18 October, 2013

Solving problems that cause hate speech! Local solution from the Slovakia

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Category: European Action Day
Claire Uszynski
12 pm

LOCAL DEMOCRACY IN ACTION
Andrej Bencel, National Coordinator of the Slovak Republic’s No Hate Speech Movement talks to us about taking action at local level.

Spišský Hrhov (Levo District, Prešov Region) is located in Hornádsky Basin near the town Levoča, in Slovakia. It has 1,600 inhabitants, of which nearly 600 are Roma. Over the last decade the village has experienced an unprecedented period of community development – development in terms of population growth too. While the number of Roma remains significantly unchanged, the general population grew by nearly 30%. While there are problems with segregation in schools in many places across the country, hate speech and division between the majority and the Roma population exists. The Mayor of Spišský Hrhov Vladimír Ledecký has been dealing with these problems from the roots: he actively ensures all people have access to employment, housing, education and that a climate of trust and spirit of real “living together” is supported among society.

The basic guiding principles of Mayor’s effort is to try to maximise the integration of Roma community into municipality life and the overall development of the village as a whole. The Mayor, at the time, understood that without the involvement of Roma in village activities the problems of the Roma in the village would deepen and their coexistence with the majority in society would be difficult.  In the beginning there was good will from the Mayor with the realisation of the strategic plan of the village, the analysis of the situation and the worked out solutions, timetables and resources occupying top of the agenda. The entire planning process has been conducted with the involvement of people from the village, including Roma themselves, the municipal council, professional facilitators, the academic environment and others.

 

THREE ACTIONS

HOUSING DEVELOPMENT

Housing problems were identified as one of the most serious problems in the development strategy.  Related to this were other problems like poor hygiene of children and adults, employment, health issues, and problems with preparing children for school. Many Roma come from other communities and are without permanent or temporary residence in the village. Without a conceptual intervention by the municipality, uncontrollable ghettos and locations would become a part of Spišský Hrhov like in the other villages with Roma population in Slovakia.

 

“As a key actor, the municipality began to ensure rigorous compliance with the legislation related to construction of houses, and started helping with property rights settlements.  They also they set up a system for the collection and export of waste, especially the system of avoiding illegal dumps.”

 

The Municipality started building their own dwellings. Future tenants participated in the construction of buildings. It is important to note that the Municipality was not only able to see to the amount of work done by the municipal company, but a number of tenants were also involved in the construction of the flats. They were recruited by the municipal company after the completion of the work on the construction of dwellings. The level of connection of houses to public water and sewer significantly increased. The shift in the area of housing is the fact that four Roma families live in the houses among the general population without any problems.

 

EMPLOYMENT DEVELOPMENT

The Mayor Vladimir Ledecký was the initiator of the establishment of a municipal company which is an important element for improving key development areas of the village, namely direct job opportunities for those who need it the most. The municipal company forms a sort of coordinating development unit. Without its operation it would not be possible to imagine the village development as we can see it today. By the establishment of the municipal company the Mayor contributed to reducing unemployment of Roma in the village.

EDUCATION

Roma children go to the mainstream school in the village, and there is no segregated education – there is only one child in a special school. Almost all Roma children continue studying at secondary schools, nine Roma young people are studying at university.

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These three local actions above serve to bring local communities together. Local activities pave the way for young people and minority groups to get their voices heard. By working and playing together local communities can reduce the spread of intolerance, hate speech and prejudice. Watch the video above to see more about how the Mayor of Spišský Hrhov Vladimír Ledecký works at local level.

 


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