Supporting the Associazione 21 Luglio Children’s Centre in the Disadvantadged Neighborhood of Tor Bella Monaca in Rome

Project location: ITALY, Rome
Project start date: November 2016 - Project end date: October 2018
Project number: 2016-032
Beneficiary: Associazione 21 Luglio

The project “Children at the centre” targets children and families from disadvantaged background (both Roma and non Roma) who live in the VI Sub-Municipality of Rome with the aim of empowering them to seek better opportunities for themselves and change their living conditions.

The target group has few consciousness about its rights due to a widespread illiteracy, resulting victim of discrimination when trying to access social, health and educational services. Moreover the condition of poverty and marginalization suffered by disadvantaged children and families has serious consequences on their physical and psychological well-being and nullify their attempts to redress their situation. Legal obstacles, such as the lack of regular residence permits and other identity documents, represent also another obstacle that characterizes the lives of people in economic and social vulnerability.

The project will carry out a multilevel intervention in order to provide useful tools to family and children to claim their rights and fight against the discrimination they suffer as well as to influence the adoption of inclusive measures by the side of relevant decision makers that will produce concrete steps forwards in the path towards a full citizenships for all, Roma children and adults included.

The neighborhood of Tor Bella Monaca, is a suburb of Rome outside the Grande Raccordo Anulare - GRA (the great ring road around Rome), characterized for being the youngest in Rome (about 20% of the population is aged between 0 and 19), the second in the Capital for number of foreign residents (48.517 people out of 363.563 residents, that means 23 foreigners every 100 Italians), where the poverty rate reaches its highest peaks and a huge number of minors are supported through a service of home care.
In the neighborhood there are around 7.500 families with children aged 7 – 10, half of them in a situation of economic and social vulnerability. Among the main poverty indicators there is a limited access to education services and consequently a school dropout rate that is twice the average of the city of Rome and a very high number of minors who work. Absence of one of the parents, high unemployment rates, presence of detainees in the family and a general lack of future perspectives are some of the causes which push adolescents to drop out of school and find immediate sources of income.
A limited use of social and healthcare services is also registered in the neighborhood. The disadvantaged social groups use social and healthcare services badly and little, or use only emergency structures. In fact, children belonging to these groups come to the attention of social services only when problems and disorders are evident and full-blown.
Located in an extremely peripheral position in the VI Sub-Municipality, Salone slum hosts around 1.000 inhabitants in a condition of extreme poverty, housing segregation and conflict with the neighborhood. Inside the slum 220 families live with 331 minors aged 3-16. The school attendance rate of children living in the slum is very low, only around 16,5% of children go regularly to school. Moreover the hygienic-health conditions are very precarious and the access to healthcare services is lacking, especially among women and children: around 50% of pregnant women have never had an obstetrician visit, the 61% of children have no a pediatrician and more than 76% have never had vaccination.

The residents of Tor Bella Monaca neighborhood and Roma living in the Salone slum have a differentiated access to services and in both the cases problematic. The existing services located on the territory and managed by the Sub-Municipality are seriously lacking. The education provided is not adequate to welcome the high number of students living in Tor Bella Monaca so that many minors are obliged every day to go to school in other areas, thing that determines a high drop-out rate. In addition, the distance from the healthcare services and the lack/malfunctioning of public transports affect the vulnerable families’ access to the healthcare system.
Roma living in the Salone slum have no access to local services both for physical problems (the distance is too long for walking and there is no public transport connecting the slum with the neighborhood) and for political will. A subsidy mentality has been adopted until the present moment in their regards in order to limit their interaction with the external world and their visibility. For instance, the Municipality of Rome activated services (extremely insufficient) inside the slum entrusted to a cooperative. It is recent news that, following the police investigation about the scandal Capital Mafia, the president of the cooperative that has been working for years inside the Salone slum was imprisoned for corruption and as a consequence the services were cancelled and people inside the slum were left without any support.

However, in the Sub-Municipality there is a good network of associations that carry out an important work of aggregation, socialization and inclusion, addressing all population groups. Starting from September 2016, these efforts will be conveyed in a community centre called “Il Fienile”, located at the heart of Tor Bella Monaca neighborhood. The centre was conceded by the Municipality of Rome to a network of local associations led by Associazione 21 luglio for a period of 6 years. It is a hub which provides a focal point and facilities to foster greater local community activity and bring residents and organizations together to improve the quality of life in their area.

The project, which received a grant from the Nando and Elsa Peretti Foundation, will improve the living condition of people from disadvantaged backgrounds (of Roma and non Roma origins, especially minors) through their empowerment, a raised consciousness about the rights they are entitled as human beings and a claim of their full citizenship and independence.

The project’s main beneficiaries are children and families living in the VI Sub-Municipality of Rome, namely in Tor Bella Monaca neighborhood and in the Salone slum.
The approach adopted by Associazione 21 luglio to children wellbeing will be holistic, recognizing the connections between children, families and communities and the importance of reciprocal relationships. Children, their families and the community in which they live develop and grow in a symbiotic relationship: only if children’s wellbeing improves, also their families’ and communities’ wellbeing improves and vice versa. In this way the project’s impact on minors’ lives will increase exponentially.
For this reason, the project will develop on three different levels of intervention, which correspond to three different activities:

1) the first activity, Amarò Foro (our City), will be the third year of an art-education path started by Associazione 21 Luglio in December 2014, which was already co-funded by the NPF in 2014/2015. This activity is inspired by the Axé pedagogical model and was developed thanks to the support of the pedagouges of Projeto Axé. Amarò Foro promotes and actualizes a “Pedagogy of Citizenship” where art is central and represents the main instrument for working with children and adolescents: art is not considered as entertainment or as therapy, but as real education. Triggering in the minors transforming energy, art creates and nurtures dreams and desires and allows disadvantaged children to exit from a condition of invisibility and powerlessness, and to imagine and build a different future for themselves, their family and their communities. Moreover, art allows participants to understand, give a sense and represent the daily dynamics that they live in the slum or in the neighborhood and to increase their social and political awareness in relation to the context in which they live.

2) the second activity targets primarily the families of the children involved in the Amarò Foro activities and the members of the community they belong to. Associazione 21 luglio will identify their educational, social, health and legal needs and give them support and advice in order to facilitate their access to basic services and solve legal-administrative issues.

3) the third activity is specifically addressed to improve the situation of Roma children living in the Salone slum by intervening on the causes which are at the basis of the violation of their rights. In this view, Associazione 21 luglio will carry out constant monitoring and advocacy activities to influence change on those measures which produce marginalization on an ethnic basis with a focus on the Salone slum, giving impulse to inclusive and sustainable institutional responses. Advocacy activities and tools will be addressed to the relevant decision makers at local, regional and national level. These activities can rely on already established contacts and relations of Associazione 21 luglio within political parties and institutions.

Activity 1: Amarò Foro
Amarò Foro has, as its main aim, the fulfillment of the rights of those children whose rights are violated because of exclusion, inequality and marginalization. The educators will work to promote citizenship education among the minors involved in the project, making them aware of their rights and duties and developing their ability to take up their place in society as responsible and confident citizens. They will stimulate children, reinforcing their identity through a continuous exchange and dialogue with the others, learning to perceive themselves as subjects of rights and actors of change. Through Amarò Foro, the minors involved will be transformed from invisible citizens and inhabitants of the ghetto whose destiny seems marked at birth, into aware citizens ready to cultivate desires and dreams.
By the end of the project, 15 children aged 7-10 will have:
* strengthened their personal development and self-esteem;
* improved their ability to engage harmoniously with the other and within the group;
* enhanced their artistic training and technical-artistic skills in music and dance;
* increased the opportunities for socialization and meaningful exchange between them and other children resident in the VI Sub-Municipality.

Activity 2: Educational, social, legal and health support
Families of the children involved in the Amarò Foro activities and the members of the community they belong to will be supported in order to facilitate their access to basic services. They will gain consciousness about their rights and acquire a progressive autonomy in approaching educational, social, legal and health services located on the Sub-Municipal territory. Children will benefit from increased access to public school and healthcare as well as from the solution of legal/administrative issues concerning their legal status.
The expected results are:
* an increased mutual knowledge between Roma community members and the neighborhood’s residents through meeting and exchange with the minors involved in the project;
* the activation of a virtuous circle of relations between the residents and the local institutions of the VI Sub-Municipality regarding education and health;
* an improved independent access to basic services (educational, social and healthcare) of the minors and their families. Thanks to the project, it is anticipated that about 100 Roma women and 220 children under 12 (50% of whom are under 6 years of age) will be able to successfully access educational, social and healthcare services;
* the opening of at least 120 legal cases through the provision of legal assistance to 250 undocumented and/or stateless adults and minors.

Activity 3: Monitoring and advocacy
The project will face discrimination and especially the violations of children’s rights, countering all the measures adopted by relevant decision makers, at local, regional and national level, in the last years that had led to further marginalization and exclusion of vulnerable social groups.
By its end, the project is expected to have:
* obtained the adoption of a plan for the closure of Roma slums in Rome, including the Salone slum, from the Municipality of Rome;
* guaranteed that the Municipality of Rome seeks alternative adequate housing solutions for Roma families living in the slums;
* raised attention and spread knowledge at international level about the violations of Roma adults’ and children's rights in the slums of Rome especially in Salone;
* ensured that UN and European treaty bodies recommendations to Italy regarding the situation of Roma in Rome (with a focus on children’s rights) incorporate the information provided by Associazione 21 luglio.

“Children at the centre” will accompany families and children in economic and social vulnerability along a path that leads to full citizenship and independence. The project will tackle mainly the lacking access to educational, social and health services; the condition of irregularity and statelessness; the institutional marginalization and discrimination that affect mostly Roma and non Roma living in the suburban areas of Rome (chiefly the VI Sub-Municipality). Acting multilevel, the project will increase children and adults’ consciousness about their rights, transforming them in responsible and confident citizens able to act autonomously; at the same time it will also influence the adoption of inclusive and sustainable measures, respectful of human and children’s rights, by the side of relevant authorities at a local, regional and national level.

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