Dream to Grow: is European Labour Market a Place for All?

How to make Europe’s labour markets a place for all – this was the topic for discussion during the online event organized by the Romani Early Years Network (REYN) and ERGO Network on 7 October 2020. The networks hosted a virtual human library, where Roma professionals from Italy, Scotland, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Belgium and Romania told their stories and shared their experiences on how to dream big and achieve goals, regardless the circumstances.

“We were travelling around Scotland, living on camps and obviously it caused a lot of barriers for me trying to get an education because there is a lot of racism towards Roma and Traveller people,” says Davie from Scotland. “When I got into school, one teacher even said that it would be a waste of school resources because I was a gypsy and I would not do with education anything anyway.”

This institutionalized attitude that exists in many countries prevents Roma and Traveller people to get employed and to achieve their professional goals.

“Diversity is important, but it is far from being panacea for all the visible and invisible manifestations of systemic racism faced by Roma. To be able to achieve justice, anti-racism institutions, private companies, other entities and schools and our European society as a whole need to be ready to recognize, to understand and to address all the power imbalances, the history of injustice, the policies and laws, procedures, the norms and standards,” says Margareta Matache, director at the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights’ Roma Program and Harvard instructor.

Not all the time the needs of Roma communities are reflected in either national or EU policies and strategies and not all the time these needs are captured in essential documents.

“Then we are asking ourselves why we are failing if we gave Roma access to school, water, a place to live, electricity… But to be honest, we forget one thing. Perhaps, we really gave them all, but we never asked them if this is what they need, we never asked them to take part in creating their future, and we very often forget that what we think is right for them is not necessarily what they really need. By building a dialog and by involving them in all processes, we can move forward towards a more inclusive and responsive future!” reassures Aljosa Rudas, Program Officer and REYN International Coordinator at ISSA.

Regardless of the circumstances, people can succeed, and the stories of the Roma professionals told during the event were a good example of that.

“People succeeded despite of the system, and not thanks to the system. When we asked how they succeeded, they did not mention particular policies or diversity measures. They mentioned that it was an institution, an organization or an individualthat came and gave them a little tiny nudge” concluds Stanislav Daniel, co-chair of ERGO Network.

Stay tuned and follow REYN #DreamtoGrow and ERGO #APlace4All campaigns on the social media.

Get inspired by the video stories of our human books and the event’s main speakers here.

Online event: Human Library

Online event: Dream to grow: How to make Europe’s Labor markets a place for all

Co-hosted by: Romani Early Years Network (REYN) and ERGO Network

When: 7 October 2020, 14:00 – 16:00

The program of the event and more information can be found here. Register to join the event here.

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

TOY for Inclusion wins LLLAwards 2018 for best learning environment

- News

We are delighted to announce that our project TOY for Inclusion will receive the Lifelong Learning Awards 2018 next Monday, December 3rd!  The prize is awarded by the Lifelong Learning Platform to initiatives that set up creative and inclusive practices.

This year’s edition will focus on the LLLPlatform’s theme of the year, “Lifelong Learning Culture: A partnership for rethinking education”.

The jury has picked 3 winners, one for each of the three categories. TOY for Inclusion has received the highest score in the category ‘Learning Environments’. The prize was assigned by an exceptional jury.

We share the pride and the joy with our international partners the International Step-by-Step Association (ISSA) and the International Child Development Initiatives (ICDI); and with seven members of REYN: Educational Research Institute – ERI (Slovenia), Open Academy Step by Step – OASS (Croatia), Centre for Education Initiatives – CEI (Latvia), Wide Open School – WOS (Slovakia), Centre for Innovation in the Early Years – VBJK (Belgium), Associazione 21 Luglio (Italy) and Partners Hungary Foundation.

For more, follow the hashtag #toy4inclusion or the REYN Twitter and Facebook.

Don’t forget to celebrate the heroes. Commemorate 2 August

- Blog | Stanislav Daniel

Should we or should we not teach young children about the historical persecution of Roma? If yes, the “Final Solution” imposed on Roma by Nazi Germany on 2 August 1944 should be remembered in schools.

For several years now, young Europeans have been meeting in Poland to remember the persecution of their ancestors under the Nazi Germany. On 2 August 1944, about 3000 Roma were exterminated all together in the concentration camp of Auschwitz, Poland. The initiative Dikh he na bister – Look and don’t forget, driven by young Roma, raises awareness and advocates for the official recognition of 2 August as the Roma Holocaust Memorial Day: to “pay homage to the victims, heroes, survivors and strengthen the identity based on the deep knowledge of the past”. Read the full story on their website

The aim of the Roma Holocaust Commemoration is not to commiserate Roma. Instead, it’s an opportunity to celebrate the heroes, to listen to the survivors, to remember the victims and to make sure that history will not repeat itself.

There is a universal rule for when is a good time to start talking to children about difficult topics: it is when they ask! Let’s take Antigypsyism – a specific form of racism towards Roma. It is still widespread in our daily lives. Sadly, there is a high chance that young Romani children will experience hatred early in their lives. Many Romani parents ignore this and teach their children to ignore racism. But that will only work until the next time they face racism again.

Analyzing historical facts can make children, adults and the whole society stronger. Knowledge can help us to recognize the symptoms of fascist tendencies in politics. However, the facts of 2 August have often been left out of school curricula.  By including this topic in history textbooks society would nurture the knowledge of children and young people.

Two years ago, we wrote about the need for more Romani heroes in connection to Jud Nirenberg’s book, “Johann Trollmann and Romani Resistance to the Nazis”. There are two aspects of the book worth highlighting again: firstly, it provides us with a story that Romani children can connect to.  The young Rukeli made it from poor living conditions to being the German light-weight boxing champion. However, a few days after the victory, he was stripped of his title because of his Roma origin. Secondly, the book also shows the persecution of Roma while describing the bravery of ordinary people who fought against the Nazi.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” said once the writer and philosopher George Santayana. Build your knowledge, spread the word and help preventing the history from repeating: commemorate 2 August.

Play Hubs for Roma integration launched in seven countries

- News

TOY for Inclusion is delighted to announce that new Play Hubs for children, families and adults have opened this month in Belgium, Croatia, Italy, Latvia, Slovenia and Slovakia. Our Play Hubs are safe education and care spaces where relationships between Roma and non-Roma young children and their families are built.

CITY of Ghent, Belgium

In Ghent toy libraries have been existing for 20 years. Our local partner the Centre for Innovation in the Early Years (VBJK) has worked to integrate the existing work on inclusion.

The TOY for Inclusion Play Hub has decided to meet Roma people where they gather: mostly in Neighborhood Centers and spaces managed by the civil society. Our activities started in two of Ghent’s neighborhoods, Ledeberg and Brugsepoort, where there is a big concentration of Roma-Slovak families who are not always reached by the local education services.

There, we are organizing now music lessons, free time activities for children and parenting support sessions. We usually bring toys from the nearby toy libraries in order to let children play and to sensitize families towards the toy libraries themselves.

Activities are usually planned every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. After spending some time in building up connections and trust, now families are increasingly attending.

TOY for Inclusion is thankful to the REYN National Coordinator in Belgium Centre for Innovation in the Early Years (VBJK) for the creation of the Play Hub activities. For more information you can contact Nima Sharmahd.

Town of Sisak, Croatia

A new Play Hub has been launched in the primary school of Braća Bobetko in the town of Sisak on January 24, 2018. An estimated 2.165 Roma people out of a total population of 61.497 live in Sisak. Many children of the Roma settlements in the surroundings attend the school of Braća Bobetko.

The Play Hub was officially opened by the mayor Kristina Baniček and by Klara Perković, mayor of the children’s city council. The opening ceremony was highly attended by the local community: children, parents, grandparents and volunteers.

The Play Hub opens, next to the local Toy Library, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5 PM to 7 PM.

The creation of the Play Hub was made possible thanks to the REYN National Coordinator in Croatia Korak Po Korak. For more information you can contact Sanja Brajković.

Rome suburb and Mazara del Vallo, Italy

Two Play Hubs have opened their doors on January 20, 2018 in Italy. One is located in Tor Bella Monaca (a suburb of Rome), the other one is in Mazara del Vallo – in the province of Trapani, Sicily.

About 160 people attended the launch including experts, volunteers and representatives of the municipalities. The two opening ceremonies also saw the joyful and enthusiastic participation of many families with Romani and Italian background.

Adults and children learned about the activities that will be offered by the Play Hubs in the near future. Also, dozens of children tested the new toys available in the libraries.

In Mazara del Vallo, the Play Hub called Casa di Toy, is open every Monday and Wednesday from 4 PM to 7 PM and every first Saturday of the month from 10 AM to 1 PM.

In Rome, the official opening was attended by Roberto Romanella, the President of the Sub-municipality, Francesca Filipponi, the Municipal Councilor of Social Policies, Health and Equal Opportunities and Alessandro Marco Gisonda, the Municipal Councilor of Education, Sport, Culture and Youth Policies.

The Play Hub in Tor Bella Monaca is open every Saturday from 10 AM to 1 PM and from 4 PM to 7 PM and every last Sunday of the month from 10 AM to 1 PM.

The opening of this toy library was made possible thanks to Associazione 21 Luglio, REYN National Coordinator in Italy. For more information you can contact Francesca Petrucci.

City of Jelgava, Latvia

The TOY for Inclusion Play Hub “Ringla” was officially opened in Jelgava on January 30, 2018. Children and their parents as well as representatives of local municipality and Ministry of Culture participated to the opening event. All guests were introduced to the library by Ringla: a Roma girl from a children’s book – a well-known character in Latvia. Ringla also invited all participants to create beautiful paintings and to leave colorful hand prints as a sign they had attended the opening.

Ringla will be waiting for children and their family members twice a week and will involve them in different activities. The first activity will be “Ringla’s drawing workshop”, where she and her friends will draw a calendar together, which later will be filled in with exciting activities and events.

We are thankful to the REYN National Coordinator in Latvia Center for Education Initiatives (CEI). For more information you can contact Kristīne Liepiņa


Town of Murska Sobota, Slovenia

In Slovenia, the new Play Hub is located in a public library in Murska Sobota, a town with a large Roma community. The library has a department for children and is highly attended by the families living in the surroundings.

The opening ceremony on January 13, 2018, was attended by about 100 people who included families, experts and local volunteers. Two groups of children, one from a kindergarten and one from a primary school ‘spiced up’ the opening with a small show. Families and children were then shown the new Play Hub and were informed about its services; they were also invited to test and borrow the new toys available.

The launch was well covered by the local media in newspapers and by a Romani show on television.  

The Play Hub is open every Saturday from 10 to 12 AM. In addition, TOY for Inclusion will organize workshops for families twice a month in collaboration with local associations.

The creation of the Play Hub was made possible thanks to the REYN National Coordinator in Slovenia Korak Za Korakom. For more information you can contact Mateja Mlinar.

Town of Spišský Hrhov, Slovakia

Over 130 adults and children have visited the Play Hub in Spišský Hrhov on a regular basis, since the opening on December 8, 2017.

This new toy library is equipped with brand new furniture, lots of books, modern toys and games. The activities that are organized have become popular among people both from the Roma and from non-Roma community in the village.

Volunteers and teachers offer children more than just a place to play: children come together to draw, play sports, read and to attend different type of workshops.

While care services are offered to children, their parents can benefit from parental support at the TOY for Inclusion Play Hub as well.

On January 26, 2018, a school psychologist met parents of pre-school children to promote the benefits of attending day care at school. In particular, the psychologist shared data on how spending more time at day care in school can improve education results.

The opening of this toy library was made possible thanks to Skola Dokoran, REYN National Coordinator in Slovakia. For more information you can contact Miroslav Sklenka. Read more about this Play Hub here.

Nagydobos, Hungary

Nagydobos is a village of 2200 inhabitants; an estimated 15% of them are Roma. Alarmingly though, the local kindergarten has 180 children of which 89% Roma. This creates risks of segregation.

For this reason the Play Hub was located on the main street of the village, to attract both Roma and non-Roma. The mediators are highly trusted and attract members of both communities. The Play Hub is visited by teachers, parents and children.

“It is wonderful here, there is a calm atmosphere. This is a play land and it’s my dream”, said a 4 years old Roma child.

Parents have access to information and support about child rearing, health and early childhood development. Like the Play Hub of Nagydobos on Facebook!

The opening hours are Wednesday and Saturday 14:00 to 18:00 hours.

Find out more about how TOY for Inclusion’s Play Hubs can contribute to Roma integration on

REYN Italy and REYN Croatia event: Comparing Educational Practices

- News

REYN Italy and REYN Croatia start the autumn season with a joint event called “The Romani child between school and family: comparing educational experiences in Italy and Croatia.”

The event will take place in Rome (Italy) on November 17-19, 2017, focusing on the exchange of innovative educational practices in the two countries.

Associazione 21 Luglio, REYN Italy‘s coordinator, will present some experiences of Italy’s education system. At the same event Sanja Brajković, Psychologist, Open Academy Step by Step Croatia and REYN Croatia, will share innovative practices of her country of origin.

Entrance is free of charge, seating is limited and available on a first come first serve basis.

Find out more in Italian here.