An event for Roma and non-Roma Professionals

Over fifty Romani Early Years Network members from 11 countries met last week to strategize on how to improve the lives of young Romani children in Europe.

There’s a lack of quality in early childhood services for Romani children in Europe. This is what Roma and non-Roma professionals have echoed at the REYN Strategic meeting in Zagreb last week.

The event (14-16 October), saw the participation of educators, social workers, policy experts, government representatives and professionals in early childhood development. During the opening, Nandor Čapo, Head of the Independent Sector for National Minorities in the Ministry of Science and Education in Croatia, outlined the inclusion strategy of the government towards Romani children and the challenges ahead.

For the network it has been also a chance to reconnect and strategize on our future actions. The members have identified three common key issues that are an obstacle to Romani children’s development in different European countries:

  • The lack of Romani parents’ empowerment (participation in decision making, voicing, etc.)
  • The lack of Roma professionals and the recognition of their role in the early childhood development professions
  • A low quality of early childhood services

Listening to professionals is key

A special attention was dedicated to listening to Roma professionals: they shared their direct experiences and explained why it is important to give a voice to the Roma community.

“Thanks to the Romani Early Years Network I don’t feel alone anymore,” said Fatime Karamani, REYN Belgium member. When she fled the war in Kosovo in the late 1990s she was still a child. She reached Belgium with her family and was recognized the refugee status. “Me and my family where on our own, we did not speak the language and did not know who to turn to for help.”

Today Fatime works for Kind en Gezin, the national agency for children and families in the country. She assists mothers and babies in vulnerable situations both Roma and non-Roma.

Diversity in the profession

Also, the meeting put the spotlight on promising practices and lessons learned on early childhood development in Croatia with the Open Academy Step by Step coordinator of REYN Croatia.

Severina Orsus is Roma Assistant in primary schools in the country. She helps educators to familiarize with the Romani language so that they can understand better the cultural background of Romani children (watch the video of the project Dă-m sins! below).

“If we want all the children to flourish in our society we need to build the house from the foundations,” Severina said. “All parents want to give the best to their children, just some don’t know how to. We can and need to help them”, she added. 

The video of the project Dă-m sins! Which means “Give Me Five!” in Beyash.

A Learning Community

Other National Networks from Belgium, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Italy, Hungary, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine also joined and exchanged their experiences. REYN international was delighted to receive, at the end of the meeting, sincere notes of appreciation from the delegates.

Hereafter, we share Piero Vereni’s message. He teaches at Roma Tor Vergata University; he is a recent addition to REYN Italy: “in Zagreb, thank to your work and your words, I have learnt that culture is important if and only if it is lived as a changing scenario, not as a frozen inheritance of immobile traditions. …REYN is a fantastic place where we can bring together these two needs of our lives, being rooted in our pasts, then to be more strongly propelled to the futures we want to build for ourselves. Together, Roma and non-Roma.”

Romani and Traveller kids deserve heroes too

- Blog | Stanislav Daniel

Marley Dias loves books, but finds it weird that within their pages there were no black-girl heroes to which she can relate. Born from frustration this 11-year-old started a campaign called #1000blackgirlbooks, which attracted international attention. A year ago, The Guardian and other big media outlets brought Marley’s campaign to a wider public.

This week, Marley Dias, now 12, is in press again. Following the publicity garnered by her campaign she has signed a book deal with children’s publishing company, Scholastic. She will be an author and the main character of her own book. We keep our fingers crossed for her and wonder how many other children, including young Roma and Travellers, have similar experiences?  How many children explore literature but fail to find characters that reflect their own lives and experiences?

Growing up as a Czechoslovakian-Romani child, I too, lacked the chance to read about Romani heroes. Only years later did I discover Romani fairytales and later other heroes, like Rukeli Trollmann. But we are missing stories for the youngest children. There are some authors, albeit grown-up-ones, who have stepped up to help Roma children find themselves between the covers of a good book.

Richard O’Neill is a Romani storyteller who, in 2016, published two books; “Yokki and the Parno Gryand “Ossiri and the Bala Mengro”. Both books capture young children’s imaginations by presenting stories from Romani and Traveller communities. Yokki lifts the spirits of a struggling Traveller family while Ossiri, a Traveller girl, creates her own musical instrument from a willow branch and lots of recycled objects. And through these beautiful stories, Richard O’Neill reminds us of the ancient Romani art of storytelling.

It is crucial to ensure that Romani and Traveller children from an early age can identify with the heroes they read about. It is important for the development of healthy identities and it is better than giving up on book because they cannot relate to the characters. And so, while we wait for more young children to publish their own books, just like Marley Dias, we at REYN are extremely happy to see adult authors write about Romani children, for Romani children.

Some thoughts on REYN from Slovakia

- Blog | REYN Admin

Finally, we have a great opportunity to change the world and create together the image of our society where the past will not push us. Does it sound daringly and utopian?

Never mind, we will learn together and support each other.

What would we lose?

Just the fact, that someone will not accept our opinion, and will demur to our everlasting disappointments. Someone can be worry because there a new and fearless generation of non-recognized professionals has been growing.

We are firmly convinced that with acquired self-confidence we will be able to manage creation of more beautiful world for our children. Then the world will learn that we are not burden, but we are able enrich the stereotypical and rotten system, which does not offer anything new, just wraps up phrases from white into pink paper.

We look forward to getting any word, any voice with the aim to have a rainbow over the sky.

And what is our keyword? No more legacy of oppression.



Welcome to the blog of the Romani Early Years Network – REYN!

- Blog | PalLaszlo

Welcome to the website of the Romani Early Years Network (REYN)!

REYN invites all interested professionals and para-professionals working in services aimed at young Romani children and their families to follow this website. Here we will share news, blogs, resources and promote a good start in life for Romani children from the earliest age.

“Romani (rro-mân-ee) people – Rromane džene in the Romani language – are frequently seen as the beneficiaries of early childhood services but rarely as the deliverers of them. This blog is about changing that, altering the perception that Romani early childhood development (ECD) professionals are not there in pre-schools, nursery schools, reception and early primary classes, community playgroups or home visiting programmes. It’s also about sharing the experiences of delivering quality ECD to Romani families, and working together to ensure that Romani children have the best start in life.