Amalipe Center for Interethnic Dialogue and Tolerance (Bulgaria), Liga Pro Europa (Romania) and the Association for Social Support of Europe – ARSIS (Greece), initiated in 2009 the project “Preventing Early/Forced Marriages”.
The project was supported by DG Justice of the European Commission (within the frame of the Daphne Programme 2009) and was implemented in Bulgaria, Romania and Greece in 2010. The project did not have the ambition to fight windmills and to overcome completely the practice of early marriages: something which cannot be achieved in one year. Its goal was modest – to analyze the state-of-art of the problem and to table the question (in the Roma community and to the relevant institutions) and to check on field several types of activities for the prevention of early cohabitations.
Project partners believed that this could accelerate the objective process of overcoming early marriages and modernization of the Roma community, as well as to provoke a comprehensive policy in this area – at national and European level.
Therefore, for the implementation of the project we chose an approach combining:
– Differentiated impact: as the conducted survey showed, the problem with early marriages is not common for all Roma and has different place in different Roma groups, regions and social strata. The motivation of the different participants is also different: parents, young people, etc. This diversity of the conditions requires differentiated activities to achieve an impact, relevant to
the specifics of the local community. Therefore, we supported local campaigns for preventing early/forced marriages that proposed activities corresponding to the local specifics;
– Innovation: the existing practice in Bulgaria, Romania and Greece shows that the activities of the institutions for preventing early/forced marriages are not effective within the Roma community and are needed innovative activities, services and approaches. For this reason, the project tested innovative activities, organized by successful Roma people in 10 local communities. The effect of
these activities has been surveyed with the purpose to widen and apply them in other communities;
– Strengthening social work at the local level in the Roma community: the current trend in combating early marriages relies on administrative penalties, while social work with the Roma families is often formally organized and reduced to mere description of cases.
Community-based services are organized rarely in the Roma neighbourhoods. For this reason we focused on stronger social work at the local level in the Roma community by supporting the
organization of social work in 17 Roma neighbourhood
– Collaboration: a negative practice in the three countries is the lack of effective collaboration between the relevant institutions regarding the issue of early marriages (e.g. Departments for Child Protection, schools, municipalities, religious institutions), as well as between the institutions and the Roma community.
Therefore, authors tried to build local partnerships in those municipalities, where we held campaigns on preventing early/forced marriages by involving Roma leaders, social workers, teachers and etc.