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 three 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 spring we are planning to implement the next National Roma Girls Camp, and we need your help!  Our goal is to help inspire and empower another 25 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. 

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 Camp continues to be a successful and impactful program in Bulgaria.

Thank you in advanced for your support!

SUCCESS STORIES FROM THE 2016 NRGCDonka Kyoseva, 18, is from Svilengrad and studies Acting at the University of Plovdiv. Donka is one of the 25 girls who were a part of the 2016 NRGC.

It was the first time that I met so many Roma girls, both high school and university students who were ambitious and eager to follow their dreams. We shared common goals and discussed ways to achieve them.

The camp was a turning point in my decision to seek a college education. The personal stories of Roma female students and professionals encouraged me to become a student.

I have learned that I possess courage and that I need to stand up for my dignity to follow my dreams. I have realized the importance of knowing who I am, as only then I will be invulnerable.

For me, the 2016 National Roma Girls ‘Camp is a place where I created memorable moments with wonderful people.

Katya Stefanova, 20, studies nursing at the Medical University in Sofia.

Before the 2016 National Roma Girls Camp, I did not realize that there were people engaged in awareness raising and empowerment among Roma girls in Bulgaria. During the camp, I learned about the numerous educational opportunities provided by the Arete Youth Foundation. I have also learned that education is the instrument needed to overcome the difficulties that stand in our way.

Never before could I openly discuss my concerns about early marriage with my peers and family. This is a major problem in the Roma community and after the camps I felt confident to share the useful and interesting data back in my community.

After the camp, I became self-confident and braver. I am happy that my dream to become a college student has finally become a reality.

Milka Angelova, 18, studies Pedagogy of Literature and Geography at the University of Veliko Turnovo.

 During the 2016 National Girls Camp, I met many successful Roma women who play an important part in our society. At that time, something inside me changed. I changed my thinking about the future. The camp was an amazing experience that I believe is just the beginning of my journey.

Tanya Hristova, 20, is from Kotel. Tanya is a first year student in Social Management at the Technical University in Varna.

The 2016 National Roma Girls Camp was an educational, enjoyable, beneficial and very motivating experience. Personally, I was able to learn more about my ethnic identity, understand my responsibilities as a young Roma woman and realize the role that I have within my community.

After the camp, I feel more motivated to grow personally, face stereotypes with dignity and strive to be a worthy role model for younger Roma girls.

Looking back one year later, everything I learned at the camp still remains relevant. Today I am more ambitious, more courageous and responsible. For me the National Roma Girls Camp was a unique opportunity to meet goal-oriented and like-minded peers who want to change the image of the Roma community.


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