World Social Forum 2021

Communities Discriminated on Work and Descent (CDWD) and the pandemic, its impact and mitigation measures


On 26 January, ERGO Network was part of the seminar ‘Communities Discriminated on Work and Descent (CDWD) and the Pandemic, its impact and Mitigation Measures’ under the banner of the World Social Forum 2021.

This year, before the background of an unparalleled pandemic crisis, the seminar centered on the impact of Covid 19 on communities discriminated based on work and descent.

The main concerns of this era on CDWD are the gender dimension and access to justice, escalating with Covid 19 exclusion and lack of access to education. Further, the CDWD are blamed wrongfully for spreading of COVID19,  facing atrocities and violence from other communities. 6 regional and national leaders of CDWD from Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America shared their communities’ experiences during this crisis and together determined the impact of livelihood, access to services, and developmental justice during the COVID 19 mitigation measures.

The seminar came up with clear recommendations for social movements, addressed to state authorities across the regions. As these communities( CDWD) are one of the most excluded and segregated groups globally, it is crucial that they are included in the recovery plans of the pandemic.

Gabriela Hrabanova, Director of ERGO presented the impact of Covid 19 on Roma and Traveller’s communities, mentioning that antigypsyism spread considerably during the pandemic. She spoke about the organization’s focus on advocacy towards EU institutions to fight antigypsyism and to create equality for Roma communities.

She stated:

“We want to set a better example for governments by upholding the rule of law and human rights, to fight antigypsyism and to cover Roma in mainstream causes and recovery plans by EU  institutions”.

The World Social Forum is a visible manifestation of global civil society, that seeks international solidarity. It consists of members of the global movement for social and economic justice, meeting annually to endeavor alternative future through promoting counter-hegemonic globalization.

ERGO’s Annual Members Meeting 2020

ERGO’s online Annual Members Meeting 2020

This year ERGO Network’s Annual Members Neeting took place under unique circumstances, forcing us to move online and to create as much exchange and networking on an online platform.

From 2-4 December 2020, ERGO Network met on Zoom with its members to analyze the work that has been done, reflect on this year’s special situation and how it impacted our work with Roma communities, and to deliberate about ERGO Network engagement in the upcoming years.

One afternoon was dedicated to building membership capacity, focusing this year on making the best use of online working environments and wellbeing of staff during the pandemic.

The meeting also provided the basis for a new 10-year strategic plan, while also introducing final steps for legally moving ERGO Network to Belgium.

The first day started with a welcome from Director Gabriela Hrabanova,  board co-chair Daniel Stanislav and vice-chair Adriatik Hasantari. The board praised the flexibility, collectiveness and connectedness of the members during such an uncertain and though year.

During this day, participants attended breakout rooms designed to provide with updates and project presentations. Each of the four rooms, moderated by staff and members of ERGO Network, tackled ERGO’s core working areas of 2020, such as  Roma in post-2020 European Frameworks, a Covid-19 study, our work on employment and the new projects “New Solutions to Old Problems” (NSOP) and “Peer education to counter antigypsyist hate speech online” (PECAO).

The second day invited participants to two working groups on employment and data collection. Amana Ferro and Carmen Tănasie from the ERGO Network Secretariat in Brussels provided participants with updates regarding the state of play of current and upcoming employment work, covering the main EU policy frameworks and the specific actions under the Youth Guarantee and ERGO Network’s Employment Campaign.

Isabela Mihalache, Senior Policy Officer, helped the participants to understand better the role of data collection in the delivery of our advocacy work.

The third day  started with sharing about the past and looking at the present in order to set the ground for planning our future. The statutes of a new legal organization was discussed and agreement was reached to move the organization officially to Belgium.

Members then had an open space to share where they see ERGO now and where they want to see it in the future, laying the ground for the start of a 10 year strategy.


Dream to Grow

Dream to grow: How to make Europe’s labor markets a place for all

Co-hosted by: European Roma Grassroots Organizations Network (ERGO) and the Romani Early Years Network (REYN), an initiative of ISSA – the International Step by Step Association

October 7th, 14:00 – 16:00 CET

  • Find the agenda and catalogue of human books here.
  • Sign up here to receive access to the online event.

Although almost ten years have passed since the adoption of the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies, Roma remain widely exposed to antigypsyism, poverty and social exclusion without opportunities to access proper education, employment, or training. They keep facing unequal treatment and inequalities in health, education, employment, and living conditions, a gap which has continued to widen following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

63% of Roma aged 16-24 are not employed, in education or training (55% of young Roma men and 72% of young Roma women) and 40% of Roma report feeling discriminated at work! Even if they manage to secure employment, they often continue to face lower wages, precarious and atypical contracts, a lack of career options, and direct discrimination and harassment of employers and colleagues.

Eliminating such inequalities and promoting positive models of inclusion and diversity starting from the very beginning of life must be a priority not only for EU and national policy makers, but also for every person in Europe. Diversity does not only benefit minorities, but also impacts greatly on the quality of services offered and on society.

Acknowledging that it is fundamental to rewrite the current narrative about Roma and restore their dignity and pride, this event aspires to share inspiring stories highlighting Roma professionals’ different pathways to become who they are today and showing the difference that enabling, inclusive and diverse educational and working environments can make for society.

Why should you join this event:

  • Get inspired by real-life stories of Roma professionals who have succeeded to break the wall of prejudices and stereotypes and realized their dreams by participating in the online Human Library.
  • Learn about the advocacy efforts civil society organizations are doing to ensure equity, inclusion and diversity in education and at work.
  • Reflect together about the multilayered challenges and unequal treatment young Roma are facing in Europe and the long-term consequences of political inaction.
  • Benefit from lessons learned in implementing inclusive policies and practices and discover how to become part of the solution.

This event receives funding from the European Union. The information contained reflects only the author’s view; and the Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

This event is co-funded by the Open Society Foundations Early Childhood Program. The program has been providing continous support to the Romani Early Years Network initiative since its start.

Intersecting Realities

On 25 February 2020, ERGO Network together with Balkan LGBTQIA vzw organized an inspiring and mind-opening event in Mundo B, Brussels: the photo exhibition and conference ‘Intersecting Realities: Life stories of Balkan LGBTQIA+ Roma in Brussels’.

During the event, the book ‘My Story’ was launched, which features eight life stories about the experiences of LGBTQIA+ migrants from the Balkan countries, many of them Roma. The stories and portraits of the books were displayed in an exhibition, and some of the individuals portrayed in the book shared their powerful stories of racism, discrimination, but also love and support with the audience. The event was opened by ERGO Network Director Jamen Gabriela Hrabanova and Danny Jacqmot, Attaché of Equal.Brussels, which kindly funded the book project and the launch event.

The personal testimonies of Djenk Ejupi (North Macedonia) and Gerard Epure (Romania) were followed by a moderated debate on discrimination at the intersection of origin, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation.

Lilly Dragoeva from the NGO Bilitis Bulgaria, Deszo Mate from Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary, Biser Alekov of Balkan LGBTQIA, Brussels, Isabela Mihalache of ERGO Network, Brussels and Szabolcs Schmidt of the European Commission, Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers, Unit on Non-Discrimination and Roma Coordination explained the concept of intersectionality, gave examples from different EU Member States, and discussed the European Commission’s efforts to tackle intersectional discrimination.

The event was a unique opportunity to bring the focus on a target group that has always remained in the shadow of the majority, considering their voice has not been heard so far.

If you are interested in obtaining a copy of the book, please Biser Alekov at

RIISE Coordination Meeting

RIISE Coordination Meeting

Several ERGO Network members and also new partners met in February for our annual ‘Roma Included in Social Europe’ (RIISE) coordination meeting.

ERGO Network is implementing a four-year work programme funded by the EaSI Programme of the European Commission’s DG Employment in order to support the social inclusion and poverty reduction of Roma in EU member states and provide a bridge between the grassroots and the EU level concerning Roma-related policies and funding programmes.

An important part of the work programme is implemented on national level in the ‘Big 5’, the EU member states with the highest Roma population. With the financial support of the European Commission through the RIISE work programme, ERGO Network members coordinate national Roma civil society coalitions, support Roma activists to engage in and benefit from Community-Led Local Development (CLLD), conduct research and inform Roma activists about relevant EU developments.

During the coordination meeting held in Brussels, representatives of the ERGO Network members Integro Association (Bulgaria), Nevo Parudimos (Romania), Slovo 21 (Czech Republic), Autonomia Foundation and Pro Cseherat (Hungary) as well as our partners RomanoNet (Czech Republic) and Idetartozunk (Hungary) came together for two days to discuss their work.

Among other things they shared updates on the development of national Roma Inclusion Strategies and Operational Programs and strategized together how best to influence them. They learned more about how to engage in the EU’s European Semester process and discussed common work on Social Economy. The partners will work together closely during the year and meet again in November.