On April 7, in honor of International Roma Day, U.S. Embassy Podgorica hosted a luncheon for Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians (RAE) activists to discuss the position of the RAE community in Montenegro. Chargé d’Affaires Doug Jones noted that the Embassy works with Montenegro’s government and civil society to monitor and improve the RAE situation in the country. RAE participants stated that despite some progress over the past decade, most Roma still live on the margins of society and continue to experience systematic discrimination in education, employment, health services and housing.
On April 8, PAO Sunshine Ison also delivered opening remarks at an innovative Democracy Commission Small Grants Program funded event, an interactive performance held at Montenegrin Parliament and designed to raise awareness and spur action to combat early and forced marriages among Roma girls. Amateur actors from the Roma community performed a short scene in which a 14-year-old girl is forced to drop out of school and get married, then is later beaten to death by her husband. A facilitator then worked the audience (including members of parliament and others), who had a chance to ask questions of the characters to understand their motivations. The actors then replayed the scene and asked audience members to step in to change the scene if they chose. This was part of a campaign funded through a Democracy Commission Small Grants Program to the Center for Roma Initiatives, headed up by Fana Delija, winner of the Ambassador’s Active Citizenship Award in March 2014.
- Cross posted from the U.S. Embassy in Podgorica, Montenegro