The program provides legal protection and assistance to Roma in the country in cases of discrimination and violation of fundamental human rights through consultations, initiation and conduct of strategic court cases in Bulgaria and before international judicial institutions and files before the Commission for Protection against Discrimination and Advocacy before local and national authorities with a view to improving legislation and promoting it.
The program also includes monitoring and preparation of thematic reports related to the situation of the Roma community in the four main priority areas of the International Decade of Roma Inclusion initiative - education, employment, health and housing. It also includes non-discrimination training for different target groups.
The program is financially supported by the Open Society Foundations Human Initiative and the Sigrid Rausing Trust - UK.
The educational program provides assistance to Roma families for equal access to pre-school and early school education. The program team assists parents in the application process for teaching children in kindergartens and pre-school groups, as well as for the smooth transition of kindergarten children into integrated primary schools.
The program organizes annual information campaigns, thematic trainings for parents, and develops two additional components for enhancing parenting capacity and children's readiness for school: the Reading Club for Parents and the Educational Toys Library.
The program is financially supported by the Ministry of Education's Center for Educational Integration of Children and Ethnic Minority Students.
Youth section “No one left behind”
The program aims to build on the success and lessons learned from past experience and further address human rights gaps and continuing negative practices in the field of discrimination against the Roma by expanding and engaging a larger audience and identifying opportunities for diversified financing. The program is a creative campaign led by Roma and non-Roma youth; involvement of local communities in self-funded activities, including contributions in kind; organizing local communities to advocate for their identified priorities to be funded by municipal budgets; engaging large companies to support actions (both financially and through a popular campaign); the generation and use of litigation funding; and creative use of media, including social networks, are the main tools the program aims to develop and use.
The program develops into two main phases: Planning and Action. Planning includes: Assessing local needs, setting up youth groups on the ground and defining training needs. The action phase involves organizing campaigns and building youth leadership on the ground, capable of mobilizing human and financial resources to carry out planned activities for the benefit of local communities and social inclusion.
The program is funded by Open Society Foundations.
Legal incubator program
The program provides for the creation of the first Eastern European Legal Incubator - an initiative to help young lawyers start their own practice. The program envisages the creation and equipping of office space that will be used by young lawyers for 12 months to work with low-income clients. The young lawyers are supported by mentors who advise them and actively participate in their continuing practical training.
The program also provides thematic trainings for young lawyers on topics identified as important and necessary for them. The incubator trains undergraduate law students, enrolling undergraduate law students for which assistive training is provided for passing the aptitude and admission tests at a bar.
The students admitted to the incubator are committed to participating in the activities of the Youth Program of the Equal Opportunities Initiative. They are also provided with scholarships to support the successful completion of their education. The program is funded by the Trust for Social Achievements Foundation.
The program has created a Facebook page that facilitates communication with participants and promotion of the initiative.
Advancing the Situation of Romani Children in State Care in Bulgaria
In cooperation with the European Roma Rights Center, the Equal Opportunities Initiative Association started work on a project “Advancing the Situation of Romani Children in State Care in Bulgaria”, supported by Tanya’s Dream Fund
The over-representation of Roma children in state institutions, not only in Bulgaria, but also throughout Europe, is a significant social problem, included in a number of studies implemented by the European Center for Roma Rights and confirmed by independent studies.
Despite efforts aimed at deinstitutionalization in Bulgaria, the process fails to meet expectations. It is difficult to ascertain the exact number of Roma children in institutional, state and alternative care institutions, as the authorities claim that they do not collect data by ethnicity; in the absence of clear statistical information, the number of Roma children separated from their biological families and placed in institutional, state and alternative care institutions can only be estimated from information collected by social workers, public mediators and non-governmental organizations working in the field of children's rights.
Program We Care
The Equal Opportunities Initiative is part of the Trust for Social Alternative Foundation's We Care program, a network of organizations working on the topic of early childhood development. Equal Opportunities NGOs and other organizations participating in the network participate in thematic trainings organized by the Trust for Social Achievements Foundation and develop small advocacy projects implemented with the financial support of Trust for Social Alternative. The small advocacy project of the Equal Opportunities Initiative NGO includes a study of the positive aspects of the implementation of the educational components of the Reading Club for Parents and the Educational Toys Library and advocacy for relevant institutions for the inclusion of the two components in the targeted social services to improve early childhood development.
Social Economic Integration of Vulnerable Groups in Cherven Bryag Program
The Equal Opportunities Initiative is a partner of Cherven Bryag Municipality in the implementation of the project "Social and Economic Integration of Vulnerable Groups in Cherven Bryag. The project is funded through an integrated procedure of the Operational Program "Human Resources Development" and the Operational Program "Science and Education for Intelligent Growth".
Within the framework of the project, the Equal Opportunities Initiative organizes interactive trainings for students, parents and teachers, provides additional hours for students in the subjects of matriculation and conducts extracurricular activities to increase students' activity and attendance at school.