EU Child Guarantee: Don’t leave Roma children behind

Input to the European Commission consultation on the Roadmap for a Council Recommendation for a Child Guarantee

The European Commission will be proposing a Child Guarantee in 2021, an instrument specifically designed to tackle the situation of children in need.

The Child Guarantee is meant to ensure that all children in Europe who are at risk of poverty, social exclusion, or are otherwise disadvantaged, have access to essential services of good quality.

It will recommend that EU countries invest in and develop strategies and action plans to ensure that children in need have access to free or affordable services such as education, healthcare, nutrition & housing, culture and leisure activities.

ERGO Network strongly welcomes the initiative for an EU Child Guarantee and has given input into the Roadmap leading towards it (Download the full input). With Roma children especially hard hit by poverty, we appreciate the attention paid to this important topic.

The first years of a child’s life are the most important in their personal development, and yet Roma children have been left behind for centuries in what concerns a good start in life. While the Roadmap towards the Child Guarantee identifies several groups of “children in need”, Roma children are not one of them. This is unacceptable, where the Fundamental Rights Agency found that every third Roma child (30%) lives in households where someone went to bed hungry at least once in the previous month, and only about half (53%) of young Roma children are enrolled in early childhood education and care programmes. Unless they are explicitly mentioned as target group and specific measures put in place to deal with very specific needs, experience shows that Roma children will once again be left behind.

The Roadmap features an almost exclusive focus on services, where nothing is said about access to income. There are no poor children in rich families, and wrap-around support for parents must be part of the solution, including income support and pathway approaches towards sustainable, quality jobs. Currently, only 43% of Roma aged 20-64% are in paid work, and over 80% of Europe’s Roma are at risk of poverty and social exclusion, according to FRA. Poverty has a considerable impact on the children’s physical, mental, and emotional development, and increases the chances of lagging behind in all the aspects of their adult life.

The vicious circles of poverty,  spatial segregation, and discrimination act as powerful barriers, preventing Roma children from accessing education on equal footing with their non-Roma peers. While education, including early childhood education and care, is touted to be free in many countries, it is de facto not, and many poor Roma families can’t cope with the associated costs of clothing, nappies, transport, hygiene etc. Lack of majority languages skills, limited access to early childhood education and care, and a state of poverty which does not allow for proper studying at home mean that Roma children end up segregated and bullied by colleagues, their parents, and staff alike, and even sometimes placed in schooling for children with learning disabilities. During the Covid-19 pandemic and associated protection and prevention measures, many Roma children found themselves unable to access online education, due to absent infrastructure and equipment (the digital divide).

In what concerns housing, many Roma neighbourhoods are segregated or isolated, with no childcare or healthcare facilities nearby. Adequate housing is an urgent priority for Roma communities, as one in three Roma (32%) live in households with a leaking roof, damp walls, or rot, one in five Roma (20%) live in dwellings that are too dark, and 78% of Roma live in overcrowded households. These disastrous living conditions have a tremendously damaging impact on the health and wellbeing of Roma children, who experience significant health inequalities. The life expectancy of Roma across Europe is 10 to 15 years lower than of the majority population. In many countries, the public health infrastructure does not cover Roma communities, with the nearest clinic (not to mention hospital) often located far away. Additional complicating factors include the lack of identity papers, the lack a legal address, the lack of access to a bank account, the lack of information about registration processes and available services, as well as language barriers. Investing in children must mean, first and foremost, guaranteeing good health and wellbeing for all, particularly those suffering the most disadvantages, such as Roma children.

In order to ensure that Roma children develop and thrive while enjoying the same opportunities as their non-Roma peers, it is fundamental to tackle antigypsyism in all its forms, as well as intersectional discrimination. 41% of Roma feel they have been discriminated against in everyday situations such as looking for work, at work, or when trying to access housing, health, and education – and this is the environment that Roma children grow up in. This should be a de facto horizontal priority in the fields of education, employment, health, housing, and poverty reduction. Preventive and proactive measures are needed to alter public perceptions, prevalent misrepresentations, and misinformation about Roma, and to develop positive counter-narratives. The Child Guarantee should strive to ensure the teaching of Romani language and history in schools, including about the Holocaust and slavery of Roma across Member States, as well as for the necessary dedicated special pedagogical support, including trained Roma education mediators in communities.

The Covid-19 situation highlights the urgent need to invest in proper care services and income support to children and their families. In order to provide equal opportunities for every Roma child, we must guarantee that Roma children and families are not left behind in the Child Guarantee. Appropriate links must be made to the objectives of the EU Strategic Framework for Roma Equality and Inclusion, and interplay ensured between the implementation of the Child Guarantee multi-annual national strategies and the National Roma Integration Strategies. The EU Cohesion Policy and recovery funds will also have a key role to play.

The Child Guarantee will only be effective if it achieves wide ownership by beneficiaries, if it is rooted in direct evidence from the ground about what works and what is needed, and if its delivery and monitoring are underpinned by a comprehensive and meaningful partnership of all stakeholders, including civil society organisations. Tailored outreach measures need to be put in place to ensure the participation of Roma children and that of their parents, including through the civil society organisations representing them. Clear dialogue and cooperation protocols need to be put in place, to ensure that the voice of marginalised and racialised children is heard and taken into account, while necessary financial resources need to be made available to support Roma NGOs and build awareness, participation, and active citizenship, as well as more resilient democracies.

Join our team!

Call for Solidarity Corps volunteer in ERGO Network

ERGO Network is looking for an enthusiastic and active young Roma who would like to join our office team in Brussels for 11 months in the framework of the European Solidarity Corps.

When: February 2021 to December 2021

Where: ERGO Network office in Brussels, Belgium

Who: Young Roma professional between 18 and 30

Deadline for applications: 31 October 2020

During the 11 months in ERGO, you will learn about international advocacy, help us organise international meetings and events and get actively involved in Roma activism and international Roma networks in Brussels.

Your main tasks will be:

  • Communication and visibility: contribute to the update of the ERGO Network and RomaReact websites and social media channels; development of creative approaches and publicity work to promote our activities and mission and a positive image of Roma.
  • Researching and reporting: Assisting ERGO’s research work e.g. on cases of inequality and antigypsyism all over Europe.
  • Advocacy and policy: Support ERGO staff in EU advocacy work on poverty reduction, social inclusion and antigypsyism; attend debates, hearings and meetings with other stakeholders to challenge stereotypes and racism, build partnership with Roma and non-Roma organizations from Belgium and other European countries.
  • Meetings and seminars: Assist in the organisation of meetings, events and international seminars of ERGO Network and its partners, e.g. our Advocacy Academy, Annual Members Meeting etc.

Your profile:

  • Young Roma between 18 and 30 years
  • Good English language skills, both oral and written
  • Computer literacy (experience with Microsoft office package and social media)
  • High motivation to learn more about Roma activism and advocacy work and to contribute to a small but very active European NGO
  • Previous involvement in Roma or (pro) Roma NGOs will be considered an advantage
  • Reliable, well organised and with attention to detail

You will work about 38 hours per week, including your language course. Working hours will be from Monday to Friday between 9:00 – 17:00. However, working hours can be adapted to your needs and the activities you will be involved in. Of course we will adapt the situation also according to the Covid-19 situation.

We aim to support young people who are enthusiastic about our cause and want to gain experiences that can be later transferred to national or local NGOs. We especially welcome applications from people who are motivated to challenge stereotypes, antigypsyism and racism and who show an open attitude for a unique learning and life experience, as well as a volunteer spirit of creativity, initiative, responsibility and independence.

We offer:

  • An allowance of 1200 Euro that includes money for accommodation, meals, local transport, language course and pocket money
  • Travel costs to Brussels (a lump sum depending on the distance to Brussels)
  • Health insurance for the whole year
  • On-arrival training with other Solidarity Corps volunteers, and lots of learning and development opportunities with ERGO Network and our partners
  • An exciting and unforgettable experience, working for an international organisation in an international city!

How to apply:

Please send your motivation letter (1 page) and CV (max 2 pages) by 31th October 2020 to info@ergonetwork.org.

Do not hesitate to contact us for more information.

Mustafa Jakupov t: +389 78 424 180| e: info@ergonetwork.org

 

UN Side event on discrimination based on work and descent

UN Side event on discrimination based on work and descent

Since 2019, as a consequence of ERGO Network’s work on the Sustainable Development Goals for Roma inclusion, ERGO Director Gabriela Hrabanova works together with the Global Forum on Discrimination on Work and Descent (GFoD), the Asia Dalit Rights Forum and other global minority organisations to raise awareness of the important topic Discrimination based on Work and Descent (DWD) at the United Nations level and to bring together Roma with other communities victims of DWD.

In the framework of the 2020 United Nations General Assembly, a series of side events took place in New York and online organised by GFoD and with the support of the Permanent Mission of Germany in New York, which attracted the participation of politicians and members of civil society from across the world. Besides ERGO Network Director Gabriela Hrabanova also Member of the European Parliament Romeo Franz (Greens/EFA) was a panelist in the meeting.

This year, due to the pandemic, the Forum took the form of a Round Table with 15 Parliamentarians from countries in Africa (Somalia, Niger, Mauritania), Asia (Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka), Brazil and Europe (Germany, Spain, Slovakia, Belgium).

The discussions focused mostly on the strategies for the caucus of MPs to make appropriate and effective interventions at both UN & Regional Bodies, and with bilateral bodies/processes towards the elimination of DWD globally. An additional topic was the outlining of measures for building up the International Parliamentarians Forum on DWD to operate as an effective platform  at global and regional level.

The participants discussed best practices and possible strategies at local, national, regional and UN level to improve the fight against DWD.

Discrimination based on work and descent affects around 260 million people worldwide. Communities discriminated on work and descent are one of the most excluded and segregated groups globally, and this affects their daily social, economic, political, civil and cultural life. Compared to the majority population in their respective countries, Dalits in South Asia have less access to education, communities of former and modern slavery in Mauretania are economically deprived and Roma in Europe have less access to health care and services.

International cooperation around the topic of DWD has been gaining momentum since 2015, when DWD communities looking for solidarity beyond their own countries and communities found similar discrimination practices among African, European and Latin American communities and founded The Inclusivity Project at international level. But the kick-off for the Forum was a Round Table at the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Senegal in New York in 2019. Seven parliamentarians from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Somalia and Sri Lanka have discussed DWD and options for action with representatives from European Roma networks, the African Network on DWD and Slavery, the Asia Dalit Rights Forum and Quilombola from Brazil.

As a consequence of all endeavours in the last decades the Global Forum on DWD – against Casteism, Antigypsyism & Traditional and contemporary forms of slavery has been formed during the first Congress on DWD in September 2019 in New York with representation by descendants of former slaves, Burakumin, Dalis, Quilomboa, Sinti & Roma.

PECAO peer educators training online and offline

PECAO peer educators training online and offline

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the work we usually do and the way we implement our projects. ERGO Network together with its partners in the framework of the “Peer education to counter antigypsyist hate speech” (PECAO) project adapted to this new situation and moved on with the project implementation.

Peer educators are the most crucial part of PECAO. They receive training to conduct peer education workshops and activities with other young people, as well as monitor and report hate speech online.

Due to the restrictions and health measures in place, ERGO Network and Integro Association combined an online and offline training for the group of 50 peer educators to make the best out of the situation for everyone.

Those who could not travel to Bulgaria had the opportunity to follow an online training course from to 13 August, and those able to travel to Bulgaria had their offline training course in Albena from 10 to 15 August 2020.

Our partner Integro took care of all necessary measures to ensure safety of the participants in the offline training by respecting all protocols when it comes to protection against Covid-19.

During both trainings, the participants could work with and be trained by professionals in the field of addressing hate speech. For example, with Prof. Tomova the participants received information about the impact of stereotypes and prejudices and how media constructs, reinforces and consolidates negative stereotypes and prejudices against Roma. They also worked on content analysis of media products that target Roma.

Throughout the training course, participants had the opportunity to share their experiences and knowledge on the topic, and experts such as lawyers Ms. Mihaylova and Mr. Kashamov introduced the international frameworks that protects against hate speech, as well as shared and made comparison with their national legislation.

The training ended with practical exercises of writing complaints and signal against hate speech, as well as understanding the standards of various social networks for countering hate speech online.

As next step, the peer educators and mentors of the PECAO project will start with their peer education and monitoring activities, which are going to last from October 2020 until September 2021. ERGO Network and its partners will keep you updated on the implementation.

For more information, please follow our Facebook page.

Romaversitas response to the Covid-19 pandemic

Romaversitas response to the Covid-19 pandemic

On March 13, 2020, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced through Facebook that as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, just a few short weeks before the term-end exams and high school graduation tests, schools and dormitories were to be closed nationwide and education was to be completely transferred to the online space. The measures forced a fair share of our students to move back to their childhood homes, where they were cut off from the infrastructures of their educational institutions and they had to prepare for the approaching exams in overcrowded houses, without personal space, quality IT equipment or broadband internet.

The pandemic made an already bad situation worse for the Roma in Hungary. According to data released by the Roma Education Fund, a significant share of Romani high school students and their families who reside in rural areas or settlements had no access to internet or to IT equipment which data is especially appalling from the perspective that the transfer of education to the online space and dormitory closures were carried out instantly and without any plans to ensure the participation of students belonging to marginalized communities in educational activities.

In this context, we contacted all of our students and we saw that in many cases, if we can’t provide them with additional scholarships, they wouldn’t be able to finish their school years or university terms. We set the goal of not allowing the effects of the crisis to take a toll on our students’ ability to finish the academic year. As providing additional scholarships exceeded the financial possibilities of our organization, we launched a crowdfunding campaign titled “Finish Line – Crisis Fund for Romani Students” to collect the necessary funds for providing additional scholarships to students in need.

The short-term impact of the activity was that we could provide cca. 150 EUR monthly scholarships for 12 students in April, 12 students in May, 14 students in June and 6 students in July. In personal interviews following the campaign, we saw that many of the recipients spent this amount directly related to the mitigation of the impact of the crisis on their ability to finish the academic year, like purchasing a good internet connection to the place where they were forced to move because of the closure of the dormitories.

As dormitories closed in mid-March, many of our students had to move back to overcrowded family homes. “When I need some space to attend online classes, I sit outside of our home in my family’s car,” wrote one of our students when sending this photo. We love this picture because it exemplifies the resilience of our student body.

A long-term impact on our students and Romaversitas was that our crowdfunding campaign received national attention via the press, and by reaching new donors, our coalition to carry out our mission broadened. During our crowdfunding campaign we collected cca. 8K EUR which is more than four times the average of the previous 3 crowdfunding campaigns of the organization. We also reached 70 percent more donors than in previous campaigns and the value of average donations more than doubled.

We managed to detach the messaging of the campaign from the usual socio-narrative which mostly dominates Romani issues in the media. Our campaign was centered around education and positive achievements which resonated well with our audience.

As soon as the pandemic situation got better in June, we organized an open-air event to close the academic year. The event was attended by several students, our staff, our founder and some key donors. It was encouraging to experience how much our community evolved during the pandemic.