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Special Olympics Athlete Breaks Employment Barriers in Romania!

Five people wearing masks sitting around a table while respecting social distancing.
From left to right: Special Olympics Romania National Director Emilia Ispas, Special Olympics Romania Athlete Leader Oana Rotar, Secretary of State Makkai Peter Janos, Oana’s Mother, Mihaela Rotar and Counselor in the Cabinet of the State Secretary Elena Nedelcu at the signing of Oana’s contract.

Oana Rotar, a 29-year-old athlete with Special Olympics Romania, made history earlier this year when she became the first woman with Down syndrome to be employed in the country’s public administration.

On 6 April, Oana was officially employed at the Romanian Ministry of Labour and Social Protection. Thanks to her dedication and the ground-breaking project “Employee, Do Not Assist!”, Oana is now happily working in a team of four, four days-a-week, at the office of the Secretary of State, Mr Makkai Péter János. "I like to work and I like what I do,” Oana proudly states. “Whatever my boss explains to me, I understand and do it. She taught me how to write and scan documents, how to save them on the computer and she introduced me to our colleagues from the other offices, too.”

Oana’s journey to the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection began at the “Employee, Do Not Assist!” workshops. There, experts and Special Olympics staff helped her to present herself and her potential in the right light and hone her interview skills which ultimately led to her signing a formal employment contract at the office of the Secretary of State!

“Oana’s employment within the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection is a good professional opportunity for this exceptional young lady,” commented Gabi Mihaela Comănescu, coordinator of the “Employee, Do Not Assist!” project. “It proves our decision makers share our open-mindedness, and it is a statement from the Romanian Government in favour of inclusion and the employment of people with Down syndrome.”

A young woman standing in a doorway in the centre of the picture, carrying a stock of documents with both her arms.
Special Olympics Romania Athlete Leader Oana Rotar becomes the first woman with Down Syndrome to work at the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection.

“Employee, Do Not Assist!” is a project developed by Special Olympics Romania in collaboration with Motivation Romania Foundation and the support of ING Tech Romania. Through workshops and conferences, the aim is to educate and support people with Down syndrome in the process of applying for and gaining meaningful employment. Already active in 12 cities around the country, the ultimate goal of the project is to build a more inclusive employment market across Romania. “The Romanian labour market is not very open to people with Down syndrome. To our knowledge, less than 10 people with Down syndrome are currently in employment in our country,” explained Gabi Mihaela Comănescu. “This is a fact that Special Olympics Romania is trying to change by preparing people with Down syndrome for employment and by raising employers’ awareness regarding their work potential.”

Their amazing and inspiring work has already helped many people with intellectual disabilities—already approximately 200 people with Down syndrome have attended the workshops and conferences that helped Oana secure her role at the Ministry.

With her new position, Oana leads by example: “I would like to tell the other Special Olympics athletes that it is important to work, to have your own money and learn things. I am a fast learner and I enjoy everyday challenges in the office. The advice I received from Special Olympics Romania helped me a lot, and now I can’t wait to share my experience with other young athletes in the programme.”

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