Marijana Blecic, facilitator in the ROMACTED programme - Every significant change is a process that requires time and commitment

Change is a time-consuming process that requires commitment at all times, says Marijana Blecic, facilitator for the municipalities of Niksic and Herceg Novi in ​​ROMACTED, an initiative of the Council of Europe, the European Union and the NGO Young Roma as a national partner in seven Western Balkan countries and Turkey. Marijana is a teaching associate at the Faculty of Philosophy in the program of preschool education and upbringing. She also applied her pedagogical skills in ROMACTED, guiding young people, encouraging them to connect, cooperate, establish and lead non-governmental organizations. Marijana also worked for the Roma Education Fund on programs focusing on women, early childhood education and kindergarten coordination. Her contribution to the Niksic and Montenegrin poetry scene brought her the engagement of a professional consultant in the production of brochures and publications on Roma culture. Her share in strengthening the capacity of members of the Roma community, improving the position is recognized by many. Because of all the above, we asked her to answer a few questions for us. Her mission is to always do well to others, and the message is that we are good people who will find a way to understand others and support them.

 

How did you start working on ROMACTED?

BLECIC: I started working on the project in the second call of the Council of Europe, almost two years ago. As I have experience in working with the Roma community, I responded to this invitation, which seemed interesting, and I managed to get the position of facilitator for the municipalities of Niksic and Herceg Novi.

What do you consider your greatest success in the field of improving the position of members of the Roma population within ROMACTED?

BLECIC: When it comes to the municipality of Herceg Novi, the overall situation is largely regulated, because the NGO Young Roma has done a lot in recent years, from housing to regular attendance of Roma children at all educational levels. The success is certainly the development of the Local Action Plan, as an important document that provides a clear structure of needs, and thus the movements of relevant local institutions in their implementation. When it comes to Niksic, I am especially pleased with the engagement of young people from the Roma community in various actions, which have made them not only more visible, but some of them recognizable in their efforts to change and solve a number of problems that the Niksic Roma community is facing. With the support of ROMACTED, we managed to support the NGO organization of young people, gave them certain knowledge, various forms of support, so I hope that in the future they will continue with their activities, which will gradually change the position of these people.

To what extent are you satisfied with the progress of the Roma community in Montenegro, with special reference to youth involvement?

BLECIC: In general, a lot has been done at the national level, from various strategic documents to specific support systems. However, significant differences are evident when it comes to municipalities and regions, but I note that the north, especially Berane, is now a priority for all of us who deal with this issue.

You worked for the Roma Education Fund. Describe your experience, what are you most proud of?

BLECIC: Yes, since the school year 2012/2013, which are the last years of work of the Regional Department Bozidar Vukovic Podgoricanin. Later, Camp II in Podgorica was closed. The first association is: a lot of work and effort, and then the results. During that period, it was necessary to set up and monitor the systems of regular attendance of Roma children in city schools. Specifically, I mostly worked on women's programs (working with mothers, toy library, women's literacy), and also with preschool children. Honestly, there were days when progress didn’t seem to be seen, things didn’t change, and then after a few years we also saw the first changes. It is just that, any significant change is a time-consuming process, and it implies your commitment at all times. We must not forget the other organizations that worked on Konik at the same time when I did, but also those who were before us, from the Pedagogical Center of Montenegro, Help, the Red Cross, UNDP, all schools, etc.

What is your picture of the academic education of Roma, you work as an associate at the Faculty of Philosophy in Niksic, what is your experience?

BLECIC: There are still no Roma and especially Roma women who are highly educated. There are three or four students at our faculty. Although all professors have a special understanding, are open to support and cooperation, somehow we are still left without these students. Significant are the scholarships and mentorships that have been awarded in recent years by the NGO Young Roma, thus providing support to high school students. I sincerely believe that there will be more of them in the future.

If you were a donor, what projects would you support, in which area?

BLECIC: Certainly projects in culture, social skills and projects in which mostly young people are engaged. Of course, there are also projects that would address preschool children, in support of the most sensitive periods of their lives. Thus, early development and adolescence. Projects that would be aimed at getting to know and promoting culture, would give a new dimension of understanding diversity, the beauty of meeting people from minority communities and the specifics of their culture.

How would you like people from the Roma community to remember you?

BLECIC: In this crazy world I don’t even know what our power of memory is, how long-term it is. I just want to do well to others. These are often small things (to write something, to give information on where to go, to help someone enroll in school, etc.). They do not need to remember, it’s important to me to know that I did it right. The people I worked with now are my friends, we hang out, and we visit. Then I guess it doesn't even remember, you just live like that. I guess it's a success.

What are the prejudices that the majority population has towards the Roma community?
BLECIC: Prejudices have been the same for years, from the treatment of their abilities, characters, and characteristics to some imaginary cultural determinants. Negative attitudes may not necessarily be the basis for change, but sometimes they can encourage us to prove otherwise. Everyone is largely responsible for forming their attitudes (not to exclude other influences), attitudes are no matter how rigid, changeable and are formed at preschool age, so we should fight - first on a personal level, and then further.

What is your message to institutions and young people in the Roma community?

BLECIC: The institutions of the system have responsibility and power. I believe that their aim will be resolving important issues for the Roma community. I believe that we are all good people who will have only sincere impulses to recognize, understand, and then solve some problem related to our fellow citizens from the minority group. I tell young people to work hard, learn and believe in themselves. Education pushes boundaries and gives us better chances. Go ahead; the world is a beautiful, safe and fun place waiting for you!


Interview conducted by Milena Cavic, journalist, associate of the NGO Young Roma

The views expressed in this text can in no way be considered the views of the NGO Young Roma, the Council of Europe and the European Union

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