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An unconventional awareness campaign is changing hearts and minds in Moldova.

Looking to promote more informed voting within Roma communities, one NGO decided to ditch the traditional approach of roundtables and seminars. Instead, they took to the streets with traditional horse-driven carts and an orchestra of Romani musicians.

The campaign reached over 7,000 Roma women and men, along with another 20,000 people from eight cities and villages.

Voter turnout in the communities that were part of the campaign has increased considerably. In the Chetrosu village alone, 98 percent of Roma people cast their vote during the June 2015 local elections, compared to some 35 percent in 2011.

The Chetrosu success story is not an exception. In the other seven communities targeted by the campaign, the turnout of Roma voters increased, on average, to 60 percent.

“We are advocating for the importance of women’s participation in elections not only as voters, but also as candidates,” said Union of Roma Youth President Marin Alla.

And the numbers show it: As many as 15 Roma ran for office as councilors in the local municipalities across the country. Seven were women and two were elected – a first in Moldovan history.

Roma women and men are “highly vulnerable to discrimination, social exclusion and marginalization, and only a very limited number of Romani women in the Republic of Moldova are engaged in civic and community life,” according to a recent study.

The national "Let's vote!" caravan took place thanks to support provided by the UN program "Women in Politics", a joint initiative of UN Women and UNDP in Moldova. One of the prerogatives of the program is to increase the political participation of women in local and national decision-making bodies, especially women from marginalized groups, by encouraging and building their capacities to effectively run as candidates for local and national elections.

"They [Romani women] should be actively involved in the electoral process and in community life,” remarked Artur Cerari, the Baron of Roma people of Moldova. “I respect them for taking on this commitment to improving the lives of their brothers and sisters." 

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