Creating a civic spirit
“We hope our initiative will help to create a civic spirit in Cojocna and serve as an example for other cities around Romania,” says Sorina Untu, Good Governance Officer for the ActiveWatch.
Cojocna is small city around 20 kilometres north-east in Romania, outside of Cluj-Napoca, the second most populous city in Romania. The city is known from its salty lakes and the Cojocna Baths where people come to relax and cool off during the hot summers. Its 5000 inhabitants is an ethnically diverse population, made up of Romanians, Hungarians and Roma. It is a calm and peaceful place, but like many local communities in Romania, it is a challenge foster active citizenship and to get the population involved in local decision-making.
View over Cojocna. Photo: FMO
This is why ActiveWatch is setting up a citizens’ initiative group with 15 young people from Cojocna between the ages of 17 and 23. The group will be trained in advocacy techniques and citizen involvement in order to improve the socio-economic conditions in Cojocna. As a part of the project, they will maintain a website displaying best practices and attend public meetings held by the Cojocna Local Council – one of the project partners.
“By having a frequent dialogue we make the Local Council more accountable on issues affecting the community and involve young people more directly in the decision-making process,” says Andreea Chelaru, the project manager.
The 15 young people selected for the initiative group have diverse backgrounds. Six are Romanians, four are Hungarian and five are Roma. Iosif Lako, Community Organiser at Cojocna Local Council, underlines that the different ethnic groups have historically been quite well integrated, but acknowledges that there challenges as well:
“Most Roma children start going to school at the same time as children from other ethnic groups, but many do not continue their education beyond the eighth grade. The unemployment rate is higher among the Roma. This is one of the reasons the Romano ButiQ Association is involved as a project partner, bringing with them their expertise in working with the Roma community.”
A Roma family in Cojocna. Photo: FMO
The citizens’ initiative group aims to organise at least ten events. The most important event is the Cojocna Multicultural Day to be organised next summer. The day will include activities for the entire community. Andreea emphasises the multicultural aspect:
“Joint projects where we are working across ethnic lines are important for societal cohesion and a stronger local community.”
In addition, the initiative group will make study visits to Cluj, Sibiu and Oradea. Training sessions on entrepreneurship will also be organised. The goal is to help participants developing business plans and starting small businesses.
About the project
The project receives €80 404 from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the NGO fund in Romania, and started August 2014 and is scheduled to end July 2015.
The Cojocna Civic Brigade
ActiveWatch Association (AW)
Type of Institution:
Other type of NGO
The Cojocna Civic Brigade, project implemented by ActiveWatch, aims to set up a citizens' initiative group consisting of 15 ethnically mixed young people (Roma, Hungarian and Romanian). The initiative group will be trained in advocacy techniques and citizen involvement in order to improve the socio – economic conditions in Cojocna. The Brigade will maintain and update a web portal regarding best practices in supporting social inclusion and multiculturalism (5000 unique visitors informed), will be involved in at least 10 citizen initiatives, will attend public meetings held by the City Council, will make study visits in other communities, will organize events such as a public café event and the Cojocna Multicultural Day. These events will involve another 500 community members as well, including 60 children. 30 citizens of Cojocna will be trained in entrepreneurship and some of them will be advised to start a business.