Last week we attended the EU Roma Week in Brussels (9-12 April). A number of excellent events took place, with participants from the European Commission and representatives of the Member States, voicing concerns about the situation of Roma in Europe. Under the patronage of some of the Members of the European Parliament, young Roma got the chance to express their positions and hopes for improvements.
If we listen to the concerns without further context, it is easy to think that there is no progress on Roma inclusion at all. The numbers of young Romani children without access to quality early years services, statistics about families without access to running water and basic sanitation, or percentage of Roma without formal employment contribute to a belief that there is no progress.
We moved ahead. A lot
There is an easy way to understand that, despite the negative images, there has been progress. We know about the Roma lacking medical insurance because the health mediators working in Roma communities reported it. We learn about the problems of Roma youth because we have young educated Roma who are able to speak up. Also, we identify the problems in education because Roma have aspirations that they want to achieve.
This does not mean that we can sit back and relax. We at REYN fully understand the issues Romani and Traveller children and their families are facing. One day in such conditions is too much and the statistics and reports produced by the civil society and international organizations should lead to more action. We are only a little worried that in all that pushing for more action we tend to forget that we are moving ahead, even if slowly.
Bad investment or bad message?
The biggest danger of constantly highlighting only the negatives is the message that no investment can help. There are many issues regarding the distribution of resources and we are ready to discuss the proportion of investment and impact achieved in the communities. But let’s think for a moment: what will governments, European institutions and private foundations hear if we bluntly say that there is no progress?
We must be careful about our messaging because of the image of Roma we create. In communications nowadays, Romani ethnicity is associated with the need for help. Roma and Travellers are painted with a hand reached out for assistance. And yes, this quite well describes the situation of Roma and Travellers to day. Let’s just make sure that we do not forget about those with their hand out and ready to help.
Watch this video to learn more about the EU Roma Week in the European Parliament.