Estimates of the Roma population in Moldova vary widely. Only 9,000 Roma were counted in the 2014 census, while some experts have estimated the true number around 250,000. All within the tiny confines of Moldova, a nation of around 3 million people nestled between Romania to the west and Ukraine to the east. In Moldova, as in much of the world, the Roma population lives secluded from general society. Their population is less educated, lacks access to quality healthcare, and are underemployed due to their ethnicity.
The main individuals tackling this challenge are known as Roma community mediators, a position typically operating at the city hall, that serves as the connection point between the Roma community and society at large. These amazing individuals are responsible for connecting students to schools, finding affordable healthcare, and connecting Roma people to employment opportunities in the greater community.
On September 22 and 23, 2022, Global Ties KC had the opportunity to welcome four Roma women serving as community mediators to Kansas City. These women were Elena Bogdan, Aliona Ciurar, Varvara Duminica, and Natalia Radita. While here they had the opportunity to meet with organizations and individuals working to empower suppressed communities in Kansas City, and talk about their shared struggles and solutions.
On Thursday, September 22 these women met with United WE to discuss their research and advocacy efforts to put women in government. Their Appointments Project has helped over 180 women get appointed to city, county, and state leadership positions, with women of color representing 37% of applicants.
Later in the day on the 22nd, the women met with OneKC for Women, specifically visiting the Women’s Employment Network. The community mediators made a point to say that this type of organization does not exist in Moldova, but the work being done there would certainly help the Roma community.
On Friday, September 23 the women met with the Justice Project to talk about how that organization helps disadvantaged women navigate the justice system. The women were inspired by the personal story of the founder who overcame personal hardships on her way to founding the organization.
Lastly, the women met with the Health Forward Foundation on Friday afternoon, which was the perfect way to end their trip in Kansas City. The Health Forward Foundation laid out how they advocate for health equity through policy advocacy and grantmaking endeavors.
The discrimination that the Roma population faces will not dissipate overnight, and these women need help from individuals and the government to create real systemic change for the Roma community. However, these women are fiercely proud to be of Roma heritage and their work is improving the quality of life in their communities. We hope their time in Kansas City was as beneficial for them as it was for everyone they came in contact with here.