According to the data of the Council of Europe, nearly 10% of the Bulgarian population are Roma, which makes them the third largest ethnic group in the country. A considerable part of this population, however, is unemployed, has no access to quality housing and infrastructure, lacks access to social services and healthcare. Most children and their young parents have no access to quality preschool and elementary school education or drop out from secondary schools. The lack of access to good quality education precludes Roma from the opportunities the labour market could offer and such a situation leads to social exclusion. The quality of the life of Roma is generally put on stake because of their insufficient health awareness, lack of access to good quality healthcare and particularly, the lack of awareness on contraception and the dangers of early pregnancies.
Switzerland funds the ZOV Programme – Healthcare and Education for All – with the objective to help resolve these issues and support the Bulgarian government in the implementation of its National Strategy for Roma Integration.
ZOV is implemented in the period 2013 – 2019 with the financial support of the Bulgarian-Swiss Cooperation Programme. The total amount of the Programme’s funding is CHF 8 088 500, of which the Swiss contribution amounts to CHF 6 920 000.
The Ministry of Labour and Social Policy (MLSP) is the main partner on the Bulgarian side. The Ministry of Health (MH) and the Ministry of Education and Science (MES) both contribute to the Programme with funds, expertise and monitoring. The three ministries contribute a total of 15% to the co-funding, 5% by each Ministry. Fifteen local governments in six large regions (Burgas, Montana, Plovdiv, Ruse, Sliven and Shumen) in partnership with schools, preschools, healthcare centres, NGOs and others implement integrated projects related to: 1) reducing the number of Roma children who lag behind or drop out of kindergartens, preschool and elementary school; 2) work with parents, psychologists, teachers and mediators on the issues of Roma inclusion; 3) primary and reproductive healthcare for the Roma community, family planning and health prevention; 4) culture and sports events contributing to the Roma integration.
The mission of ZOV is to develop a pilot model at local and national level based on the Swiss experience (The Swiss Forum approach) as a tool for civil participation and trust building.
ZOV Programme – Health and Education for All – aims to improve the access of Roma and other vulnerable groups to kindergartens and elementary schools. ZOV will also aim to improve access to primary healthcare, reproductive and sexual health and mother and child healthcare. The Programme includes promotion of Roma cultural traditions and identity, improving the positive image of Roma and dissemination of good practices.
All activities are concrete and pragmatic and specifically oriented towards Roma and other vulnerable groups. Our objective is to improve the quality of the environment as to enable real integration at an early age and to improve the quality of medical services,awareness and prevention. We believe that the social inclusion of Roma begins with children and that families are crucial for the successful integration of minorities.
Our mission is to make ZOV a sustainable programme. ZOV is closely integrated with the three partnering ministries and our goal will be to enable the ministries to continue with the successful activities under this programme.
The implementation of the Programme’s activities is coordinated by a Programme Management Unit based in the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy. The Financial Department of the Ministry is responsible for the coordination of co-funding on the Bulgarian side of the project and for the control of the Swiss funds directed to local governments. The three ministries co-funding the Programme: The Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education and Science participate in the Programme’s Managing Board.
The Programme has engaged the participation of experts on social inclusion, education, public procurement, health prevention, Roma issues, infrastructure, PR and communications (a total of nine experts). At a local level.projects are implemented by local governments in partnership with kindergartens, schools, healthcare centres, departments of local universities and NGOs and universities. Each municipality has a local team engaged in leadership and the management of the respective regional cooperation with the partners and local implementation.