Philanthropy, The Charitable Foundation of the Serbian Orthodox Church organized a conference “Social Protection in Rural Areas – Possibilities and Challenges” on 13 December 2012, the day of Saint Andrew the First called Apostle. The Conference was organized in the St. Sava Hall in Nis, with the blessing of His Grace Bishop Jovan of Nis. The conference was attended by number of prominent participants, representatives of local authorities and social welfare institutions from whole Serbia, as well as respective representatives of civil society active in the area of providing social services to the most vulnerable rural population.
After introductory notes, on range and challenges state institutions and civil society service providers face in social welfare for rural population, Philanthropy presented research results on availability of social welfare services in rural areas. The research included 391 rural families, and, according to presented data, majority of elderly single households, single parents with several minor children, households with one or several members with disability, and families without regular incomes live on the verge of poverty. 73% of surveyed rural households have monthly income bellow half of the averages of the Republic of Serbia, while almost ¾ do not receive any support from state institutions. Some specific issues were particularly stressed, such as inadequate information flow on rights and services, lack of understanding of procedures for practicing specific rights, closeness and fear from discrimination and judgment of environment, but also focus of state institutions on urban population.
Discussions developed within working groups resulted in identifying series of practical recommendations for mitigation of current challenges and overcoming existing problems. All participants were particularly interested in learning about local authorities’ experiences in social welfare service providing and their adjustment to the needs of rural population. Conference general conclusion reflected on overall poor condition rural population live in and possibilities for its improvement by common work of all, state institutions, civil society and rural self-support groups.
Philanthropy organized the conference “Social Protection in Rural Areas – Possibilities and Challenges” within the project “Strengthening Social Inclusion of Vulnerable Groups”, supported by the Finn Church Aid from Finland.