Azemina Tomljenovic – BiH (Roma Graduate Preparation Program)

My name is Azemina Tomljenović and I am a 38-year-old Roma woman and the mother of two.
I graduated with a B.A. in Economics from the University of Business Studies (UPS) in Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina, at the Faculty of Business and Financial Studies (FPFS) in 2011. I am currently a student in the Roma Graduate Preparation Program for the 2018/2019 academic year.

Although I have a degree in Finance and Insurance within the field of Economics paired with ten years of experience in working on the stock exchange as a broker in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), the activism I have conducted in Roma issues during the last decade has set me on the path toward creating policies and attaining public advocacy for the rights of Roma minorities.

I wanted to upgrade my knowledge in creating public policies and lobbying for their implementation. That was the moment when I decided to apply to the Master’s of Public Policy.

For the past ten years I have been working as an active member of a Roma non-governmental organization fighting for Roma rights in terms of policy creation for Roma in BiH. During the creation of the State Action Plan for Roma in BiH I was a member of the education group as a consultant for the education needs of Roma. My most recent achievement in this period was to be a coordinator for the development of the Local Action Plan (LAP) for the Integration of Roma (2017-2020) in the areas of employment, housing, health protection, education and culture for the Municipality of Sarajevo. The plan was adopted by the municipal council on October 30, 2017, and my task came to an end. Since then, this LAP has not been implemented. After researching the implementation practices used by other municipalities that adopted LAPs, I found that the situation is almost the same in all Bosnian municipalities where LAPs were authored. Recognizing the difficulty of the problem, I hypothesized that there are several possible reasons why the non-implementation of LAPs in BiH occurred. These were related to the lack of political will of the responsible public institutions, the weakness of lobbying efforts by Roma activists, or a lack of knowledge about the nature of the document as it is mostly not mandatory to implement LAPs in BiH since they represent political good will toward recognizing Roma problem issues. These enquiries led me to the Roma Graduate Preparation Program at CEU: seeing my work shoved aside as only a gesture of goodwill was the turning point for me.

As an RGPP student, I attend introductory courses in Public Policy as well as Gender Studies. In the winter semester, I engaged in academic research on Local Action Plans and Roma Integration on the local level. My previous work experience has shown me how necessary it is to create quality public policies. As a woman of Roma origin, a special area I am passionate about is the equality of Roma women in public policies because I believe we are in the most disadvantaged position in BiH society.

I believe that the knowledge and expertise I pursue in the CEU master’s degree will greatly assist in the quality of my future work and especially in the field of policy making for Roma, which will not only be important to me as an individual but also to the Roma people in BiH. My dream is to enroll in the Master of Public Policy at CEU. I, as a Roma woman, an unemployed activist, do not have financial means. With this scholarship, I have the opportunity to devote myself to learning and thus become the best in the field of policy-making.

Throughout my life I thought education was very important. War and poverty marked my life and did not give me a good start. I always thought there were no excuses for giving up. For this reason, despite the unfavorable circumstances, I continued with the education. If I could change something, I would change the conditions in which I grew up in terms of having equipment for school, books, etc. I have never agreed to compromise or allowed myself to be subordinated. At the same time, I believe everything has its own time.  You do not have to give up your dreams ever.