Today, on 8 April, we celebrate the 50th International Roma Day!
While the roots of Romani activism go back to the 19th century, the 8th April 1971 constitutes a turning point for Roma communities around the world, when activists moved their struggle to the international arena with the first World Romani Congress held near London. The day means for us a celebration of our culture, language and the endurance to keep our identity alive. The First Congress promoted the Roma symbols used as tools for unification and political mobilization, such as the umbrella term ‘Roma’, the Romani flag, the slogan Opre Roma! (Roma Arise!) our anthem (Djelem djelem) and national day (8 April).
The Congress was a catalyst of a new generation of Roma activists who worked together to fight against antigypsyism that we experience day in, day out.
From slavery to sponsored policies of extermination and eradication of our traditional culture, to forced settlement and resettlement, ethnic cleansing, assimilation, and sterilization of Romani women, all these persecutions led to the current situation of Roma across the world, where we continue to be perceived in a dehumanising way, less worthy and easy victims of hate speech, of racist violence and police abuse and day-to-day discrimination in all areas of our lives.
Today, when 80% of Roma and related groups live at the risk of poverty and hate speech and victimization of Roma have only increased during the Covid-19 pandemic, we must carry the fight of our ancestors forward and stand firm against antigypsyism.
To eradicate antigypsyism, our network of civil society organisations, our friends and the entire Roma movement must all work together to empower Roma communities to stand up for their rights, to raise awareness of our situation among non-Roma, to demand that the justice system identifies and persecutes crimes against us and to advocate for structural changes.
While we can be proud of our culture, history, personal achievements and political successes, such as the increased recognition of antigypsyism among institutions and some national governments and a stronger EU Roma Strategic Framework that puts the fight against antigypsyism at its core, there is still a very long way to go in order to achieve racial equality for Roma, Sinti, Travellers and other related groups.
On this important day, we are asking the European Institutions to
- Further develop guidelines to recognise and address specific forms of racism, including
- Create synergies between EU and national policy and legislative developments on specific forms of racism.
- Speak out forcefully against any attempts to ethnically profile and scapegoat Roma and other minorities during the pandemic and ensure that states’ responses to Covid-19 do not make certain populations more vulnerable to racist violence and discrimination.
- Ensure that the implementation of the Action Plan of the European Pillar of Social Rights will be used so that Europe’s Roma are not left behind and that the Covid-19 EU recovery packages will reach Roma and other vulnerable groups.
- Further invest in mapping and data collection regarding the access to rights and services and the capacity building of Roma civil society to take an active part in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of national policies and programmes relevant to Roma.
We are asking national governments, under the new upcoming Roma strategic frameworks and policy actions to…
- Shift narratives and measures on Roma in a positive and empowering way, reflective of democratic societies, the rule of law and respect for human rights.
- Prioritise the recognition of and fight against antigypsyism and discrimination, segregation in education and housing and anti‑Roma prejudices and stereotypes.
- Promote awareness of Roma history, culture, recognition and reconciliation and prioritize self-representation of Roma.
- Ensure EU and national funds are used towards inclusive mainstream policy reform, targeted action and communication for Roma equality, inclusion and participation.
- Ensure full and effective participation of Roma and (pro-) Roma civil society at all levels and all stages of the NSF design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
- Ensure an appropriate response and funding to the particular risks experienced by Roma and related communities due to the Covid-19 pandemic and mainstreaming and inclusion of Roma communities in the social and economic policies and programmes deployed to address the impact of the pandemic.
And we are asking from our non-Roma friends, neighbours, colleagues and others to:
- Question your own biases and stereotypes against Roma.
- Call out antigypsyism when you see it happening.
- Educate yourselves and learn about Roma history.
- Do not use racist slurs against us.
- Do not speak on our behalf, but give us spaces to speak up and amplify our voices.
- Celebrate with us our Roma culture, history and role models – on 8th April, and throughout the rest of the year.