The last Public debate in the project "Roma Women Can Do It - II" took place on 16th June 2006 in Kiustendil.
The project coordinators were not able to find a local Roma woman coordinator to organize the event in Vratsa, so the town of Kiustendil was selected as a venue for the Debate instead, because it has a compact Roma community and is one of the towns where a seminar was held during the first phase of the project.
The theme of the debate was: "The role and place of Roma women in public and political life". The event was opened by the Regional governor Mr. Karakashki. Among the participants were: the senior expert on ethnic and demographic issues with the Regional council and an expert on ethnic and demographic issues with the Municipality of Kiustendil, Roma women and girls. The director of community center "Vasil Levski", which is at the heart of cultural life in the Roma community, also participated actively in the debate.
It was announced that experts on ethnic and demographic issues have been appointed in 5 out of 9 municipalities in the region, and 4 of these are Roma women.
The participation of such high-ranking guests attracted a lot of media attention - the TV Cannel "Color", "Darik" Radio and the newspapers "Nabliudatel" and "Viara" interviewed the project facilitators and the participants in the Debate.
On 17th June 2006, "Focus Radio - Pirin" broadcasted a 15-minute live interview with the national project coordinator about the Public debates in Kiustendil and Blagoevgrad and the forthcoming National meeting, at which the final results of the project will be announced. During the Debate, a lot of Roma women shared their personal experience in struggling for their right to education and choice of career, and the difficulties in overcoming the resistance of their families and the larger Roma community.
The Regional and Municipal authorities openly declared to the media their support for Roma women and girls and emphasized the importance of women's role in the family and the children's education, and their crucial part for the successful integration of the whole Roma community. Examples of good practices were shared by a team from Dupnitsa working as mediators on a health project of CARE with the Roma population.
At the end of the Debate, a suggestion was made that Roma women's organizations in the region join their efforts to become stronger, more organized and consolidated in their demands which concern all Roma women and children. In view of the forthcoming local elections, it was suggested that Roma women select their representatives to have meetings with the major political parties because they think that at this stage, the vote of the Roma population is dispersed and political participation cannot be achieved through Roma parties. Signing pre-election agreements with politicians would make Roma women's NGOs more visible, more stable and more responsible in their decisions, thus giving women leaders a better chance to fight for their place in politics.
All participants agreed with the opinion that inside the Roma community there is no debate and that is exactly where efforts should be aimed - Roma women's NGOs could initiate this debate and unite the human resource, thus bringing benefits for the whole community.
Kalinka Slivkova - Project coordinator