The European Social Fund, which was set up to improve employment opportunities and raise standards of living in the European Union, has agreed to give nearly five million Euros to a groundbreaking scholarship program in Romania developed by OSI and the Roma Education Fund. The scholarships give Roma students and professionals an opportunity to study medicine, nursing, or pharmacology.
In the first two years of the program, OSI and the Roma Education Fund awarded scholarships to approximately 100 Roma students and health professionals in Romania, and an additional 23 students in Bulgaria. Applications for the third round of scholarships are currently being accepted until May 30, 2010.
The program, entitled “Roma Leadership in Health: A Generation of Health Professionals,” was launched as part of the Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005–2015, and is an unprecedented undertaking in Central and Eastern Europe. In addition to tuition and professional development, the program helps scholars build their advocacy skills to more effectively promote health policies and practices that advance the health and rights of Roma people.
Throughout the region, Roma often experience discrimination by health care providers. The scholarship program seeks to address this problem by helping more Roma join the ranks of health care professionals.
In addition to OSI and the Roma Education Fund, nongovernmental partners in the scholarship program include the Romanian groups Active Watch Media Monitoring Agency, Association of Resident Physicians, and Roma Center for Health Policies-Sastipen.
The consortium of organizations applied for European Union funding for the scholarship program in 2009. In February 2010, the European Social Fund notified the organizations that it would fund three years of the scholarship program in the amount of 19,595,319 Romanian lei (approximately 4,756,145 Euros). The funding is expected to begin in 2011.