Roma women and elections

by Aleksandar Dimishkovski

The OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina released a documentary film on three Roma women who ran for office – municipal councillors – in the 2012 local elections. The film, developed in co-operation with the EU funded OSCE/ODIHR’s Best Practices for Roma Integration project, includes interviews and footage from both before and after the election, highlighting views and opinions of the three candidates at different stages.

The video was also presented at one of the side-events during the OSCE Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting, focusing on the ’Implementation of the Action Plan on Improving the Situation of Roma and Sinti’ in Vienna on 7 and 8 November 2013, where it was received with applause by the Roma Women who watched it.

Roma are severely under-represented at all levels of government in BiH. The numbers speak for themselves; Roma political representation is extremely low at all levels. Out of approximately 3,100 councillors in municipal assemblies and councils across BiH, only eleven are Roma; none are Roma women.

Though constituting the largest national minority group in BiH, Roma are one of the most marginalized groups in the country. Roma are often discriminated against and their fundamental human rights – including education, housing and access to health services – are out of reach for many. Barred by the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina to be elected into the BiH Presidency or the House of Peoples, Roma in BiH also suffer from institutionalized discrimination.

The OSCE and its Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) continue to advocate for the increased involvement of Roma in social, economic, and political life as well as greater political participation of women.