In April 2010, Telenor Group, Telenor Serbia, The Ministry of Health and UNICEF in Serbia started the project “Communicating” (Povezivanje) to improve health and quality of life of the Roma families in Serbia, where the estimated life span is on average 10 to 15 years shorter than the life span of other populations.
Technical equipment and solutions from Telenor
The project was kicked-off with a one-day training course for Roma healthcare mediators by providing technical equipment and solutions from Telenor. A special tariff package and mobile phone will enable the mediators to call each other free of charge and inform the families they are assisting. At the same time, they were given laptops with special software which will make it possible to more efficiently report to and communicate with the institutions.
More effective and easier access to information
“The first thing I would single out is sending SMS information to families I have already visited. I won’t have to go there several times anymore and remind them when they have their examination scheduled. Let’s not fool ourselves, rare are Roma families with fixed lines, but each has at least one mobile phone. Second, thanks to PCs I will get information more easily. For example, they often ask us what to do to get social welfare benefits or children allowance. Instead of going to these institutions, I will now be able to find out all this on the Internet”, explains Svetlana Ilić, a Roma mediator and mother of two.
Register and include the Roma people into the social system
60 mediators in 50 towns in Serbia are taking part in this project to register as much Roma people as possible and include them into the social system, i.e. ID cards, health and social insurance, improve primary health protection – maintain hygiene, regular medical exams, birth control, getting children into schools, etc.
Mediators are Roma women and mothers with completed elementary education. For them this project is an opportunity to find employment.
Children and young women most vulnerable
According to unofficial data there are approximately 500,000 Roma people in Serbia (almost 14% of the entire population). Mortality rate of Roma children in Serbia is four times higher than that of the general population, according to UNICEF.
Gordana Petrović, mother of three, has been working in Valjevo since the start of the programme. She points to diabetes as one of the widest spread diseases among the Roma.
“The most endangered are the young up to 26 years of age. Even when sick, they usually tell you: ‘I’m OK. I don’t feel anything. I am fit as a fiddle’. But, it frequently isn’t so”, explains Gordana.
Gordana devotes most of her time to young women trying to convince them to see a gynaecologist.
“It’s hard to persuade a Roma woman to do that. They usually tell me: ‘I’m afraid! What if they tell me something’. I first have to reassure them that it’s nothing scary and that they can change their entire life in just five minutes. And even if the doctor finds something, I convince them that medicine has greatly progressed and that they can be cured”, she explains.
Started in 2008
The project was originally started in 2008 by the Ministry of Health. Telenor Group, Telenor Serbia and UNICEF joined the project this year with the idea to improve the work of health mediators by providing all the equipment and additional education and training.
From the start of the project in 2008 the mediators have made 56,178 visits and recorded 102,661 Roma for the project purposes.
“Apart from recording the Roma settlements, we have provided personal identification documents and medical care cards for 5,677 persons, vaccinated 4,800 children, controlled 1,672 pregnant women and expecting mothers”, says Dubravka Šaranović, senior adviser in the Ministry of Health.
Global partnership – local results
UNICEF is contributing to the project with additional training on children registration in Roma settlements.
“Telenor has been cooperating with UNICEF in other countries earlier. In this project we want to achieve very specific and visible results, with joined forces, which we are already looking forward to. I think that what Telenor did is a perfect example of innovative cooperation, because with your expertise and your best .know-how’ you are investing in the social development”, said Vesna Savić Đukić, Head of UNICEF Private Sector Relations Department.
Shared value for the Serbian society
“This project in Serbia is one example of how Telenor Group works with Business Units and partners locally to understand needs and develop services that realise the full potential of mobile communications. In this way we are using our core competence to develop shared value for Telenor and the society. The project is a perfect fit with the Group Corporate Responsibility strategy using mobile communications to Enable underserved groups”, says Eric Ekern, Head of Corporate Responsibility in Telenor Group.