Project Summary RFEP

The concept was to raise the level of awareness of three age groups (children, teenagers, adults, both men and women) on financial matters, financial literacy and family budgeting within Roma communities by developing and testing novel computer-based training materials to be delivered by ETP Slovakia trained Personal Advisors within its community centres.

ETP Slovakia’s Community Centres, staffed with trained Personal Advisors and already familiar to Roma families, provided neutral, informal and friendly venues where people of all ages are encouraged to engage in training which addresses practical issues.

The training was, in part, in the context of the asset building scheme being operated by ETP Slovakia in conjunction with the Open Society Institute, Habitat for Humanity and respective local authorities whereby both a) match funds (grants) for those who successfully save over an agreed period of time for a predetermined purpose (home improvements, ed xx ucation, small business start-up, increasing the employability) within the Individual Development Accounts Programme and b) loans are provided to enable Roma families to improve their living conditions.

Roma are extremely vulnerable with regard to financial matters and family budgeting. They are subject to loan sharks with their prohibitive interest rates and illegal methods of debt collection. Cultural barriers result in an almost complete absence of confidence in banks and other financial institutions which operate within the non-Roma world.

In addition, institutions of all kinds (including banks) discriminate against Roma and are often suspicious of them. As many Roma are poorly educated their understanding of such institutions is minimal. The school drop out rate for Roma teenagers is frighteningly high, mainly fuelled by the absence of prospects, resulting in even less knowledge of financial matters and the consequences of such things as credit than their non Roma peers.

ETP Slovakia’s experience has shown that working in small groups, in the non-threatening environments of community centres, Roma people can gain knowledge which can protect them and give them more confidence generally.

The project was to design and prepare training material in the form of computer based Q & A (quiz and game style) covering the following topics: loans, mortgages, savings schemes, interest, secured borrowing, family budgeting, credit, money management, bank accounts, banking services, financial planning (short-term and long-term goals), saving and spending habits, saving accounts, certificates of deposits, saving bonds, maintaining a good credit rating, saving and investment plans, legal ways of earning money, prevention from loan sharks, smart shopping, etc.

Leaflets and handouts were also designed covering these topics for trainees to retain.

In total approximately 200 people have undertaken the financial training in cities and villages where ETP Slovakia operates its Community Centres.