8 April – REYN gives visibility to young Roma children affected by the war in Ukraine

This day last year, when we marked the 50th International Roma Day, we enthusiastically looked toward a better Europe for all, emphasizing the fundamental need for equality, inclusion, and participation to fight antigypsyism — we all hoped this year would be different.

But, one year later, the persistent discrimination and social inequalities that Roma in Ukraine face are only exacerbated by war. Roma are encountering additional hardships when seeking humanitarian assistance to meet their most basic needs, even while trying to cross borders to safety.

Today, we want to tell you the stories of young Roma children and their families experiencing additional adversity due to the war and share one organization’s work to bring hope on this 51st International Roma Day.

Hear me – See me – Stand with me tells the story of the REYN Ukraine‘s remarkable work, acknowledging their tireless efforts to create safe and welcoming spaces for Roma families fleeing war zones. A Station of Hope serves as a safe haven; it provides a welcoming environment where children can express themselves, be heard, play, and interact with peers. At the same time, parents can engage with professionals, learn, and support one another. Despite the harsh environment of war, a Station of Hope succeeds in building community and creating a sense of normalcy for children and their families.

Watch the video here. How will you contribute to making 2022 different for young Roma children and their families? Will you hear Roma, see Roma, stand with Roma? Take to Twitter with the hashtag #standwithRoma to join the conversation.

Khetaun sam zoraleder. Opre Roma! / Together, we grow stronger. Rise up Roma! 

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.

Roma children’s education in Italy: from ‘gypsy pedagogy’ to innovative educational practices

- News

Luca Bravi, Historian, University of Florence

The ‘gypsy pedagogy’, which in the last half century has hindered all pedagogic actions directed at Romani children in Italy, marks a sad era that we must overcome. This is the conclusion reached by “The Roma child: from gypsy pedagogy to innovative educational practices” conference, held in Sesto Fiorentino, Italy, on May 19-20. The event was held by REYN Italy and in collaboration with other associations, and saw the attendance of about 60 participants.

Luca Bravi, Historian at the University of Florence, presented an important report. He highlighted the red thread linking the extermination of Roma families in Auschwitz and the “re-educative” approach conceived by some Italian pedagogues in the 1960s, which was then applied by institutional bodies and private social organizations in the 1980s. The “nomadic camps” and the “separated classes” represented discriminatory practices that have always considered the Roma child as a different child: coming from a distant culture and with an IQ below the norm.

“We cannot build new inclusion policies without having the deep knowledge and awareness of the history of “re-education” towards Roma people in Italy,” Mr. Bravi concluded.

Separated pedagogical approaches are still in use in different parts of Italy. Often they are difficult to recognize and criticize because they are disguised in practices that retain the label or the idea of ​​inclusion, but they always end up structuring around the theme of ghettoization.

It is no coincidence that still today in the guidelines of the Minister of Education, Research and the University, the Roma child is presented as “little inclined to pay attention to the anonymous and abstract speech addressed by the teacher to the entire class.”  For this reason, the Ministry recommends that “working with Roma, Sinti and Traveler students and families, requires a great deal of flexibility and willingness to set specific and personalized learning paths.”

All this has been proven wrong by the twelve stories of Roma children presented during the conference, which from North to South and from East to West of Italy, demonstrate the importance of a change of approach by operating a profound discontinuity with the past.

Today, those Roma boys and girls who attend Italian universities are no longer an exception. This has been possible because innovative approaches and non-segregating policies have prevailed.

The Formula? Putting the child at the center and working with parents; fostering an integrated approach targeting the whole class and not the children from Roma origins exclusively; supporting the family with parenting guidance and housing. The prospects opened in Sesto Fiorentino have been many and exciting. Once again, most likely, the problem is not represented by the 28,000 Roma living in the outskirts of the Italian metropolis (only 0.05% of the majority population) but by a culture, ours, heavily impregnated with prejudices and fears. That’s what we have to start addressing again.

Written by Carlo Stasolla,  president of Associazione 21 Luglio, REYN member in Italy.

Read more about the event on REYN Italy’s blog here.

Remembering the Roma Holocaust in the Netherlands

- News

When discussing persecution of Roma during the World War II, references from the Netherlands are rarely considered. But the history of Roma Holocaust, or Porrajmos, is well known in this region. Unfortunately, not due to school curriculum but thanks to efforts Roma and pro-Roma activists, the history of Roma is remembered. Special thanks must go to Romani activist Michelle ‘Mila’ van Burik from Utrecht, the Netherlands.

On Holocaust Memorial Day, 27 January, Mila co-organized an event to commemorate the atrocities Roma faced during the World War II. When asked why this is important, she responds without hesitation: “It is part of our history, we need to know the true story. The families that perished cannot be forgotten” she says and adds that there is also the risk of history repeating itself; “Creating awareness is important whenever and wherever possible.” And that is also why they want to organize a Holocaust memorial ceremony every year.

It is the real stories, not so much the encyclopaedic knowledge, which attracts attention of young Roma people to their history. Romani Holocaust victims often lacked adequate official recognition. Even worse is the situation of Roma who came to the Netherlands from other countries. And Romani activists keep fighting for official recognition. “We were told we cannot be included in the commemoration of Dodenherdenking (Remembrance of the Dead, 4 May), because we were not Dutch Roma and Sinti. That was a clear signal that we have to organize our own commemoration ceremony,” Mila says bitterly.

Mila and her team organized the Roma Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony on 27 January and invited teachers and students to attend. Storytelling is the key aspect of commemoration. Young children are taught to respect each other and not judge other children by their descent, ethnic or other background. The message of Mila is clear: “Through stories children can learn to respect each other’s culture.”

In the current atmosphere of growing political populism, the importance and need for leadership is growing. “Politicians need to take a clear stance against discrimination and racism instead of creating chaos in society by looking for scapegoats and targeting whole ethnic groups,” Mila suggests the right approach. But then again, it is crucial that we do not rely on top politicians, but stay active and engaged ourselves: “Roma have to fight anti-gypsism and fight for their freedom. Each of us has means to fight, teaching young children to live together can be one of them.”

The Most Painful Tattoo #ElTatuajeQueMásDuele

- Blog | Noeleen OHara

Fundación Secretariado Gitano (FSG) fighting discrimination and promoting equal opportunities and dignity of Roma people.


As part of this campaign, today, 16 November 2017, the International Day for Tolerance, Amanda, a young Roma woman is getting a tattoo of prejudice in protest at the everyday social rejection of the Roma population. Over the last days, a call has been made to ask people help stop the tattoo and turn it into something positive by using the hashtag #ElTatuajeQueMásDuele (The Most Painful Tattoo).

The campaign aims to highlight the profound, entrenched social rejection of the Roma community, the everyday discrimination that is often obscured but which has highly negative repercussions on people’s lives and is a barrier to a better society for all. The unfair and discriminatory treatment received by many Roma people manifests itself in multiple ways: problems in renting housing, finding employment, getting a job interview, access to leisure establishments, cases of segregation in schools or unjustified police stops. These issues undermine the right to non-discrimination of a great many people and hinder the exercise of other essential rights for a dignified life.

“The Most Painful Tattoo” campaign shines a light on this social rejection using the symbol of the tattoo. The stereotypes and prejudices underlying discrimination are a painful mark for their victims. The campaign aims to reveal this mark and its repercussions through painful and permanent means: the tattoo. Different materials have been published as part of the campaign, including a video in which Amanda explains her reasons behind the tattoo; a video of Jorge, the tattoo artist who is helping the cause by participating in this initiative; and a video with testimonies of several Roma sharing their own experience.

The campaign aims to gather as much support as possible. Fundación Secretariado Gitano is calling out to the Internet to use the hashtag #ElTatuajeQueMásDuele (The Most Painful Tattoo) on social media today. This is how we will achieve our aim and shine a light on a problem that affects a great many Roma people in Spain and overall Europe.

Discrimination still the number one issue affecting young Roma and Traveller children

- News

Experts and advocates for child’s rights, early childhood development, and Roma inclusion met in Leiden on October 27 to support the growth of REYN-Romani Early Years Network. Building on the network’s experience in providing professional development opportunities to practitioners working with Romani and Traveller children and their families, REYN opened its strategy design for participation to partners outside of the network. In the discussions about the challenges Roma and Travellers are facing in early inclusion, discrimination was top of the agenda.

Experience at the REYN consultation meeting covered wide range of themes as well as geographic areas. Representatives of established, starting and potentially developing National Romani Early Years Networks engaged in active discussion with representatives of other networks (European Roma Grassroots Organizations Network, Eurochild, National Association of Teachers or Travellers and Other Professionals, Phiren Amenca), foundations (Open Society Foundations, Roma Education Fund, Trust for Social Achievement) and partner organizations (Center for Education and Human Rights) on the possible avenues REYN should embark upon in the next three years in order to bring significant and sustainable changes for Romani and Traveller young children.

Discussion about the main issues faced by Romani and Traveller children served as a good starting point. By focusing on early childhood development in the broadest sense, it was very useful to hear perspectives regarding housing, health, regional development or Roma empowerment impacting directly and indirectly on children’s lives. And in fact, evictions, poor health, bad living environment, like the shortfall in resources for people to change their own family situation, have very negative and sometimes long lasting effects on child’s development. However, discrimination remained the word of the day, as many believed that it is a root cause of all problems.

Discrimination has a very negative impact on lives of Romani and Traveller families. It may be a barrier in education and employment, it may prevent families from accessing adequate housing and it may be the cause of poverty. It may present a barrier to access services or determine the quality of services provided to the discriminated groups. As opposed to being a reason for different treatment, discrimination can also lead to non-action. More specifically, it can be the reason why localities or regions populated by Roma and Travellers are left excluded from the focus of decision-makers and policies.

More often than not, different treatment has practical dimensions. But in addition to this, there is also the symbolic layer – prejudice and stereotypes. They may not necessarily end in different treatment or prevent Roma and Travellers from accessing services, but they still have negative impact on families. Prejudice, stereotypes, lack of understanding between communities, missing respect for diversity and absence of dignity may easily grow into active exclusion of Roma and Travellers.

It is crucial that we stand together against all barriers in the development of young children, including Romani and Travellers. At the consultation meeting on REYN Strategy we exchanged ideas on how to address some of these issues and how can we prepare ourselves for the challenges on the horizon. While we continue developing the REYN strategy we are open to new partnerships and suggestions for cooperation. Share your ideas with us and #Join_REYN.  We will keep you informed.