For years, people with disabilities in Serbia faced prejudice and mis-understanding that made them one of the country's most socially excluded groups.
So when the Balkan country passed a disability law earlier this year, the RBSA funded a pilot project which sensitizes approximately 100 companies to promote and enable the employment of people with disabilities.
Jasmina Urosevic, Distributor with Delta Maxi
I can't tell you how it felt when they offered me the job. I started to cry from happiness, I was so emotional. Even now I have a lump in my throat. You know, you wake up in the morning and you wake up happy. You know that something is waiting for you that something nice will happen to you, those four hours that you are working, and your day is fulfilled. You know that you are doing something worthwhile; it is good for your self-esteem.
The pilot project brought a new lease of life to people with disabilities. It also demonstrated to the companies that their new employees were dedicated and productive.
Jelena Starcevic, Advisor of Serbian Association of Employers
There was very little or no practice of employing people with disability on the open labour market. But know we are facing that things are going to be changed in this field as well and that the larger companies are more willing to employ people with disabilities.
The timing may be opportune. With the global financial and economic crisis hitting Eastern Europe hard, the most socially vulnerable groups increasingly need some urgent form of protection.
Petra Ulshoefer, ILO Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia
In such a situation as we have now with the global economic crisis also of course hitting Serbia, we tend to forget – or countries tend to forget – that we have to address the specific needs of the socially most excluded groups and persons with disabilities are clearly one of them.
The ILO hopes that this pilot project will be extended throughout Serbia and the region. Its facilitation was made possible by the quick availability and flexibility of RBSA funding.