For Roma, Justice Is Sometimes the Best Medicine

A woman visits a gynecologist for a check-up but the office demands she pay a fee for a service that is free.

A young child and his parents are never informed about vaccination for measles, mumps, and rubella.

A man in need of dialysis is thrown out of the hospital because he asks for transportation reimbursement, which is required by law.

These are just a few of the many health rights violations Roma people face in Macedonia. But the work of Roma paralegals is having a profound impact on Roma health in their communities.

To protect health rights and influence systemic change, four Macedonian organizations have joined forces. Three of them are local Roma organizations—Centre for Democratic Development and Initiatives, Humanitarian and Charitable Organization of Roma (KHAM Delcevo), and Roma Resource Center. The fourth, Association for Emancipation, Solidarity and Equality of Women (ESE), is a national human rights organization with experience in advocacy and research.

Each of the Roma organizations hosts two paralegals recruited from their communities. Their understanding of local issues and the trust they have within their communities allow them to establish strong relationships with clients. In turn, ESE provides training, oversees case management, and intervenes in particularly difficult cases.

The paralegals conduct door-to-door outreach and hold office hours. They listen, provide advice, and in some cases they intervene by accompanying clients to local authorities or clinics where they negotiate resolutions todisagreements, lodge complaints, or demand remedies for violations. They also help many Roma obtain personal identification documents, without which they cannot get health insurance to subsidize their care.

The paralegals have also contributed to systemic changes in Macedonia. For example, many health care providers used to illegally charge Roma patients for services like gynecological check-ups and vaccination certificates, and many used to confiscate Roma patients’ identity documentation if they were unable to pay hospital bills. These situations have greatly improved as a result of persistent interventions by the paralegals.

The paralegals have also helped Roma citizens advocate for their rights themselves. By conducting roundtables in local communities, paralegals have educated about health rights, and examined local problems. In Crnik, a village in eastern Macedonia, villagers successfully advocated for a local vaccination center, which will open soon, and they are in the process of applying for “rural health area” status, which would give the village access to an ambulance.

With local support, these four organizations are bringing justice to Roma health in Macedonia.

The Centre for Democratic Development and Initiatives; the Humanitarian and Charitable Organization of Roma; Roma Resource Center; and the Association for Emancipation, Solidarity and Equality of Women are grantees of the Open Society Foundations.

14 Comments

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Yes, the Roma people must fight for their Rights !!!

American Roma have no rights the police our taking our people place them in jail.without any charges just who they our.we need rep. In Washington that can speak
And this will Chang. local support by Roma who knows what is going on this is 45 .years working in over 40 countries .thanks

Thank you for your comment, Ernest. I agree with you that many American Roma also experience significant stigma and discrimination - by the police, on the labor market and so on. I am more familiar with the situation in Europe, but would recommend the Romani Archives and Documentation Center at the University of Texas as a resource on Roma in the US.

During the last year, once in a hospital, to a nurse's aide (who was Romanian, and was complaining about low pay...) I had the opportunity to strike up a small talk and after being informed that she is from Romania and few other chit chat I eventually got to ask her who are the Roma people ? The answer I got clearly depicted the scorn and discrimination towards Roma people. It was surprising to see that a person complaining about pay discrimination was prejudiced herself to a section of people of her origin.

It is indeed strange to find people who feel discriminated against so eagerly ready to discriminate on others...
Still, you are making a confusion here.
Romania is a country, inhabited by Romanians, Roma, Hungarians and 16 or so other ethnic minorities.
So Romanians and Roma are different people even if it's true that the biggest concentration of Roma in Europe used indeed to live in Romania - some of them have dispersed in the rest of the Europe in the last 20 years.
As to who are the Roma people? Hard to explain in a few words but it seems they are the last wave of migratory population that arrived in Europe, apparently sometimes between the XIII th and XVI th centuries.
The name the 'others' use to describe them - Tzigani in Romanian, Zigeuner in German, Gypsies in English, Gitanes in French - comes from the Greek 'Athinganoi', the 'untouchables', and suggests that the Roma might be of Indian origin.
In the Eastern part of the Europe they were treated like slaves - for instance in Romania they were set free in 1856, a lot sooner than the African Americans slaves were set free in the US.
They are still discriminated against, mainly under the pretext that they refuse to integrate in the mainstream society and keep alive some of their traditional habits like a particular way of dressing, etc.

That's a story about great work, hard to take in that in 2013 all people are not having their human rights realised, not provided with free health care and are marginalised in their own country. Keep strong with your great efforts.

That great work of charity for the sake of humanity

Equal rights for every one
Good work

The way in which a society treats its minorities and vulnerable members is how it will be judged,

Access of Health is not a subject that we can conjugate with ethnic, religious or any other labeling.
It is a right which brings us back to the fundamental, to live as human being.
All the best

I grew up with the notion; Black is bad and evil and now am seeing Humans are the same! Why discriminate against Roma? Fight for dear rights for they are not given! Demand for them and stand up for them!

I honor and salute your work on justice to health because the poor people who could not spent money for treatment to deprived people.

god have love to everyone

Come on 2014 and there are people who dont Know about health. Wtf is going on in this world. Thank god There are people taking care of them. It is indeed a small step But could be a big One in the Future. Keep going on Romina. Great job!

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