Roma women: Exposing inequality


Photo: Dorin Goian/UNDP Moldova

Since its early days, the Decade of Roma Inclusion has focused primarily on four priority areas: employment, education, health and housing.

Even though gender equality is a cross-cutting issue, attention to this area has been significantly smaller throughout the years.

Usually, gender equality is treated as an isolated category, rather than a social factor that is a part of all social categories and issues.

In recent years, the interest in interaction between ethnicity and gender has grown.

All regional surveys that UNDP conducted in Central and Eastern Europe targeting marginalized Roma (2002, 2004, 2011) produced data which allow for basic disaggregation by sex - allowing for analyzing how ethnicity interacts with gender.

The most recent Regional Roma Survey in 2011 (conducted by UNDP, the World Bank and the European Commission) went even further. In addition to producing data disaggregated by sex, the collection of data was also done in a gender sensitive way - interviews were conducted by a pair of enumerators (male and female) to enable better and open access to respondents.

The research paper written by Angela Kocze and Ewa Cukrowska attempts to address the status of Roma women in various thematic fields such as education, employment, health and housing, when compared with non-Roma women and Roma men.

The primary goal of this paper is to encourage policy makers to recognize structural gender inequalities and their ethnic dimensions.

The paper documents inequalities faced by Roma women - as women, and as ethnic minorities - in the areas of education, employment, health and housing. It identifies the sources of these inequalities and reports progress in alleviating ethnic and gender inequalities by comparing the situation in 2011 and 2004.


Roma women and education

Compared to both non-Roma women and Roma men, when it comes to education Roma women:

●     Have a lower education level

●     Spend fewer years in school

●     Are more likely to drop out of school

●     Are slightly less literate       

The ethnic gaps (Roma – non-Roma) among women are mainly due to the differences in the family background. The gender gaps (females – males) among Roma are not explained by men’s and women’s characteristics and may be caused by other factors such as: Customs and values, perceived returns to female education or ineffective policies.

Between 2004 and 2011 some positive changes occurred: Roma women are slightly less unlikely to obtain higher education levels and less likely to dropout from school, but when it comes to education, gender and ethnic gaps remain.


Roma women and the labour market

Compared to non-Roma women and Roma men, when it comes to the labour market Roma women:

●     More frequently stay out of the labour market (are inactive)

●     More frequently work in informal employment

●     Receive substantially lower payments for their work


The ethnic gap in employment and wages among women are mainly due to the differences in qualifications, especially in education. The gender gap is not explained and may seem from other unobserved patterns, such as Roma women’s multiple discrimination.

Between 2004 and 2011 Romani women became even more disadvantaged in terms of employment possibilities.


undp-rbec-md-roma-peoplePhoto: Dorin Goian/UNDP Moldova

Roma women and health

When it comes to health Romani women do not seem to suffer from chronic illness more frequently than non-Romani women or Romani men.

However, they are still have high risk when it comes to reproductive health. Roma women are more likely than Roma men - but still less likely than non-Roma individuals - to attend other medical checks such as heart check ups, X-rays or cholesterol tests.


Roma women and housing

A substantial number of Roma households live in substandard housing conditions characterized by insufficient access to water, sanitation and electricity. These have detrimental impacts on human health as well as gender equality, as women stay at home more frequently than men.

In light of the results, there is tremendous need for gender-responsive policies that address intersectional discrimination, such as that experienced by Roma women, especially in the area of education and employment.

This paper is part of the Roma Inclusion Working Papers series started in 2012.

The following thematic papers were already released:

●      The impact of the ESF funded projects in Slovakia on the Roma

●       The methodological approaches to sampling in integrated household surveys among Roma populations

●       Civil society, civil involvement and social inclusion of the Roma

●       Roma education in comparative perspective

●       The housing Situation of Roma Communities

●       The health situation of Roma communities

●       Roma and non-Roma in the Labour Market in Central and South Eastern Europe

●       An option of last resort? Migration of Roma and non-Roma from CEE countries

 Resources based on data from the survey:

●      Joint EU Fundamental Rights Agency / UNDP overview of results

●      Opportunities for Roma inclusion – UNDP newsletter

●      Toward an equal start: Closing the early learning gap for Roma children in Eastern Europe – World Bank

●      Reducing vulnerability and promoting the self-employment of Roma in Eastern Europe through financial inclusion – World Bank

The results from the UNDP / World Bank / European Commission survey were released online, as a publically available presentation and data sets.

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