In memory of Marcel Courthiade

In memory of Marcel Courthiade

Written by Saimir Mile, La Voix des Rroms

Marcel Courthiade passed away unexpectedly on March 4, 2021 in Tirana at 67. With him, the Roma lose an exceptional resource. His work remains a treasure that several generations will be able to use for the benefit of the emancipation of the Roma.

Born on August 2, 1953, on the 9th anniversary of the liquidation of the Zigeunerfamilienlager in Birkenau, it is as if he were destined to live for the renaissance of this people who had suffered so much. This probably explains why, after an exemplary school career, he abandoned his medical studies in the fifth year to devote himself to the study of languages. He managed to master countless numbers of them, but he especially chose to place Romani at the center of his interest. He dedicated his life to its defense and development, and through it to the defense of the identity and rights of the Roma.

His work always demonstrated a very high level of scientific expertise, exceptional humility and accessibility, and an especially unfailing devotion to the Roma cause. He was the architect of the development of a real linguistic policy with the principles of the unification of the Romani language adopted in 1990 in Warsaw by the 4th Congress of the International Romani Union, then chaired by Rajko Đurić, another recently deceased great personality of the international Roma movement of the time. It is on the basis of these principles that Romani is taught at the universities of Paris and Bucharest. It is also on this basis that he coordinated the drafting of the first European dictionary of the Romani language, aptly titled “From our elders, to our daughters and to our sons.”

Marcel, like other intellectuals and activists of his generation, was too far in advance to be fully understood. On February 28, 2021, on Albanian public television, he answered a journalist’s question regarding whether the Romani language was “made official”:

“It has been formalized by the Romani authorities, by the Romani institutions, but not by the States. But that’s normal […] the Romani authorities, that is to say the International Romani Union, the Commissioner for Language and Linguistic Rights etc., have formalized the Romani language very well. But the others do not recognize this formalization because it is about Romani instances. In fact, logically we must say that it is normal for a language to be formalized when it is formalized by its own institutions, not by others. But this is where there is a manipulation […], the others do not accept the existence of the Romani language. Maybe there will come a day, I don’t know; but for now, in the name of “diversity”, they say that there are several Romani languages, several dialects etc., which is not true. Italian or German for example have more dialects than Romani, but nobody says that Italian or German don’t exist. This is where the discrimination is located: the denial of the history of the Roma, the denial of their language, their literature, the alphabet, the “Kris” … It is really discrimination, which leads to the denial of the Roma nation, and when a nation does not exist, what rights can it claim? It is a very deep running and very cunning mechanism. “

These words sound like a testament today. It is up to current and future generations to grasp their full meaning in order to continue the fight for the dignity of the Roma, and therefore for their rights. We owe it to Marcel, and to all those who preceded us, and more or less trained us.


International Women’s Day 2021

International Women’s Day 2021

Opre phenjalen! – Rise sisters!

Since the adoption of the International Women’s Day, women of all colors, creed and belonging across the globe carved their way to greater freedoms and recognition of their strengths, independence and self-determination.

However, societal inequalities and broader racial injustice continue to ascribe and influence social norms and the roles and value of groups of women in our society. Roma and Traveller women continue to be some of  the most disadvantaged and disenfranchised  on multiple levels, including inside their own communities. In addition, they face intersectional forms of discrimination and antigypsyism and extreme social exclusion and poverty.

With the Covid-19 pandemic, the situation of Roma and Traveller women got even worse. Extreme poverty, inadequate housing and lack of health coverage mean that they are both more likely to be exposed to the virus, and to delay or avoid health care either due to lack of health insurance or limitations on transport, putting their lives at greater risk. During the pandemic Roma and Traveller women continued to perform essential frontline jobs, such as in care professions, as shop or cleaning staff etc. With the closing of schools and workplaces, the unpaid work of Roma and Traveller women has further increased, and they are also more likely to care of the ill. Even without a pandemic, caring and household responsibilities tend to fall disproportionately on women’s shoulders.

 Today, ERGO Network celebrates all women across the world, but especially the Roma and Traveller women who work day in, day out to make ends meet and to support their families and communities, with little recognition and while faced with numerous obstacles. Without the contribution of Roma and Traveller women, the fight against inequality is not complete!

We join their efforts to promote equality, dignity and women’s human rights for all women. We call on governments and the international community to:

  • To combat individual and institutional antigypsyism at all levels, including intersectional and multiple forms of discrimination through the development and implementation of policies and legislation that adequately address the situation of Roma and Traveller women.
  • To create opportunities for Roma and Traveller women to access decent work with adequate pay, as well as to tackle the gender and ethnic pay and pension gaps, to ensure that Roma and Traveller women in paid employment are not doubly penalised by receiving reduced income for equal work.
  • To put in place the necessary measures for Roma and Traveller women to be able to access quality and affordable health care (including sexual and reproductive health and rights), as well ashousing and accommodation  and
  • To improve access to childcare and long-term care for Roma and Traveller families, by supporting community-based, free care facilities, employing also Roma and Traveller staff.
  • To invest in specific, adequate financial support for Roma and Traveller single parent households, most of which are led by women, to assist with childcare, rent payments and other household expenses.
  • To end all forms of gender-based violence and abuse which disproportionately affect Roma and Traveller girls and women, including by repairing historic injustices such as forced sterilization.
  • To dismantle gender stereotypes and ideas about traditional gender roles in mainstream society, so as to encourage more men, including Roma men, to pick up their fair share of unpaid work at home.
  • To support increased visibility and direct representation of Roma and Traveller women and girls in social, cultural, civil and political life
  • To ensure that Roma culture, language and history are recognized, respected, and resourced
  • To promote and supportRoma and Traveller women’s participation and empowerment in policy and decision-making at all levels, including by international organisations.

We are falsely encouraged that today women are more empowered and better represented politically, but in reality women’ s rights are still constantly questioned and gender stereotypes prevail – especially for women who suffer from intersecting forms of discrimination such as of race, socio-economic status, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity etc.

Let’s fight together for equal rights of Roma and Traveller women!

Opre phenjalen! – Rise sisters!