International Roma Day: 8 April 2023

International Roma Day

International Roma Day is celebrated annually on April 8th – 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 First Congress promoted the Roma symbols used as tools for unification and political mobilization, such as the umbrella term ‘Roma’, the Roma flag, the slogan Opre Roma! (Roma Arise!), our anthem (Djelem Djelem), and the International Day (8 April).

On this day, we recognize and celebrate the rich culture and contributions of the Roma people, and raise awareness of the ongoing discrimination and marginalization we face. While on the EU level progress has been made in recent years towards achieving greater equality and inclusion for Roma communities, there is still much work to be done until this progress reaches Roma communities.

In a few weeks, policymakers, experts, activists and organisations concerned with persistent antigypsyism will be gathering in Brussels for the 2023 Roma Week, hosted by the European Parliament and the European Commission and organised in partnership with Roma and pro-Roma civil society.

In the framework of the Roma Week 2023, there will be a series of events focusing on how history affects the current situation of Roma in Europe and what are the prospects for the future. The events aim to build on the work done during previous Roma Weeks and on the broader work on Roma equality, inclusion and participation. It calls on the Commission and the Member States to strengthen the active engagement and meaningful participation of Roma – especially Roma women, young people, and other underrepresented groups – in the development, implementation and monitoring of public policies and projects aimed towards them at the European, national, regional and local levels, so they can be actively involved in shaping their future and contribute to changing perceptions in European societies.

Over the past several years, there has been growing recognition of the need to invest in programmes and initiatives that promote greater equality, inclusion, and participation for Roma communities. The European Union has been at the forefront of these efforts, providing funding for a wide range of projects aimed at improving the lives of Roma people throughout Europe.

Despite these efforts, however, progress has been slow, and many Roma communities continue to face significant barriers to equality, inclusion and participation. One of the key challenges is ensuring that funding is used effectively and efficiently to achieve meaningful results. To address this challenge, there is a need for greater collaboration between Roma communities, civil society organisations, and government agencies to ensure that resources are directed to where they are needed most. One of the events of the Roma Week will focus specifically on maximising the use of funding for Roma equality, inclusion and participation.

We have a long and rich history in Europe, but this history has been marked by centuries of discrimination, persecution, and violence. From the Roma Holocaust during World War II to the ongoing forced evictions and discrimination faced by Roma communities throughout Europe, the Roma have been subject to some of the worst atrocities in European history.

Despite this history, there has been a notable lack of recognition and acknowledgement of our experiences, and efforts to achieve justice and redress for past wrongs have been slow and incomplete. To address this, there is a growing movement to promote greater awareness and understanding of our history and experiences and to ensure that justice is served for past wrongs. During the Roma Week, we invite you to follow the Final Conference of the Chachipen project, focusing on the history, memory, and justice for Roma in Europe.

The Roma Week doesn’t limit itself to the EU policies, but takes a broader approach, including the situation of the Roma communities in the Western Balkans and Turkey, as well as the situation of Ukrainian Roma refugees in Europe and Roma in Ukraine. Other events will also highlight the situation of Roma women, youth and children, as some of the most vulnerable and marginalized groups within Roma communities, facing multiple forms of discrimination.

The importance of Roma participation in EU, national and local policies cannot be overstated, particularly given the significant challenges faced by Roma communities in Europe today, and we see it as the key step to achieve a future free from antigypsyism for the coming generations of Roma. We continue to face significant barriers to equality, inclusion, and participation, denial of our history and our contributions to society. And the common thread for the struggles we are facing institutional and structural racism – the focus of many Roma Week events this year.

Institutional racism refers to the ways in which racially-based discriminatory attitudes are embedded within the policies, practices, and procedures of institutions, including governments, schools, healthcare systems, and other organisations. Structural racism refers to the ways in which these attitudes are woven into the very fabric of society, through systems of power and privilege that provide advantages to some groups while marginalizing others.

Both institutional and structural racism are major obstacles to the full participation of Roma communities in European society, and they can have far-reaching consequences for Roma people in terms of access to education, healthcare, housing, employment, and other basic rights and services.

To address institutional and structural racism, there is a need for greater engagement and participation of Roma communities in the development and implementation of EU policies and initiatives. This includes efforts to build trust and understanding between Roma communities and policymakers and to ensure that Roma voices are heard, and their perspectives are taken into account in the development of policies and initiatives that affect their lives.

It also requires a recognition of the ways in which racism operates within institutions and structures and a commitment to addressing these challenges through targeted initiatives and programs that promote greater equality and inclusion for Roma communities.

We hope that the Roma Week will be one step forward towards the recognition of and dialogue on these matters and another brick for building a more inclusive and equitable Europe for all.

Read more about the Roma Week 2023, check the event’s agenda, objectives and participants here.

International Roma Day: 8 April 2023 – ERGO Network

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