Action on Romani Women's Rights in Macedonia

25 February 2005

United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Hears Concerns at Situation of Romani Women in Macedonia

New York, Skopje, Budapest, 25 July 2005: The International Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) today undertakes pre-sessional review of issues arising with respect to Macedonia's compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. The pre-sessional hearing is designed to provide the Macedonian government with guidance as to what issues and information it should present to the CEDAW during full Committee review in January 2006.

In advance of today's session, the Roma Centre of Skopje (RCS), the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) and the Network Women's Program Roma Women Initiative (NWP/RWI) have jointly prepared a submission to the CEDAW highlighting major human rights issues facing Romani women in Macedonia. The submission provides results of new research indicating high levels of rights deprivation and multiple discrimination against Romani women in Macedonia. The ten-page document details preliminary results of research undertaken in Macedonia by a network of Romani women researchers in Macedonia. The coalition also proposes areas in which the Committee may seek further information from the Macedonian government in the run-up to a full review of Macedonia's compliance with international human rights law in the area of women's rights, to be undertaken in January 2006.

Areas of concern detailed by the coalition in its submission to the CEDAW include:

Citizenship/Statelessness: An exclusionary law adopted by the Macedonian government in the context of the break-up of Yugoslavia has left many Roma lacking citizenship in their own country. As a result, many Roma are prevented from accessing basic human rights such as education, employment, health care, housing and property;

Education: Romani children are subjected to discrimination in the Macedonian educational system. Romani children receive education of an inferior quality than that provided to non-Romani children. There is a higher level of illiteracy among Romani women than among Romani men. A disproportionate number of Romani girls drop out of school, usually after the fifth grade. Compared to Romani boys, Romani girls experience more barriers to attend school from within the family; these issues are not the subject of effective policy in Macedonia;

Employment: Where Romani women are employed at all, this is often in the informal economy, undertaking such work as selling baskets or cleaning houses. Open discrimination by employers against Romani job applicants is common. Verbal harassment of Romani job applicants and employees is often reported. Roma are also often subjected to worse working conditions than their non-Romani counterparts such as having to work longer hours for less pay;

Health Care: The problem of statelessness has resulted in a number of Romani women having no access to state-sponsored medical treatment. Many Romani women interviewed in the course of research in early 2005 stated that they face barriers in exercising their right to access the public health care system. There is widespread lack of trust in doctors and fear as well as reports of mistreatment of Romani women by health professionals. Racial segregation in health care facilities is also reported. A very high percentage of Romani women suffer from illnesses such as high blood pressure, bronchitis, asthma, mental illness; there have been cases of untreated tuberculosis; and premature aging is common;

Inadequate Housing Conditions: Many Romani families are exposed to the hazards of living in informal settlements without any security of tenure. Romani women often live in overcrowded, improvised houses without sanitation, infrastructure, electricity, and/or water. Substandard living conditions contribute to the frequent transmission of serious communicable diseases;

Physical and psychological violence against Romani women and girls by members of their immediate and extended families is widespread, though rarely reported to the authorities. There has been a near total failure by the Macedonian government to date to address this extreme form of human rights abuse.

Kosovo Romani Refugees who found refuge in Macedonia after the conflict in Kosovo in 1999, are in a particularly precarious situation, most of them being denied any form of durable solution to their status in Macedonia. Around 2000 Roma from Kosovo in Macedonia, around 51% of which are women, currently live in extremely substandard conditions and under constant threat of expulsion from Macedonia.

The full text the submission is available at:

The coalition of groups involved in preparing today's submission are:

  • The Roma Centre of Skopje (RCS)
  • The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC)
  • The Network Women's Program Roma Women Initiative (NWP/RWI)

The coalition's comments are derived from research undertaken in early 2005 in Macedonia by a network of Romani women researchers under the supervision and guidance of the coalition. Financial support and expertise for documentation was also provided by the UNIFEM office in Bratislava.

For further information on the initiative, please contact:


The Roma Centre of Skopje (RCS), based in Skopje, is a local non-governmental organization working for the integration of the Romani community in Macedonia through the empowerment of Romani activists and Roma-led non-governmental initiatives. Through its activities for the empowerment of young Romani women, the RCS promotes gender equality and human rights of minorities.

The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) is an international public interest law organisation engaging in a range of activities aimed at combating anti-Romany racism and human rights abuse of Roma. The approach of the ERRC involves, in particular, strategic litigation, international advocacy, research and policy development, and training of Romany activists. The ERRC is a cooperating member of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights and has consultative status with the Council of Europe, as well as with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. Further information on the ERRC is available at:

The Network Women's Program (NWP), an initiative of the Open Society Institute (OSI), promotes the advancement of women's human rights, gender equality and empowerment as an integral part of the process of democratisation. Its offices are in New York and Budapest with partners in 25 countries. Since 1999, the NWP has been working in partnership with Roma women activists on the Romani Women's Initiative (RWI). The RWI promotes the human rights of Romani women by empowering Romani women activists in Central and Eastern Europe.


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