“Let Us Talk, My Health Is My Right” — Training of About 20 Girls

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How to distinguish between discrimination and prejudice, as well as to enable the young Roma girls become familiar with their rights and obligations in terms of sexual and reproductive health – these have been the topics of the recent training held in Kumanovo for about 20 young Kumanovo girls dubbed “Let Us Talk, My Health Is My Right”.

The young Kumanovo girls have shared their experience of events that they have perceived as discrimination most often — as they put it — because of their ethnicity, but they have also shared the experience of their close ones, their girlfriends, family members. The young girls have been quite honest, saying that, in their childhood, they have often faced ethnic discrimination. The participants have said that the pupils of this ethnic community used to sit in the last row in school, while the teachers took no measures whatsoever to overcome this problem and to make them feel more pleasant in class. The trainees admitted themselves that people often have prejudices on numerous issues and not only on the ethnicity of the person against whom they discriminate.

At this training, the young Roma have been trained about their rights and obligations in terms of sexual and reproductive health.

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They say that such training courses boost their self-confidence, which is actually the purpose of such trainings: to motivate and build skills among Roma girls and women so that they can become future leaders in the Roma community who will advocate better healthcare services for the Roma community in the Republic of Macedonia.

The training organizers explain that this activity is aimed at encouraging and identifying the new generations that will want to work in and with the Roma community in order to improve the access to healthcare of the Roma in the Republic of Macedonia. In the trainings, special attention is paid to the importance of having access to the health-related rights and health protection in the reproductive period and raising awareness about the importance of preventing unwanted health issues.

Twenty-one-year-old Resmije Asanovska says that she is always pleased to attend such training courses, adding that, although she is a third-year medicine student, she can always learn something more regarding female health. She finds the human rights training particularly interesting. She says that she herself has felt no discrimination, but she personally had prejudices during her childhood, that is, back in school, toward the pupils who knew less than her.

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“I believe that the key reason for discrimination is not ethnic affiliation, but the economic factors. It is usually the poor and the powerless who are discriminated against,” the young student says.

Twenty-year-old Melisa Idikj shares her view, saying that people tend to have prejudices toward certain persons.

“It all depends on your disposition. I personally have never felt any act of discrimination,” Idikj says. She notes that she has completed high medical school. She adds that such training courses are a positive experience that the young girls can take advantage of in their future career building.

“They provide an opportunity to share your experience and acquire new knowledge, although we sometimes think that we have sufficient knowledge in certain areas,” Idikj adds.

UN human rights adviser, Mrs. Silva Peshikj, has trained the young girls on gender equality, according to which their rights, obligations, status, access to resources and responsibility does not depend on whether someone is born a boy or a girl. Sex is obtained by birth, while gender is learned and acquired through socialization, whereby gender identity is created.

The principle of non-discrimination is the milestone and the foundation for the promotion of gender equality.

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She has taught the young girls of the numerous human rights.

“Some of them do not distinguish between prejudice and discrimination. They can sense the difference, but they cannot recognize it. Prejudices are the root of discrimination, but this does not imply the violation of certain rights. A girl may think that her rights have been breached, for example, that her job application has been rejected because she is a Roma without first checking to see whether another Roma with the required job qualifications has been employed instead,” Peshikj explains.

In most cases, passivity is crucial when it comes to discrimination. This is why it is important to identify and openly talk about it. The institutions have to react in this respect because human rights are universal and unalienable. The countries are obliged to ban and eliminate discrimination along all grounds and provide overall equality in terms of sexual and reproductive rights. However, it is crucial that the young should learn how to take care of their health, how to prevent unwanted pregnancy, how to avoid catching sexually transmitted diseases and be aware of their rights, but also of their obligations.

Trainer Salija Ljatif says that the young think that they are familiar with the diseases that they can contract if they behave irresponsibly. However, they are usually not fully informed, so they can learn a lot at these lectures.

“They can learn how to act responsibly, how to react, what their guaranteed health-related rights are, when to visit a doctor,” Ljatif explains.

At the training, the young girls are informed of how to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy, as well as how to use condoms, contraception diaphragm, contraception pills and the like. Special accent is put on the protection from sexually transmitted diseases.

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Ljatif adds that every person has guaranteed health and sexual reproductive rights, but every person is also responsible for his/her health. The purpose of this training is to raise awareness by informing the participants of the sexually transmitted diseases and the means to protect themselves from these, of the need for regular visits to the gynecologist (for women) and another doctor (urologist for men), seeing the family doctor and visiting the Infective Diseases Clinic. A special segment here is family planning.

He believes that the institutions should consider introducing this subject in primary education, which should in turn provide information to the youngest population about the health-related rights and obligations.

So far, he adds that there are certain topics that are being covered, but this is most likely insufficient given the young girls’ degree of knowledge.

The young trainees say that such training courses are crucial for their future progress, not only in terms of their career, but primarily as individuals that plan to contribute to the development of the Roma ethnic community both in the local surroundings and in the country in general.