Success story developed by Panagiotis Koutoudis, Institute of Entrepreneurship Development
Details of the organization
ROMA Women’s Association of Drosero “Elpida”
City: Ksanthi, Greece
Drosero is one of the largest and oldest Romani settlements in Greece. It is located in the northern district of Thrace, on the outskirts of the town of Xanthi, approximately 1,5 km from the town center, in an area that used to be farmland. Today, it is estimated that the population counts about 7,500 inhabitants. The inhabitants of Drosero are employed in seasonal agricultural jobs and many of them are itinerant peddlers. Drosero is considered a small ghetto with many problems. The settlement is plagued by unemployment, illiteracy and domestic violence, dependency on welfare benefits, teen marriages and many of its children are unregistered.
The Roma Women’s Association of Drosero, which is called ‘Elpida’ [Hope], is a non-governmental organization, founded in August of 2006 on the initiative of 20 Roma women. Their desire and need was to create an institution, through which they could be represented as Roma, claim their rights, and exercise their obligations within Greek society.
Elpida’s premises in Drosero function as a versatile cultural center. Teaching and activities for various age groups take place at the center, and it serves as a meeting place, where residents can express themselves freely, particularly the women and children of Drosero. The steady work of Elpida, over the course of ten years and counting, has caught the interest of many organizations and institutions, national and international, that have supported it and and rewarded it. Elpida is notable for being an NGO run by the community it serves and is the most widely recognized Roma Association in Greece. Elpida actively promotes, in all areas and at all levels of public administration, the interests and the integration of the Roma in Greece, with a special focus on Roma women.
Elpida’s activities aim to:
- Empower the women of the community and to support their role in their families and the community
- Provide different forms of education and learning opportunities to Drosero’s children and adults
- Carry out creative activities for children
- Create opportunities for a better future for the children of Drosero through the acquisition of necessary skills and know-how
- Enhance community members’ ability to assert their right to better living conditions
- Fight adult illiteracy
- Disseminate information and try to curtail problems related to the health of the residents, to domestic violence, to lack of civil registration, to social benefits, etc., and to promote social integration in general
- Appeal to relevant public services for the improvement of the infrastructure facilities in the area
- Cooperate with other organizations, which share Elpida’s vision, in order to achieve the goals of the association
- Collaborate with international organizations, with foundations and national and foreign agencies, which are active in the area of defense of human rights.
The core activities of Elpida are primarily aimed at the children and women of the community. The purpose of the activities is twofold: to provide the tools for a better future and foster better integration within Greek society. For the very young, there is the flagship nursery school. School-aged children are served by remedial lessons, extracurricular activities and cultural programs. Adult women are offered lessons in Greek as well as vocational training. In addition, Elpida provides various social and health services.
Two social workers are employed by Elpida in order to ‘bring back’ children who have dropped out of school. In the two years that this initiative has been implemented, the number of children registered in school increased by 200. The social workers, by gaining the trust of the community, managed to motivate both children and parents to participate in formal education.
In addition to children’s education, tutoring and training, Elpida also provides learning opportunities for its adult members. Right from the start of its operation, the association organized Greek language lessons for adults. After five months of intensive daily lessons, 10-12 women members of the association took the national exams in order to acquire primary school certificates. Presently, up to 15-20 women participate twice a week in the Greek language lessons offered at the association’s premises. Since 2006, about 120 women of different ages participated in classes for hairdressing, sewing, cooking and pastry making. Some of them managed to generate income based on their new skills. All these activities are intended to increase the knowledge and the skills of the participants, while preserving and promoting pride in their Romani culture.
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