Let us be different, admirable:

Let us be enlightened Roma women.

Three quarters of Roma women do not complete their primary education. Often cultural traditions that support early marriage, low socio-economic conditions and social stereotypes spur a self-perpetuating cycle of unequal opportunities, ethnic discrimination and stifled aspirations.

Thanks to the help of generous donors and the Trust for Social Achievement Arete Youth Foundation (AYF) organized the first-ever National Roma Girls Camp (NRGC) in 2014.  For four consecutive years, AYF has helped young women develop their leadership skills and increase the number of Roma students who graduate from high school.  In the winter of 2019 and the following spring of 2020, we are planning to implement the next two National Roma Girls Camps, and we need your help!  Our goal is to help inspire and empower another 50 young girls from throughout Bulgaria so they can achieve their educational goals and unlock their potential.  By providing them with the opportunity to engage with role models, participate in motivational workshops, and meet like-minded peers, NRGC is able to provide a platform, space and resources for these young women that currently does not exist in Bulgaria.

Due to their status as second-class citizens, Roma youth often lack self- esteem and rarely pursue opportunities to improve their imposed social status. Roma girls are even more restrained and vulnerable to social exclusion, violence and poverty.  Arete Youth Foundation strives to develop a sustainable Roma community, where education is a priority for young Roma girls.  Roma education gaps have an important gender disparity.  Only 10% of Roma girls and 15% of Roma boys graduate from high school.  Evidence is emerging that among Roma children, literacy rates are lower for girls than boys. Additionally, in communities that face the same socio-economic conditions, the primary school enrollment rate for Roma girls is just 64%, compared to 96% for non-Roma girls. 

Since 2014 until 2017 the foundation has organized 4 camps for Roma girls. The total number of participants so far is 98 girls. Of them, 54 have become university students, and to date, 5 of these girls have completed university. 18 girls from the total number of participants (98) have successfully completed their secondary education. Only two girls have dropped out of secondary education because they have gone abroad. The remaining 24 girls continue to study at high school. We believe in the positive influence of these camps on the girls. Please support the implementation of the next two camps!

We can support these young women and defy social stereotypes by helping to build their self-esteem and supporting their educational goals.  While women in other Western cultures began to embrace the Feminist movement of the 1960’s, Roma women are just beginning of to understand this journey.  This new generation of young, modern Roma women is exactly the positive image Bulgarian society needs.  The camps provide young women the opportunity to identify and develop their skills and nurture their self-confidence so that they are able to make valuable contributions to their own communities.  Every dollar of your tax-deductible donation will directly benefit a deserving young woman and with your help we can ensure the National Roma Girls Camps continue to be a successful and impactful program in Bulgaria.

Thank you in advance for your support!

SUCCESS STORIES FROM THE 2017 NRGC

Anita Borislavova Alexandrova, 20 years old from Byala Slatina - during the camp Anita was in the 12th grade. She has become a student at the Medical University of Pleven, specialty - assistant pharmacist.

“For me, the National Roma Girls` camp was one of the most exciting events in my life so far. I made great friendships with Roma young women from all over the country. The camp provided safe environment where we were able to discuss problems and challenges facing the all Roma women. The camp also gave me the opportunity to meet successful role models - women of Roma origin who have achieved personal and professional success in their lives. This experience motivated me to continue my education after high school. I am a university student now at the Medical University of Pleven, specialty - assistant pharmacist.
I consider to a large extend my personal success to my participation at the 2017 National Roma Girls` camp in Bankya.
Thank you for everything!”

Diana Georgieva, 17, from Yambol

“I have heard about the Arete Youth Foundation last year when I became a student at the Vocational High School of Light Industry, Ecology and Chemical Technologies – Yambol. The girls and boys from the upper classes were telling stories about Arete’s summer camps they have attended. Thus, I have understood that besides covering travel expenses and buying textbooks for socially vulnerable high school students, the foundation also organizes different camps where you have a lot of fun but also learn.”

“Therefore, when at school we were informed that the foundation is recruiting participants for its National Roma Girls` Camp I was one of the first to apply alongside many other girls from across the country.”  

“I really wanted to go to this camp because I craved to meet girls at my age, create new friendships. When I was informed that I was approved I was extremely happy. My impressions of the camp responded to all the anticipated expectations I had of what I have heard about the foundation. What I learned during the camp is now “sealed” in my mind and helps me every day. I understand why we should not get married young and what would be the price of it; how we waste our potential and lose the sense of a woman's need. The lecture on the four men/women archetypes motivated me to expand my knowledge of the male/female relationships. The bright, young people I met only were another reason to be happy and satisfied with all this experience. My participation at the 2017 National Girls' Camp brought unforgettable memories. I would like to stay close to the Arete Youth Foundation and join their network.”

Evelina Dimitrova from Galiche village, 17 years old

“I have participated in the 4th National Camp for Girls, which made me very excited, because we talked about women's stories. The stories were shocking, but their sequel was ‘Wow!‘ For example, the story of Oprah. At the end of the session Snehzina said: ’Girls, write your stories now!’, I thought: ‘Eve, you have to act!’. Then came the idea for the NGO which I already created - ‘Roden kray Galiche Association’. The association is already implementing my goal. The main objective is the initiation of activities related to environmental protection - training, extracurricular activities, implementation of local initiatives. We also organize many cultural events. Now I realize that after two years my aspirations have become a reality. It is important what we think, what we focus on and what our actions are. I still write my story.”

“The girls' camp is important because I am sure I would not get here without it! I hope many other girls will be willing to participate in this year girls' camp.”

Evelina Dimitrova was a young Ambassador for a day at the Swiss Embassy in Sofia. An Ambassador's work is not that easy. I imagined it would be very tiring and monotonous but it is actually very interesting and enjoyable.” Such are the impressions of Evelina Dimitrova from the village of Galiche who closely monitors the work of the Ambassador of the Swiss Confederation to Bulgaria HE Muriel Berset Kohen. The seventeen-year-old Bulgarian girl took the role of the Swiss diplomat after she successfully qualified for the Ambassador for a day, organized by Emma Hopkins, the British Ambassador to Bulgaria.

 

The aim of the initiative is to familiarize the winners (only girls between 15 and 19 years of age) with international diplomacy in action, as well as to encourage them to engage in this field and to contribute with their views to the development of their country internationally. “The place of women should be the same as it is for men," Evelina says. “I think we should not divide people on the basis of ethnicity, gender, age, race, etc. We are all human beings and we all have the same opportunities. I think it would be good for men and women to work in a team. We know that men and women think differently, so it is good for them to reach mutual consent. This is what true harmony and equality means.”

“My name is Izabela Asparuhova, 18 years old from Popitsa village.

“I am one of the 24 participants at the 2017 National Roma Girls` Camp (NRGCamp). I am extremely happy to be part of the 2017 NRGCamp because I have learned a lot of new things and I got to know myself even better. The camp was fun and the sessions were very interesting but what I will really remember will be the girls from all over Bulgaria that I had the chance to meet and the lifelong friendships that I made.  Nowadays, I am 12th grade in high school.“

Ralitsa Petrova, 21, 3rd year student in Social affairs at Sofia University

“I will remember the girls` camp with two things: First, the lecture for the Roma women role models. Since then, these women serve me as positive examples whom I really admire. Second, the moment when they made us talk about our dreams as if they had already happened. It was the moment, when I believed they were achievable and feasible!”

Ralitsa is one of the most active volunteers in our foundation. She became a coordinator to the volunteer chapter in Sofia and implemented several volunteers’ initiatives. One of the best leaders in our national camps “Forward together”.

“My name is Yordanka Yordanova, 20 years old, from Vidin, third year student in Psychology, Plovdiv University.”
“The time spent at the 2017 National Roma Girls` Camp was extremely useful. Besides learning a lot of new things about the Roma culture, I learned about the challenges faced by the Romani women and the ways to overcome them. One of the most memorable topics to me was: ‘What is to be a woman?’.
I left the camp not only with a lot of knowledge but also with very pleasant emotions. Certainly, with more friends with whom we can exchange experiences and ideas to help the community we live in. I also came back much more motivated to continue my education without fear of the problems I face.”

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