News

Roma health rates still alarm Europe, EU hearing reveals

- Blog | Stanislav Daniel

Imagine the European Union, the world’s most powerful economy, with all its technology and innovation in place. And imagine that there is a huge group of people, including young children, older adults or people with disabilities that do not have access to running water. And imagine they mostly belong to one ethnic group.

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) organized a public hearing on Roma health in Brussels last Monday. I attended with Maria Evgenieva, Clinical Leader of home visiting programs with the Trust for Social Achievement (TSA).

Maria reported on the situation in the country: “Infant mortality of Roma children compared to their non-Roma peers is still unacceptably high, despite the efforts done in the past years to reduce it”, she said.

Alarmingly, 30% of Roma in the EU live in households with no tap water, and only half of young Roma children attend early childhood education – this is often less than half the proportion of children of their age from the general population in the same country (EU Fundamental Rights Agency).

The hearing’s title was “Roma’s health situation and their access to healthcare: assessing women’s and children’s health”.

TSA coordinates the REYN National Network Bulgaria. Maria presented their program Nurse Family Partnership, which brings health services to Romani pregnant women, mothers and children. People who often don’t have access to services because they are unable to pay for medicines and health checkups or because they aren’t informed well enough.

The program is active in many countries. What is remarkable about it is that better health (improved prenatal health and pregnancy outcomes) also leads to improved school readiness, fewer cases of child abuse and neglect, and decreased likelihood of involvement in criminal activities up to 15 years of age.

Poverty and health in the EU

The lack of access to health services, or services determining health (e.g. access to water) indeed plays a significant role and poverty or low socio-economic status often go hand in hand with bad health. However, we need to keep in mind that higher income does not automatically lead to better health.

The Nurturing Care Framework, the guiding document for healthy development of young children, identifies several major risk factors for suboptimal development, and poverty is only one of them. The other ones are: malnutrition, insecurity, gender inequities, violence, environmental toxins, and caregivers’ mental health.

Just reading through the identified risk factors, we can easily see that there are multiple factors that contribute to health.  The key here is that health is a value on its own and is a concept much broader than just healthcare.

Shared values

We have witnessed multiple projects and initiatives aiming to improve the situation of Roma. Some were successful, some not. The key to long-term improvements is in the shared values behind the motivations.

We strive for a European Union where people would consider unacceptable that the life expectancy of members of one ethnic group could be ten years shorter. Without blaming anyone, we need to create a shared vision of equal access to health for all and of the right of every child to develop their full potential.

A great start and a long run for Romani and Traveller children! – International Roma Day

- News

On the occasion of the International Roma Day, the Romani Early Years Network (REYN) is launching its new strategy for 2017-2020, which will provide guidance for national activities in 10 countries – Belgium, Croatia, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Kosovo, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine.

Our strategy at a glance:

Five years ago we initiated REYN to promote professional development opportunities to practitioners working with young Romani and Traveller children. Around the same time, the European Union had freshly launched their 2020 agenda together with the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies.

Five years later a lot still needs to be done. In the EU, 80% of Roma are at risk of poverty and every third Romani person lives in a household without tap water. Segregation in Roma-only classes is striking in spite of the Member States’ commitment to reduce the number of courses with only Romani pupils.

Children who are given a great start can go far. We strongly believe that championing Romani and Traveller children’s inclusion through education and care will substantially address increasingly troubling issues like discrimination and stigma, as well as lack of access to the labor market, healthcare services and housing.

Today we renew our commitment to advocate for an increased access to quality education and care for young Romani and Traveller children. We believe as well that Europe needs to embrace diversity in the early childhood workforce. Our vision is a society with equal opportunities for all and where all children have access to quality education and care services from birth.

Download the REYN Strategy.

Only parents can beat segregation

- Blog | Stanislav Daniel

On the 6 month anniversary of the birth of his son, Stanislav Daniel Junior, REYN Co-ordinator, Stanislav Daniel reflects on what it means to be a parent standing up for your rights.

 

A year ago we published a blog post about the legacy of D.H. and Others v. the Czech Republic, the case that brought the segregation of Romani children on to the international agenda. On November 13, another anniversary will pass and another cohort of young Romani children in the Czech Republic, and elsewhere, will start their schooling in segregated schools, learning from their very young age that, because of their ethnicity, they will be put on a different track: a slower one.

Nine years have passed since the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights. Since then, Court rulings on segregation of Romani children have been issued against Greece, Croatia and Hungary.  A number of domestic courts, for instance in Slovakia, put segregation outside of the legislative framework. For years, civil society organizations and international institutions have been pushing for the implementation of these judgments. Recently, the European Commission joined in these efforts and started infringement proceedings against the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia for segregating Romani children.

Reading through the 2007 judgment, a lot of attention was given to the role of parents who consented and sometimes even requested their children to be enrolled into segregated school. Their reasons for doing so included avoiding abuse from non-Romani children, keeping the children from the neighborhood together, but sometimes – even if not explicitly – lack of interest in education. But should they to be blamed?  In the atmosphere of omnipresent discrimination preventing even qualified Roma from getting adequate jobs?  Frustration, not tradition, stood behind their decisions.

But as long as we admit that segregation is rational, the cycle of poverty and exclusion will not be broken. In most countries, parental consent is required to place a child into a particular school. Simply put – if parents do not agree with segregated school, they can object and schools or any other authority should not push them. Most of the issues, also those listed above, can be addressed if parents get organized and demand their rights, for their children and for themselves. As hard as it may be, we must stand up and reject discrimination in all its forms.

On the day that I write this blog, my son turned 6 months old. Today, I do not write as coordinator of Romani Early Years Network, but as a father who wants the best for his child. I refuse to believe that other Romani parents do not want the same and we need to demand it now. If we are afraid that our children will be discriminated at schools, we should address discrimination, not take our children to low-quality segregated schools.

As an activist, I have spent years in advocating for better living conditions for Roma, particularly young children and their families. But being a father brings a different perspective to my approach. Strategies and action plans may provide us with a framework for doing the right thing. Strategies and action plans may provide us with framework for inclusion. But we need to insist on inclusion in the first place. And we can only do it if we always ask for nothing less than the best for our children. Be it quality early childhood services, inclusive primary schools, high schools developing their talents or colleges increasing their chances to turn their talents into a living.

Let’s invest in young children, they will pay us back.

“Internalized attitudes define our work with children”

- Blog | REYN Admin

REYN at the international DECET conference ‘No Quality without Equality’
Under the auspices of Newman University, UK, No Quality without Equality was the title and theme of the DECET (Diversity in Early Childhood Training) network’s international conference held in Birmingham in June 2015. The event gathered more than 100 participants, including academics, practitioners, and activists from all over the globe, such as the EU, the Americas, Asia and Australia.
The work of the REYN international network, as well as that of the national networks, was presented by Colette Murray from TREYN Ireland, and Asja Korbar from REYN-Croatia. The opportunity to present REYN to a wider ECEC audience was created thanks to the joint collaboration and support of ISSA (International Step by Step Association), Open Society Foundations’ Early Childhood Program, and DECET.
REYN’s presence at this event offered an opportunity for sharing the challenges as well as the innovative and successful practices gathered under the umbrella of REYN’s international platform. Describing how REYN has been strengthened through its’ mission to develop inclusive practice, which can alleviate the obstacles faced by Romani and Traveller children as a result of economic, social, and racial marginalization was both worthwhile and inspiring.
Through numerous quality sessions, this conference endorsed the crucial debate on the relationship between quality and inequality and the role of ECEC within this dynamic. Janneke Platenga from Utrecht School of Economics opened a question on the role of ECEC within the tension between the targeted intervention and universal provision. Deepa Grover from UNICEF presented the challenges of early childhood development programs in the region of Central and Eastern Europe and Commonwealth of Independent States, and the UNICEF’s role in combating these challenges.
The discursive framework of Antibias defined almost every discussion during both conference sessions and conference breaks, and participants had the opportunity to reflect intensively on the ways our internalized attitudes defines our work with children, even more so because – in the words of keynote speaker Louise Derman-Sparks – internalized oppression co-exists with internalized privilege and sustains the existing power relations from policy to everyday life.
If we translate this into the context of the marginalization of Romani and Traveller children, then we – whether this we stands for practitioners, researchers, activists, policy makers, business managers, journalists, or simply fellow citizens – must remind ourselves of the internalized privilege which enables our position. The process (and not the eventual outcome) is at the heart of the struggle for equality; and of the resilience of the every child and every family that we are articulating. We must keep this in mind as it might not only strengthen our hopes for better future, but more importantly strengthen our capacity to imagine that a different world is possible.
Possible might just also mean real.
Asja Korbar
Colette Murray

Council adopts recommendation on Roma integration

- Blog | REYN Admin

This week the Council of Ministers adopted a recommendation on effective Roma integration measures. All 28 European Union Member States committed to implementing a set of recommendations, proposed by the European Commission, to step up the economic and social integration of Roma communities. The Council Recommendation was adopted unanimously by ministers less than six months after the Commission’s proposal.

The protection of Roma children is part of the Recommendation, as well as investing in good-quality inclusive early childhood education and care, healthcare and a reference to right to education enshrined in the UNCRC. The Recommendation calls on Member States to ensure the involvement of all relevant actors including public authorities, civil society and Roma communities. It is the first ever EU-level legal instrument for Roma inclusion and reinforces the EU Framework for national Roma integration strategies.

Find the Council recommendation here.

We Laugh Together, We Educate Together: A Hungarian Campaign on Inclusive Education

- Blog | REYN Admin

http://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/voices/we-laugh-together-we-educate-together-hungarian-campaign-inclusive-education

The Hungarian civil society organization UCCU Roma Informal Education Foundation recently launched a campaign film designed to raise awareness and encourage discussion on the issue of inclusive education in Hungary. The film offers an accessible way into the subject, and aims to combat the attitudes and prejudices that have resulted in a segregated and “closed” education system in Hungary.

(Source of information: Roma Initiatives Office, OSI Budapest)