Young UN Volunteers Challenge Prejudices about Roma and Refugees

December 6, 2022
UNDP Serbia/Momira Marković

Belgrade, 5 December 2022 – At the celebration of the International Volunteer Day held in the Belgrade Youth Centre, the United Nations’ (UN) young volunteers performed a theatre play about combating discrimination and hate speech, and they announced the winners of the competition for the best essay on youth activism. They also presented the most important results they had achieved in advocating for a better position of vulnerable population groups in Serbia. The event was organised by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and UN Development Programme (UNDP).

Stefanie Krause, UNHCR Deputy Representative in Serbia, said: “In the last five years, we from UNHCR and UNDP have had the privilege of cooperating with exceptional girls and boys from the populations of Roma, internally dispersed persons and refugees, within the project “Local Initiatives for Improved Social Inclusion of Youth from Vulnerable Groups”. They have engaged in eradicating the prejudices concerning the young people from their communities. Their work thus far has been proving, over and over again, their immense potential in improving Serbian society.”

“Together with UNHCR, UNDP has helped Roma and refugee boys and girls to acquire work experience, as UN volunteers, and advocate for better living conditions of their communities’ members on the local level.  We will continue to support this and other initiatives aimed at all the citizens having equal opportunities to contribute to the development of the society, as well as equally benefitting from social progress, so that no one is left behind,” said Anas Qarman, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative in Serbia.

A theatrical troupe comprising youth from the majority population, as well as Roma boys and girls, internally dispersed youth and young refugees, performed the interactive play entitled “Youth in Action Are Not a Myth!”. They staged the problems experienced daily by the members of vulnerable groups, and then invited the audience to participate in the repeated scenes, where they tried to identify solutions together. 

The winners of the competition for best essays with the topic “Me, a Driver of Changes” were Sara Mansour (19) from Belgrade, Ivana Bilbija (22) from Novi Sad and Sofija Drašković (21) from Smederevska Palanka.

Representative of UN volunteers, Marijan Useinović, quoted the founding of the Young Volunteers’ Association, which includes 100 members from 35 Serbian cities and municipalities, as one of the most important results that had been achieved. He said that the Association implemented a number of activities in order to contribute to elimination of prejudices about Roma and refugees, and helped members of these communities to fight discrimination and become equally included in the society.

He said that the Association had organised children’s workshops, youth camps, made educational films about Roma and refugees and initiated a digital skills training for youth from the vulnerable groups. Also when the COVID-19 immunisation in Serbia began, members of the Young Volunteers’ Association informed more than 11000 Roma men and women from 25 Serbian municipalities about the importance of the immunisation, and helped those who wished to apply for the vaccines.

This event was organised within the “Local Initiatives for Improved Social Inclusion of Youth from Vulnerable Groups” project, jointly implemented by UNHCR and UNDP.  

UNDP Serbia/Momira Marković