The Roma: Poorest of Europe's Poor

Hope comes hard to the Roma. Also called gypsies, they are Europe’s most marginalized people, living on the fringe of society since arriving from India more than 1,000 years ago. Most are born poor and stay poor, held back by widespread illiteracy and unemployment.

In the Balkan countries poverty rates can be 10 times higher than the national average. Many survive only be selling scrap metal, waste paper and other goods to local recycling companies. IFC meets them there.

Fadil Hyseni of Albania barely earned enough to cover his family’s needs by selling used plastic bottles. He dreamed of doing better, replacing his small cart with a used van so he could haul more goods to clients. But he was an illiterate trash-picker; no bank would lend him money.

IFC’s Tirana office was impressed by Hyseni’s honesty and energy and helped him borrow $6,100 from an IFC client microfinance institution. He bought the van, and his sales shot up. He now has contracts with three local recycling mills, generating an income that allows him to hire other Roma and improve his home.

“Nobody trusted us before,” said Hyseni’s wife, Naxhije. “But now we can see some light at the end of the tunnel.”

In Serbia, IFC gave more than 1,000 Roma basic business training and explained the health and safety risks of working with recyclables. Many have since registered for essential government services for the first time.

“Almost 50 Roma children from the village of Osecina now attend primary school,” said community leader Zlatomir Jovanoic. “The support we got from IFC not only enabled us to improve our recycling businesses, it helped us change the way we think about the future of our children.”

Funded with support from Austria, IFC’s recycling linkages advisory services project in Southeast Europe has reached more than 25,000 Roma to date.

From Telling Our Story 2009 | Crisis Response: A Global Partner in Times of Change
Development Impact



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