostly employed in these larger companies, and have transport ensured to the town. Some of the Roma families have farming as their main subsistance activity. Generally, the unemployment rate of women is considered higher. It is worth noting that in the past years there has been an increasing migration of Roma from Tundja to Western countries, mostly to Germany and Belgium, in search for better job opportunities. Many of the Roma choosing to work abroad support financially their extended families in the village.
In light of the local specificities of the situation of the Roma population, the local administration of Tundja has been showing commitment towards Roma inclusion by striving to address some of the most urgent matters. In fact, in 2016 Tundja was recognised by the European Commission as one example of good practice in terms of Roma integration - particularly for the empowerment and cooperation through Local Action Groups (p 33. of the "Effective Roma integration measures in the Member States 2016" publication of the EC)
In 2007 the municipality adopted a general local development strategy which included specific measures targeting the Roma population. One of the primary areas of investment has been education and early childhood education policies with measures taken meant to encourage Roma children's attendance in school and kindergarten. In this regard, and in line with new national legislation on compulsory pre-school attendance, the municipality waived kindergarten fees for Roma families in 2010 and has been organising extracurricular/non-formal education activities for children. Furthermore, the municipality invested in the vocational training for young adults, in cooperation with local business specialised in viticulture. In this respect, it created a general secondary education facility where experts from partner companies train young people - a majority of whom are Roma - in the professions related to wine production. In 2014 out of the 23 students registered for the vocational training, 20 were of Roma origin. Other projects targeting Roma have been implemented in the municipality with co-financing from the Ministry of Education and the European Social Fund, which had an impact on the attendace of Roma children in primary education.
A key factor for its success in the field of Roma inclusion is the history of self-organizsation within the Roma community. The "Patients with No Asthma" Roma NGO has been working since 2004 with mothers and families in the villages for increased health literacy and access to health care.
Tundja official website - 18/07/2016 - Recognition of the "Tundja" municipality by the European Commission
Tundja official website - 11/04/2016 - Seminar on "Policies for Roma inclusion and planning of projects under the EU operational programmes"
Tundja official website - 14/04/2016 - Round table on "The dialogue between the municipality of Tundja and the active local group"
The municipality joined the ROMACT programme in October 2013 after the confirmation of participation from the Mayor, Mr Georgi Georgiev. Immediately after, the Community Action Group (CAG) started to meet and grouped their development needs in four main categories: social infrastructure, education, health and employment. The most acute problems affect the villages of Hadzhi Dimitrovo and Mogila.
In May 2014 the municipality established a Public Council on Ethnic and Integration Issues, which practically institutionalized the dialogue with the CAG as a sign of recognition of the importance of the consultative process with Roma communities. However, the work of the Council is not limited to formal gatherings – the administration and the CAG have ongoing intensive communication, mandatory monthly meetings and sometimes interaction on a daily basis when urgent issues need to be solved.
Development needs identified by the municipality administration and the CAG were acknowledged by the Municipal Council and integrated in the Municipal Plan for Roma Integration (MAPRI) which was adopted on 10 March 2015.
In addition, the Annual Action Plan for 2015 was developed jointly by the CAG and representatives of the municipality.
|Priorities||Objective 1||Objective 2||Objective 3||Objective 4||Objective 5|
|Education||Bilingual educational technologies of training for Roma children||Activities aimed at preserving and developing the cultural identity of Roma children||Waiving of kindergarten fees for nursery / kindergarten for poor Roma families||Appointments of qualified and certified assistants of teachers;||Organize individual mentoring assisting pupils|
|Health||Assistance from mediators to access various social and health services||Prophylactic examinations with mobile units in Roma neighbourhoods;||Prevention of unwanted and early pregnancy in a dialogue with teenagers and their parents||Awareness raising campaigns on vaccination||Support for the functioning of mobile medical offices for primary care in Roma neighbourhoods|
|Housing/Infrastructure||Assessment of the needs in Roma neighborhoods||Identification of suitable plots and construction of social housing for large Roma families||Construction of social housing - single family houses in the villages with significant Roma population||Elaboration of new detailed plans for villages with significant Roma population||Design of the technical infrastructure for villages with significant Roma population|
|Employment||Training courses for unemployed persons||Involvement of members of Roma community in projects and programs in the field of social economy under the OP HRD|
Reviewed based on joint meetings at the end of 2015, the Annual Action Plan was updated by the CAG and the Local Authority for 2016 and further implemented as described below:
|Priorities||Measure implemented||Measure implemented||Measure implemented||Measure implemented||Measure implemented|
|Education||560 children attended kindergarten for free||“School communities - a model for parent activities in small settlements” implemented in 8 schools||Construction and equipment of kindergarten in Hadji Dimitrovo for 47 children||"Support for pre-school education and training of disadvantaged children" (OP-SESG)||Free transportation service to school|
|Health||"Desired spaces - a complex model for integrated services for early childhood development and social inclusion in smaller locations" (OP-HRD)|
|Housing/Infrastructure||Construction of a playground in Zavoy and Boyadzhik||Regulation of 23 construction plots in Zavoy||Street repair works, street lighting and asphalthing in 7 villages||Construction of a sewage system in Hadzi Dimitrovo||Construction of current water network in Boyadzhik|
|Employment||“Training and employment for young people” (OP-HRD)||Training and employement for 6 months of 54 persons up to 29 years old from 7 villages|
The CAG is a recognized and acknowledged stakeholder by the local institutions in the municipality and has regular meetings with relevant authorities. It is involved in the implementation of measures not only for advocacy but also for data collection. In April 2016, the Monitoring mechanism for the MAPRI was approved by the Local Council and includes CAG members. During the same month, the cooperation with the CAG was also reinforced with the inclusion of a CAG member in the Local Action Group for the development of a Local Development Strategy to be supported by CLLD under the EAFRD.
Furthermore, the municipal staff attended several training and coaching sessions organised by the ROMACT Programme, and benefited from the support of the ROMACT Expert on the question of application for EU Funds. In May 2016, after an evaluation based on the accomplishment of the four ROMACT steps (see timeline below), the ROMACT cycle was considered successfully closed in Tundja.