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  Biseralekov@gmail.com

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.

Invitation: Intersecting Realities

Intersecting Realities

Life Stories of Balkan LGBTQIA+ Roma in Brussels

25 February 2020, 9am-2pm, Mundo B, Rue d’Edimbourg 26, Conference Room

Join us and make your voice heard! Register here and find the agenda here.

Balkan LBGTQIA VZW brings together representatives of LGBTQIA+ communities from the Balkan countries, based in Brussels. The role of the organisation is to fight any form of discrimination, addressing particularly the issues of gender identity and sexual orientation, including through providing direct support to migrants, such as legal and administrative. The aim is to break down the barriers often faced by members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and also the boundaries between different Balkan communities themselves. Most volunteers belong to ethnic, religious and other groups, so the organisation also highlights the problems of intersectional discrimination and of belonging to different social groups at the same time: LGBTQIA+, Roma, Muslims, sex workers, refugees etc.

The European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network aims, through the work of its 30 member organisations all over Europe, to convince national and European policy makers that positive change for Roma is possible when antigypsyism is recognized and tackled as the root cause for inequality, and when Roma can take part in civic life as equal stakeholders. Founded on the philosophy of active citizenship, shared responsibility and grassroots empowerment, ERGO Network advocates for better policies and policy implementation on national and European level, rooted in evidence-based research. The organisations creates narratives in which Roma people are equally respected. We aim to show the rich diversity among Roma, challenging stereotypical views.

The two organisations come together in this event to shine a light on the experiences of LGBTQIA persons from the Balkans, most of Roma ethnicity, who are confronted with discrimination based on their gender, sexual orientation, religion and ethnic background in their life.

The event will serve as the launch of the book My Story, which features eight life stories about the experiences of LGBTQIA migrants from the Balkan countries, many of them Roma. It also intends to create a space for debate about intersectionality and multiple discrimination in a Brussels context, with an aim to contribute to policy making based on a rights-based approach and on equal opportunities, by bringing 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.

Roma access to mainstream education

ERGO NETWORK ANNUAL PUBLIC EVENT: Roma Access to Mainstream Education

This past 19 November, ERGO Network organised its annual public event, dedicated this year to debating how to ensure that Roma pupils and students can access mainstream education on equal footing and how to make education systems and establishments more inclusive, by combating segregation and discrimination in education settings. The event was co-organised with the generous support and participation of Hon. Romeo Franz MEP (Greens/EFA, Germany) and Hon. Peter Pollák MEP (EPP, Slovakia), and hosted at the premises of the Representation of the State of Baden-Württemberg to the European Union.

The event was very well attended with over 80 participants, and it brought together ERGO members from the grassroots level in 14 European countries, European civil society organisations and other Brussels-level stakeholders, as well as EU policy-makers from across the institutional spectrum, including the European Parliament, the European Commission, the Council of Europe, and the Government of Croatia, who will hold the upcoming Presidency of the Council of the EU.

Education is an increasingly important topic in the European public and political discourse, as an explicit objective of the Europe 2020 Strategy, the European Pillar of Social Rights, the Sustainable Development Goals, and the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies. The latest communication issued by the European Commission on the Evaluation of the EU Roma Integration Strategies 2019, and its previous evaluations, clearly underline the need to prioritise education and training in policy initiatives. Several countries (BG, HU, RO, SK) received a Country-Specific Recommendation in 2019 regarding improving Roma access to quality education, as well as better integrating them into mainstream education.

However, this positive rhetoric still lacks the desired implementation, and the Roma are still too often left behind when it comes to accessing educational opportunities on equal footing with majority groups, due to structural antigypsyism and its manifestations in education, such as segregation. Existing legal and policy tools, including targeted actions on Roma education, as well as infringement procedures, are not as effective as they could be in challenging ingrained patterns of Roma exclusion and discrimination. From early childhood education and care to second-chance schools and informal education and to training and upskilling for the labour market, every person deserves the right to improve their competences and pursue their personal development.

The event included thought-provoking interventions which fostered a debate aimed at identifying positive solutions and policy proposals based on best practices, in order feed into the post-2020 policy and funding European frameworks relevant for Roma inclusion.

See more:

For more information about this event, or about ERGO Network’s work on inclusive education, please contact Senior Policy Adviser Amana Ferro.


This conference was kindly supported by a grant from the Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany.


ERGO Network receives financial support from the European Union Programme for Employment and Social Innovation EaSI (2014-2020). For further information please consult: http://ec.europa.eu/social/easi