UN Women's Discrimination Committee Reviews Macedonia

24 January 2006

Treaty Review Body Hears Testimony About the Situation of Romani Women in Macedonia

New York, Skopje, Budapest, 23 January 2006. Today, on behalf of the Roma Centre of Skopje (RCS), the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) and the Open Society Institute's Roma Women's Initiative (RWI), Ms Azbija Memedova testified about the human rights situation of Romani women in Macedonia before the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) at its review of Macedonia's compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

In advance of today's session, the RCS, the ERRC and the RWI, with technical and financial assistance from UNIFEM's Bratislava office, submitted jointly a parallel report to the CEDAW Committee highlighting major human rights issues facing Romani women in Macedonia.

The report provided results of comprehensive research undertaken by the partners during 2005, involving eleven Romani women researchers trained and supervised by the partners, who documented human rights issues facing Romani women in Macedonia. The research results indicate high levels of rights deprivation and intersectional discrimination against Romani women in Macedonia. Key points include:


  • Education: The illiteracy and school abandonment rate in Macedonia is extremely high among Romani women and girls. Of 237 Romani women interviewed in the course of research, 144 had no or incomplete elementary education; 63 had only elementary education, only 19 had finished vocational or high school and 11 had varying levels of education beyond elementary school. Main reasons cited for the low level of education included systemic discrimination, poverty, language, and the lack of positive role models. State institutions have not proposed or implemented any specific programmes to improve the educational level of Romani women and girls, particularly at the pre-, primary and high school levels.
  • Employment: Of 202 Romani women age 18-54 surveyed, 98 were unemployed, 16 worked in state firms (the majority as cleaners), 69 worked on black market, and the remainder were self-employed or worked in private firms. Only 3 of 7 women age 55-65 did not have any form of pension.
  • Health and health care: Racial discrimination and other failures of the medical system to provide basic health care with dignity were documented extensively during research. Despite the existence of a comprehensive state-provided health system in Macedonia, numerous Romani women had no form of health insurance and lived on a constant basis in various states of exclusion from health care. The substandard living conditions prevailing in a number of substandard Romani slums in Macedonia have very significant detrimental impacts on the health of Romani women.
  • Violence: Very high levels of violence against women were reported. Approximately 70% of women interviewed reported being victims of domestic violence. Of 34 cases reported to police, 20 women stated that police subjected them to various forms of degrading treatment and humiliating, racist comments. In only 5 of 34 reported cases did the police intervene.

    The parallel report also notes the general absence of reliable data disaggregated by gender and ethnicity in Macedonia, as well as a lack of effective policies to address the exclusion of Romani women from Macedonian society.

    The partners also include a number of recommendations in the parallel report submitted in November. The full text of the report is available online at: http://www.errc.org/uploads/upload_en/file/01/97/m00000197.pdf.

    Ms Memedova is Coordinator of the Roma Centre of Skopje, a Consultant of the Open Society Institute's Roma Women's Initiative, and a Member of the Board of Directors of the European Roma Rights Centre.

    For further information on the initiative, please contact:
  • Azbija Memedova (RCS): (389 70) 248 490, centar@mt.net.mk
  • Tara Bedard (ERRC): (36 1) 413 2246, tara.bedard@errc.org
  • Debra Schultz (OSI/RWI): (1 212) 548 0162, DSchultz@sorosny.org
  • Nicoleta Bitu (OSI/RWI) (48 500) 806452, nicoleta@romawomensinitiatives.org


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