Study Session ‘Knowledge is Power – Youth Understanding Antigypsyism’

Study Session ‘Knowledge is Power – Youth Understanding Antigypsyism’

A study session “ Knowledge is Power  – Youth Understanding Antigypsyism” was organized by ERGO Network and TernYpe International Roma Youth Network in cooperation with the European Youth Center Budapest of the Council of Europe from 7  to 13 October 2018.  During this study session, 20 Romani and Non-Romani young people came together to gain a deeper understanding of what antigypsyism is through different means of portraying elements of antigypsyism. The aim of the study session was to contribute to the development of a youth-friendly version of the reference paper on antigypsyism that can be understood by all. The participants had the chance to be creative and work together to comprehend, interpret and shorten some parts of the aforementioned reference paper.  Afterwards they could present the outcomes and outputs of these working groups. What was really interesting and praiseworthy noticing was the eagerness of the group to participate in the production of this exciting publication, which will be available soon.

The study session started with getting to know each other in order to get comfortable with one another, since antigypsyism is a very sensitive theme and the youth group consisted of  a diverse group of young people such as the Roma youth, travelers and non – Roma participants. Some of these youngsters were students at universities and some were already working for an NGO or had just started to run their own NGO. One thing they had in common was their experience with discrimination and realizing that antigypsyism has several stages.

In the last two days, the working groups were divided according to different themes. There were four themes; case studies, counter strategies, visuals and non – formal education. The participants from the case studies group found cases related to antigypsyism from different countries (eg. sterilization of Romani women). The group on counter strategies prepared some strategies how to combat antigypsyism on the basis of what they have learnt throughout the week. The group on visuals prepared very interesting material on how the “youth-friendly” version on antigypsyism could look like. And the group for non – formal education prepared detailed workshops whereby youth could learn about this theme.

 

A great deal of work was done by all the participants of the study session. The inputs were of a great importance and will further be used for drafting the youth friendly version of the reference paper

Roma Returnees’ perspective on the EU agenda

Roma Returnees’ perspective on the EU agenda

Before the start of the EU Roma Platform 2018, ERGO Network and Roma Active Albania, together with the European Commission DG for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, organised the event “Reintegration” into the Western Balkans: Returnees’ perspective with special attention to Roma community, as part of the ‘Joint Initiative to Empower Roma Civil Society in the Western Balkans and Turkey’. The event was hosted by the MEPs Cornelia Ernst (European United Left–Nordic Green Left), Soraya Post (Socialists & Democrats) and Eduard Kukan (European People’s Party).

Together the partners managed to move ‘the Roma in the Western Balkans’ perspective from the margins to the center of the EU Roma Platform’s narrative. The event strengthened stakeholders’ understanding of the situation, created a space for dialogue between Members of the European Parliament, the European Commission, international organisations, national authorities, Roma Contact Points and Roma organisations from both the Western Balkans region and EU Member States. Participants of the conference discussed their view of the problems and possible measures to be taken to address them.

More specifically, there is a need for data collection, coordination, monitoring and evaluation, financing, policy frameworks and capacity-building. The event also raised awareness of the need for a stronger support for grassroots organizations to support returnees and to advocate for better policies and reflected the close cooperation between the European Commission Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers (DG JUST) and Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR).

By presenting preliminarily results of a study commissioned by DG NEAR and conducted by the World Bank and United Nations Development Programme, UNDP showed that the ongoing uncoordinated approach towards returnees has not been able to address the problems that Roma people experience in this context.

ERGO members and partners from OTAHARIN (Bosnia), RROMA (Macedonia) and Central Council of German Sinti and Roma presented the situation of returnees’ in their countries. Dragan Jokovic, Director of OTAHARIN argued that “Roma do not see the future in countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia because they want the best for their children” and that “there are no conditions created for reintegration”. He added that Roma are the most discriminated in Bosnia and Herzegovina and that even the Constitution is discriminatory. “Roma returnees only can turn to NGOs for support”, Mr Jokovic stated.

While closing the event, MEP Soraya Post sent an important message to the participants: “The EU has defined the Western Balkan countries as safe countries of origin. This does not mean that these countries are free from antigypsyism. We hope that step by step we can make positive and sustainable changes, but we have to be more responsible.”

Adriatik Hasantari, Director of Roma Active Albania and Vice Chair of the ERGO Network board, highlighted the importance of joint efforts and coordination: “I can confirm that civil society is ready to make the reintegration of returnees a reality for the Western Balkans, but the most important is what we all take home from this successful event in terms of responsibilities that we need to fulfil”.

We are yet to see if the major actors will take more responsibility and increase their contribution to making sustainable change for the Roma in the Western Balkans.

The European Pillar of Social Rights and European Semester as tools for delivering Social Europe

The European Pillar of Social Rights and European Semester as tools for delivering Social Europe  

On 2 October, the European Commission’s DG Employment together with the European Centre of Expertise (ECE) in the field of Labour Law, Employment and Labour Market Policies organised a reflection with civil society on the European Pillar of Social Rights and the European Semester.

Through ERGO Network’s Annual Work Programme RISE (Roma Included in Social Europe), ERGO Network closely follows the European Semester process as a possible tool to foster the social inclusion and poverty reduction of Roma in the EU, with a special focus on the five countries with the highest Roma population  – Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia and Czech Republic.

ERGO Network Director Jamen Gabriela Hrabanova presented ERGO’s work in this area and pointed out the great discrepancies between the poor living situation of Roma in these countries and the attention Roma inclusion receives in the European Semester. Czech Republic, for example, is under the infringement procedure for segregation of Roma children in education, while this topic is not anymore included in the Czech country-specific recommendations.  Also Roma employment is not found among the CSRs in any of our target countries, even though Roma unemployment – and particularly youth unemployment – remains extremely high. Around 64% of Roma aged 16 to 24 are not in education, employment and training according to research by the Fundamental Rights Agency – a fact that should be reflected in the European Semester and the European Pillar of Social Rights, but that does not attract any special attention in mainstream EU policies.

ERGO Network chair Stano Daniel and ERGO Network member Katalin Nagy added insights from the Roma grassroots in Hungary and Slovakia to the discussion in order to stress the importance of mainstreaming Roma inclusion in European policies, if the EU really wants to deliver on a Social Europe.

Realising the rights of Roma women in Ukraine

Realising the rights of Roma women in Ukraine

On 17-18 October, ERGO Network director Gabriela Hrabanova spoke at a conference on ‘Realising the rights of Roma women in Ukraine’, organised by UN Women in cooperation with ERGO Network member Roma Women Fund Chiricli.

The conference brought together Ukrainian Members of Parliament, government representatives and members of the judiciary with local decision-makers, MEPs, UN officials, civil society organisations and grassroots Roma women to discuss the multiple discriminations of Roma women and provide recommendations for the elimination of discrimination.

According to UN Women, the estimated 100,000 – 200,000 Roma women are the most socially excluded and marginalized group in Ukraine. They are discriminated for being Roma, for being women and for being poor.  Roma women have limited access to education, health care, do not participate in public and political life and live under constant threat to their security. These problems become even more severe through the lack of ID documents – in some areas of Ukraine only 15% of Roma have passports, a situation that obstructs them to access social services, education and official employment.

“In our work with Roma activists in Ukraine, we sometimes feel their fear they cannot have an impact. Roma rights activists should not feel isolated. A great number of experts and activists from the around the world, as well as from Ukraine, are present in the Parliament today, to support Roma activists and to build a network which can be empowering, and strengthen our joint advocacy efforts” – Anastasia Divinskaya, Representative of UN Women Ukraine.

ERGO Director Gabriela Hrabanova stressed that mainstreaming gender equality alone is not enough, there needs to be a special focus on empowering Roma women and to include them in designing strategies targeting them, so they are able to fully participate in society.

The participants gave gender-specific recommendations to national, regional and local authorities to address the pressing needs of Roma women and to ensure their equal rights and opportunities.  They should inform the new approach of the current and future legislation or policies that promote rights of Roma.

Photo: UN Women/Volodymyr Shuvayev

12th European Platform for Roma Inclusion Health and housing inequalities

12th European Platform for Roma Inclusion Health and housing inequalities

From 8-9 October 2018 the 12th European Platform for Roma inclusion took place in Brussels with a special focus on health and housing inequalities faced by Roma people. The annual platform is organised by the Roma coordination unit of the European Commission Directorate General for Justice and Consumers, in consultation with Roma and pro-Roma civil society. It brings together civil society, experts, national governments, European institutions and Roma people from local level who are experts in the field of health and housing.

Health and housing are two out of the four key priorities of the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies.

The event started on 8 October with the opening panel, followed by a theatre performance given by Ara Art “And Again we slept Pindral”. The play took the audience through the history of Roma culture and music through storytelling.  

On the second day two political panels and two workshops on housing inequalities and health focused on identifying challenges that are drivers of social exclusion.  ERGO Network’s Director Jamen Gabriela Hrabanova facilitated the workshop on social housing and ERGO’s policy and research coordinator Jelena Jovanovic was the rapporteur that brought the key messages from the workshop to the political panel.

In the political panel Vera Jourova, Commissioner for Fundamental Justice, stated: “I want to evaluate in depth the EU Framework for National Integration Strategies and to focus on smart EU funding for the next programming period”. Equal treatment of Roma and mainstreaming of Roma inclusion are the key priorities of the European Agenda and post 2020 programs.

The general messages that were pointed out by the participants:

Health

    • The EU and Member States should use human rights approaches when developing health policies, and Roma health policies in particular.
    • European Commission should consider earmarking funding for EU-wide advocacy coalitions and strategic/impact litigation that aims at identifying structural deficiencies and discrimination potential of member states’ legislation, when it comes to Roma.

  • Developing and reinforcing measures effectively targeting antigypsyism and discrimination against Roma.

Housing

  • Poor data: Mapping of the situation of Roma in housing; demolitions are often ongoing and nobody knows how many people are affected by the situation.
  • Antigypsyism: should be tackled with mainstream and targeted approaches with reinforced measures.
  • Harmful initiatives/bad investments: political will has to be increased and the knowledge of the responsible actors improved.
  • Lack of awareness of ‘mainstream’ measures: Relevant EU policies have not been yet mainstreamed at the national level. One of the needs identified during the workshop is raising awareness  and implementation at national level of the European Pillar of Social Rights and specifically of Principle 19 (that includes three relevant issues – social housing, forced evictions and homelessness)

The participants repeated their call from the Platform 2017 for the importance of empowerment and involvement of Roma in decision-making by ensuring Roma participation in every phase of the policy cycle (design, implementation, coordination, monitoring and evaluation, review), including at local level.