COMPLETION & FINDINGS OF REACH’s PRIMARY RESEARCH
The “REACH: Roma women’s Empowerment and fighting discrimination in ACcess to Health” project started in 2019 aiming at combating discrimination against ROMA and their equal access to health services. The project is co-financed by the Program “Rights, Equality and Citizenship (2014-2020)” of the European Union and is implemented under the coordination of the consulting management company CMT PROOPTIKI in collaboration with the University of West Attica – Athens Midwifery School, the Association of Greek Mediators and their Associates, the Municipality of Chalandri and the Municipality of Larissa.
With the utilization of the professionals of the Greek Community Centres and especially those who have a ROMA Branch, but also through their appropriate networking with Primary Health Care structures, the axes of project’s action concern the following:
- Promoting ROMA’s health
- Ensuring rights of the ROMA to health access
- Informing the ROMA communities about health issues
- Capacity building activities that target Communities Centres’ staff (with or without ROMA Branches) and those who work within health services, in relation to the needs and health of the ROMA people
Particular emphasis is placed upon ROMA women and the protection of their sexual and reproductive health, with the ultimate goal of empowering them, their children and young girls.
During the first steps of the project, which were delayed due to the COVID19 pandemic, a primary field research was carried out by the Athens Midwifery School of UniWA, in collaboration with the coordinating partner CMT PROOPTIKI. The aim of the primary field research was to investigate the current situation regarding the experiences, perceptions, attitudes and stereotypes of the staff of the Community Centers (with and without a ROMA Branch) and the structures of the Primary Health Care upon the ROMA community. Online questionnaires were sent to the staff of the Community Centers and to the structures all over Greece, while at the same time focus groups and interviews were conducted with social service professionals serving ROMA as well as with healthcare professionals and representatives of the Ombudsman.
Furthermore, having gathered enough data from the available Greek and international bibliographic material related to the ROMA community, its special living conditions, cultural characteristics and the factors influencing ROMA health status, the results of the research analysis were produced. Analytically and considering research limitations mainly related to the changes in daily life brought by the COVID19 pandemic, the below conclusions emerged:
- Difficulty for professionals to communicate with members of the ROMA community due to cultural, linguistic and other barriers.
- Stereotypical and discriminatory attitudes from professionals towards members of the ROMA community:
- Lack of knowledge upon ROMA culture
- Distrust towards the members of the ROMA community
- Difficulty of members of the ROMA community to understand how the health system works.
- Illiteracy and health illiteracy of ROMA community members and
- Insufficient access to health:
- Distrust towards healthcare professionals, which often results from discriminatory behaviors they have suffered
Based on the above findings, a manual was created by an interdisciplinary team (doctor, psychologist, midwife, social scientists) and will be distributed to Non-Governmental Organizations, Community Centres, PHC structures and other professionals in general, who are interacting with the ROMA community members within their working environments. This handbook is a practical guide with important information that aims to solve practical everyday issues (e.g. issuance of AMKA, registration deed, allowances, etc.), as well as to present ways to understand the cultural characteristics of the ROMA community and ways to deal with or manage cases that need immediate treatment such as undocumented pregnant ROMA women, women victims of violence, women with health problems due to invasive interventions at a young age such as sterilization and so on.
This manual is part of an educational material that will be available to all interested parties that are active and involved in the abovementioned topics and wish to participate in the seminars that are expected to be carried out in the near future. In particular, the seminars will be based on modern and asynchronous methods, covering a wide range of topics aimed at providing information on the ROMA community, human rights and special needs, challenges and issues related to access to health with a focus on sexual and reproductive health and finally the cultivation of a culturally aware environment in health services.
Overall, the REACH project aims by its end (2022) to challenge deep-rooted stereotypes and prejudices of those involved in its actions and to provide knowledge that will not only destabilize discriminatory beliefs against ROMA, but also to contribute to a more effective and efficient management of critical and demanding situations that the ROMA community face. By bridging different cultural and social characteristics, the goal is to respect the rights of all and everyone’s equal access to health.
For more information about the REACH project visit project’s website: https://romahealth.eu/el/αρχική/ as well as projects social media.