EU-UNDP initiative supports equal access to employment for Roma and Egyptians in Albania
Zymyle Seferi, a 23 years old young Egyptian never gave up her dream of becoming a midwife. She lost her father when she was one month old. She was brought up by her mother. Together with her older sister, they lived in poverty with 10 other members of her immediate family.
When she grew up, she learned that her father had had an accident at work and because of the very slow medical emergency response, he had passed away. As a little girl, she could not understand what her mother meant to say when she repeated the same words: “The color of our skin is to be blamed for all our problems”. As years passed by, she began to feel the pain of discrimination, rejection and exclusion in every step of her way.
She promised one thing to herself and her mother “One day, I will show the world what I am worth”.
With persistence, Zymyle overcame the many obstacles than got into her way and after finishing her secondary school with excellent results, she studied at the Nursing School in Shkoder and graduated as a midwife.
Ten months in search for a job led to nothing. One day, she learned about a UNDP employment promotion programme offered to University and high school graduates coming from Roma and Egyptian community. The programme which aimed to strengthen skills of Roma and Egyptians and prepare them for the labor market, consisted in a year-long internship schemes at various government and non-government institutions. Zymyle filled in the application form and submitted an appealing letter of motivation, highlighting why she was up for the challenge.
Around 120 young Roma and Egyptians applied for the paid internships at several government institutions but a few met the criteria. Zymyle was one of the successful candidates. The Maternity Warden in Shkodra offered her a one year internship placement.
“I could hardly believe that indeed I was accepted for the programme. This was the best news I had ever got and a life changing opportunity”, says Zymyle.
So far 80 Roma and Egyptians in the four programme areas are benefiting from internships in government institutions and public sector entities.
Roma and Egyptian communities in Shkoder and in other parts of Albania are the poorest, most marginalized and socially excluded groups. The numbers are grim. Almost three quarters of Roma households live in deep poverty. 40% of the Roma population is illiterate. Less than a quarter of Roma and Egyptians are employed. Two in three Roma women have no income and nearly half of young Roma women aged 15–19 years are married. Roma and Egyptians face big barriers in accessing public services.
To fight social exclusion, EU and UNDP are working together to boost Roma and Egyptians’ basic and fundamental rights while preserving their identity and traditions. Through the “Economic and Social Empowerment for Roma and Egyptians - a booster for social inclusion” initiative, UNDP promotes social and economic empowerment of this community by creating an enabling environment for them to have a say in the local planning processes and prioritize their own development needs.
To tackle inequalities between Roma and Egyptians and the majority population in the job market, UNDP supports their inclusion in active employment programmes, education and vocational training opportunities and income-generating activities. This helps to activate their productive potential and support their integration in the labor market, ultimately narrowing the employment gap between these communities and the majority of the population.
” The SDGs pledge to ‘leave no one behind’ and ‘reach the furthest behind first’ so that progress benefits all people. Through this intervention, in partnership with the EU and the Government, we are reaching to the country’s most vulnerable groups and supporting multiple interventions such as access to quality health, social care, employment and education services”, said Brian J. Williams, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Albania.
The initiative, with a budget of 4 million Euros, funded by the EU and implemented by UNDP in partnership with the Albanian Ministry of Social Welfare and Youth, is operational in 4 regions of the country.
Zymyle has a strong message for her community members and other young people. She says that education was key to closing the barriers that divided her from the rest of her peers. She hopes that after the internship is over, she will be given the opportunity to continue working in the maternity warden.
“I wanted to show everyone that it doesn’t matter if they are Roma or Egyptians, rich or poor, we are all the same and we can all be successful”, she said.