List of articles for the ‘News and Events’ Category
All the WP3 activities (WP3.1, WP3.2, WP3.3) implemented in the framework of +Respect were collected in a report that contains also the lessons learnt and some recommendations aimed in particular at local authorities. The report is entitled “Roma peoples participation in civil democracy processes: +Respect Participatory Working Groups, Training and Information Sessions, Thematic Seminars”.
The WP3 report was finalized by Cittalia at the end of June 2011 and was included in the project CD-Rom entitled “Main project outcomes, Lessons learnt, Guidelines, Reports” together with other relevant project outcomes (WP2 Report and Guidelines for Journalists), produced by ERIO.
Download the report here:
+Respect videos included in the final DVD in episodes “Combating Discrimination. Fostering Participation. A European Journey in the Life of Roma”
A final DVD in episodes, containing 7 different videos developed and realized for the project and entitled “Combating Discrimination. Fostering Participation. A European Journey in the Life of Roma”, was edited by Cittalia and produced by Regione Puglia. The DVD contains all the project videos posted also on this website. Shootings were realized by Regione Puglia, ENTP, FDP and Cittalia. All these videos together represent a portrait of the situation of Roma people in some European countries. A specific choice was operated by project partners: involve Roma people and interview people who deal directly, in their daily life, with the challenges addressed by the +Respect project. The result is a mix of limited, though significant experiences, witnesses, information that are able to provide an impression of what is going on in Europe, today, about the Roma.
The DVD contains the following videos:
- A (project) life in pictures. This video shows some impressions and moments of the project +Respect. It is a short story of the project, in pictures.
- Roma people living in Europe and in the World. This is the first promotional video realized in the framework of the project and was used in several occasions, for example it was displayed in the travelling stand on its tour and shown in some of the project conferences.
- Roma people in the history of painting: a journey across cultures and style. This video is the second promotional video of the project and displays a series of art masterpieces (paintings) that portrait Roma people and the Roma life.
- The Roma community of Japigia (Bari, Puglia). The shootings of this video were made by Regione Puglia. The video collects interviews to Roma people in the camp of Japigia and investigates the relation between this community and the local authorities, the perception of the exposure to discrimination and the potentialities for inclusion and participation of the youngest generation.
- Roma people in Italy: Rights and legal framework. The video explores the legal framework and the main difficulties and challenges faced by Roma people in Italy, through an in-depth interview to the social workers of the cultural mediation centre for Roma people “Miki” located in Rome. The video is realized by Cittalia and coordinated by Enrico Serpieri.
- Social and cultural mediation in Belgium. ENTP activities and street interviews: points of view or raw prejudices? This video, prepared by ENTP with the collaboration of Romani Yag and the Service des Gens du Voyage et Roma du CRI Foyer, addresses the issues of discrimination and participation of Roma people through the experience of a couple of Roma people, Gabriel Mihai and Mihaela Covaci, who live in Brussels where they work as cultural mediators. On one side, their experience represents a good practice, a positive model of engagement. On another side, their words are useful to debunk some of the most common stereotypes coming out from a few short street interviews displayed in the video. First, ENTP decided to give publicity to a good practice on the Belgian territory. ENTP contracted then Ms. Ljuba Radman, event organizer, activist and director of the Romani Yag NGO, to prepare a script for the shooting. Mr. Cédric Van Lang, photographer and moviemaker (who previously realized a documentary on Roma people in Albania) was then contracted for the shooting session. On the 24th of March 2011 the team made the work as follows: Shooting on the premises of the “Roma en Woonwagenbewoners – Integratiecentrum Foyer” (Centre for Roma integration), with interviews of the centre’s staff Mr. Koen Geurts, Ms. Mihaela Mihai and Mr. Gabriel Mihai; Shooting at the ENTP offices where ENTP was presented by Mr. Edoardo Guglielmentti and Romani Yag by Ms. Ljuba Radman; Shooting in the centre of Brussels to collect people reaction on the topic of Roma. The images (filmed on HD and saved on an external hard disc) were then brought to Rome. The dialogues were then transcribed in French and English and sent to the Cittalia staff in charge of the final editing.
- Schooling and education of Roma people in Romania. The experience of FDP. This video displays the situation of some Roma people in some villages and camps in Romania and addresses in particular the issue of the education of young Roma people. Education is the highest form of participation to civil and democratic life of the Union, as it is only through appropriate models of education that society can foster principles such as the equal access to work opportunities and real participation. The images (filmed on HD and saved on an external hard disc) were given to Cittalia for the final editing.
The videos included in the DVD can be downloaded here:
A (project) life in pictures
Roma people living in Europe and in the World.
Roma people in the history of painting: a journey across cultures and style
The Roma community of Japigia
Roma people in Italy: Rights and legal framework
Social and cultural mediation in Belgium. ENTP activities and street interviews: points of view or raw prejudices?
Schooling and education of Roma people in Romania. The experience of FDP.
To receive the DVD, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
A set of fact-based guidelines for media (but not only) professionals was developed by Cittalia and Regione Puglia as outcome of the four thematic seminars held in Brussels, Bari and Rome.
The report was developed by Salvatore Petronella, who coordinated the four seminars for media held in the framework of the project.
The report, which includes a foreword by Aidan White, former General Secretary of the International Federation of Journalists, is divided in two parts: “Roma anti-Discrimination and Media” and “Knowledge brings respect”. In the first part, the European anti-discrimination legal and policy frameworks are presented in relation, in particular, to the role of the media and ethical responsibility. The second part addresses the need of overcoming the anti-Roma prejudices through the presentation of data, good practices and specific recommendations / guidelines.
In particular, the author made some “focus” on specific experiences found at European level relating to the enhancement of a positive role of the media as “ethical” players (“Charter of Rome”, “UNAR”, “In Other Words”, “NewsRom”, “Practical Guide for Journalists” made by Fundacion Secretariado Gitano, “Media4Diversity”, “Let your voice be heard”, “Nestlings”, the experience of Menter Cambridge).
The majority of the examples provided were collected during the +Respect seminars for media held in Brussels, Bari and Rome, thanks to the valuable contribution of the external stakeholders invited to the meetings and conferences.
As far as the recommendations are concerned, the +Respect Knowledge-based guidelines for Media professionals presents a set of ten basic, simple, yet fundamental, rules for media professionals to be used when reporting on Roma communities:
- Abide by codes of conduct and international standards: maintain professionalism
- Avoid generalization, simplification: stories are personal, not ethnic related
- Ban stereotypes and prejudices: they are not evidence-based
- Abstain from sensationalism: choose right words and images, be objective
- Report and condemn discriminatory articles: enhance credibility of media
- Inform about positive stories: do not squeeze Roma images only on exclusion and illegality
- Make media monitoring a long-term regular process: a constant training exercise
- Consider the consequences of inaccurate information: it fosters discrimination
- Let the voice of Roma be heard: involve Roma as sources, write their stories with them
- Build stronger ties with Roma communities and civil society: participation is a crucial factor
Download the full document here:
Final International conference “+Respect: Strategies, Policies, Initiatives to Combat Discrimination and Foster the Inclusion of Roma People” – Rome, 13 May 2011
The results of the thematic seminars were brought to the attention of the 100 and more participants of the final +Respect conference ”Strategies, Policies, Initiatives to Combat Discrimination and Foster the Inclusion of Roma People”, held in Rome the 13th of May 2011 in the Room Di Liegro at Palazzo Valentini (House of the Province of Rome). The conference had a focus on the local strategies aimed at fostering inclusion and participation of Roma people and favored a broad debate on the main issues of the project by presenting different good practices implemented in Europe and encouraging debate and confrontation around the topic of the improvement of the situation of the Roma in the EU.
The conference had a special significance as it took place a few weeks after the presentation of the Communication of the European Commission “An EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies up to 2020″. The conference moved from the recent adoption of this strategic document, by which the Commission had recently called on the EU member states to develop national strategies for the integration of Roma people, with the aim of creating a framework for national policies and fostering the use of funds available at community level to support inclusive processes. The conference provided an opportunity to assess the local, national and European policies aimed at fostering the access of the Romany population to housing, education, health services and employment.
It was divided in four parts: welcome greetings, +Respect project dissemination of results (results of the project and achievements of the thematic seminars), presentation of the direct experience of the two Roma and Sinti associations partners of +Respect (RomSinti@Politica and Sucar Drom), a high level round table on the inclusive policies for Roma people (opportunities and perspective for Italy and other EU countries).
The Secretary General of Cittalia, Pierciro Galeone, introduced the topics of the conference highlighting that the project +Respect aimed at echoing and supporting the position of the European Commission on the topic of the participation and non discrimination of Roma people through integrated local actions implemented at European level with the aim of combating discrimination, debunking stereotypes and fostering mutual understanding and a higher level of participation of the Roma communities to the democratic life of the Union. Pierciro Galeone also affirmed that the National Association of Municipalities (ANCI) is contributing at national level in Italy to the development of a national plan for the non discrimination of the Roma and improvement of their economic and social situation through the creation of an “ad hoc” working group. Mr. Galeone underlined the importance of fostering a bottom-up approach, encouraging good practices at local level and allowing these experiences – a real resource in terms of ideas and experience – to feed into the national and European policy frameworks.
Claudio Cecchini, Province Minister responsible for social policies, said that in order to improve the situation of the Roma it is sometimes necessary to adopt short-term initiatives but it is more important to develop long-term strategies aimed at fostering the clearing of the bad practice of the nomadic camps that in different EU countries, and especially in Italy, represents an obstacle for a genuine improvement of their social and economic life. It is also necessary to implement more effective non exclusive work, health, housing and schooling policies, not only for Roma but for all.
The project +Respect and conclusions of the thematic seminars
In this panel, the project coordinator outlined project objectives, activities and results, giving appropriate visibility to the EU funding programme. The coordinators of the thematic seminars held on the previous day presented the outputs of the workshops.
In particular, Salvatore Petronella (Cittalia, Regione Puglia) reported on the Thematic Seminar I (media), underlining how media, too often, put a negative accent on Roma and focus on “fake” problems. The real problem “is not the Roma, but the poor life conditions that characterize many people”. Too often, the point of view of Roma people – who should be the main sources of information on Roma-related matters – is ignored as Roma people simply represent, in most cases, the object of a bad communication done by someone else. Anticipating the conclusions of the four seminars for media organized in the framework of the project reported in the Guidelines for Media, Salvatore Petronella confirmed the importance of a transversal and non–exclusive approach (mainstreaming) on the Roma, a more frequent accent on good practices that exist, and a “de-ethnicisation” of the communication process.
Stefania Bragato (Coses) and Maria del Mar Gonzalez (Municipality of Puerto Lumbreras) reported on Thematic Seminar II (good local practices). The seminar has showed that a good number of good practices in the field of inclusion of Roma people has been achieved in different EU countries (such as Belgium, Spain, Romania, England) on different themes: housing, employment, schooling, helath, communication. Concerning housing, which is a fundamental prerequisite for decent life conditions and further participation and inclusion in civil processes of the Roma communities, it has emerged that building social houses costs less than running and managing the so-called nomadic camps. The co-planning of housing interventions (deciding together with Roma representatives) has proven to be a very important element of success in housing projects, as demonstrated by the experience told by Soros Foundation Romania. On the contrary, the lack of participation of Roma people, who are beneficiaries of some of these housing projects, is the cause of their failure. Maria del Mar Gonzalez highlighted the importance of the involvement of Roma people since their childhood: participation and acceptance should be prepared working in the schools with the aim of creating the conditions for a positive social and cultural development of all human beings, Roma and not-Roma. Education and training are of fundamental importance, however the experience of Puerto Lumbreras proves that a real improvement in the situation of Roma, and debunking of stereotypes, are possible only through a strong collaboration between the school system and the local authorities. If citizens are informed and directly involved in participatory actions, it is possible to avoid ostracism and racism.
Sandra Rainero (Cittalia, Coordinator of ENSA network), moderator of Thematic Seminar III (rights and policies), said, about the theme “relations with the policy makers and between the policies with the aim of fostering participation”, that the workshop was the result of the attempt to achieve a common position between different approaches. The conclusion was that…different policies are possible, depending on local contexts. The most important thing is to avoid emergency measures and focus on long-term social inclusion strategies, with the help of the media and of a new, more balanced, communication language.
Participation and fight against discrimination: a Roma perspective
A specific sub-panel hosted the interventions of two Roma associations, partners of +Respect, that deal in their everyday life with the challenges of participation and fight against discrimination of Roma people: RomSinti@Politica and Sucar Drom.
Nazzareno Guarnieri (President of RomSinti@Politica) denounced the “disaster, which is now evident”, caused by many policies and initiatives adopted in the past for the Roma. The most evident disaster is the bad practice of the camps, which is so evident in Italy (with some exceptions, for example in regione Abruzzo – for social, historical and political reasons – there is no nomadic camps). Politics, civil society and media share a great responsibility in this sense. The real problem, said Nazzareno Guarnieri, is that the majority of the initiatives “aimed at the Roma” did not foresee the direct involvement of Roma communities, who are too often considered only as “external” beneficiaries of projects and decisions made by someone else. The key for the success of all inclusive projects is to foster the direct participation of Roma people and share all the decisions of the projects with them during all the operational steps. On a policy level, said Mr. Guarnieri, the effort should be that of improving and increasing the capacity of participation of Roma people in all kinds of Roma-related projects, and not only. A mainstreaming approach is needed, even if sometimes specific actions are required.
Davide Casadio (Mediator of the Sinti Association Sucar Drom), highlighted the importance of debunking stereotypes starting from the political levels. It is of fundamental importance to develop appropriate policies aimed at increasing the participation of people of Romany origin, bearing in mind that only through collaboration between policy levels it is possible to change the current situation, which is very difficult in Italy and in many other EU countries.
Round table on inclusive policies for Roma people
The organization of a high level round table had the purpose of create a direct involvement of policy makers at European and national levels and experts with the view of contributing to foster a structural dialogue on the theme of non-discrimination and participation of Roma people, and raise awareness on this topic. The round table was kindly moderated by Roberto Chinzari, Journalist of Rai 2 (Italian national television) and Secretary of the Journalists’ Association of the School of Perugia, for which he had previously co-organized the initiative “NewsRom” aimed at improving the communication and the action of Media in relation to the Roma, debunking stereotypes and prejudices.
The speakers of the round table were:
- Pietro Vulpiani, Expert of the National Office for the Promotion of Equal Treatment and the Removal of Discrimination Based on Race or Ethnic Origin (UNAR), Italian Government
- Elena Montani – Policy Officer, European Commission – Representation in Italy
- Peter Csonka – Justice and Home Affairs Coordinator, Hungarian Presidency of the EU
- Roberto Di Giovan Paolo, Senator, Member of the Commission for the Safeguard and Promotion of Human Rights of the Senate of the Italian Republic
- Flavia Perina, Member of the Italian Parliament, Member of the Commission for Social Affairs of the Chamber of Deputies
- Martin Demirovski – Policy Officer, Open Society Institute Brussels (Soros Foundation Europe)
- Daniela De Robert – Vice Secretary USIGRAI (Unione Sindacale Giornalisti RAI)
Pietro Vulpiani informed that UNAR will coordinate in the next months in Italy the high level working group that will design the national strategy, in accordance with the guidelines of the Communication of the European Commission “An EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies up to 2020”. Vulpiani recalled the EU policies and guidelines on the theme of non discrimination and confirmed that Roma people are the ethnic group which is more exposed to episodes of discrimination, quoting data collected by UNAR. Vulpiani highlighted the importance of a multi-stakeholder approach and the need for a more incisive coordination role of the national institutions, in order to systemize, classify and exploit the results achieved in different local contexts through the implementation of good practices (such as those highlighted during the project “+Respect”).
Elena Montani expressed the position of the European Commission, highlighting that the new Communication of the Commission gives the Member States a specific responsibility in adopting national strategies that should be able, from a mainstreaming point of view, to improve the situation of Roma people in Europe.
Peter Csonka spoke in representation of the Hungarian Presidency of the EU, confirming the commitment of the Hungarian Presidency to continue on the path traced by the “trio”. Mr. Csonka said that the improvement of the Roma condition is one of the first point of the programme of the Presidency and that there is need for a stronger coordination, at intergovernmental level, on this ground as the problems and challenges faced by Roma people in the EU are more and more evident.
Sen. Roberto Di Giovan Paolo talked about the legal framework and future political perspectives in Italy in relation to the so called “emergency nomads (emergenza nomadi)”, starting from his experience of legislator (he is the author of the only national law proposal dealing with the problems linked to the current situation of the Roma people). Mr. Di Giovan Paolo, member of the opposition in Italy, stressed the importance of fostering inter-institutional collaboration, and said that the current governmental approach, exclusively adopted in a security/policy perspective, is inefficient and useless since it is not accompanied by a more holistic social strategy aimed at encouraging cohesion, social connectivity and respect, non discrimination and participation. It is necessary to bridge the gap between Italy and Europe in the policies for housing, employment, school inclusion of the Roma people through a new approach and a new culture of civic participation.
MP Flavia Perina said that politics must improve and consider more carefully the problems of integration, whose solutions cannot be left only to the associations that deal with these problems at local level. An organic coordination is needed, starting from the national levels.
Martin Demirovski gave a very in-depth contribution, talking about the EU policies and welcoming the Communication of the Commission but, at the same time, criticizing some aspects of this document and of the strategy adopted by the Commission. In particular, Demirovski highlighted the particular moment of difficulty for Roma people and the proven inefficiency of the mainstreamed policies and initiatives adopted so far. In such exceptional circumstances, said Demirovski, ad hoc initiatives tailored on the specific challenges faced by Roma people must be welcomed.
Due to the impossibility of participating for force majeure causes, Roberto Natale (President of FNSI, National Federation of the Italian Press) was substituted (upon indication of Roberto Natale) by Daniela De Robert, Vice Secretary of the trade union of the Italian journalists and expert in social field / social communication. Daniela De Robert addressed the theme of non-discrimination and inclusion from a deontological point of view, stating the importance of a new approach of the media and of the civil society as a whole towards the challenges of inclusion and interculturality. She also mentioned the importance of referring to good practices existing in this field and highlighted the success of many initiatives that were characterized by the direct involvement of Roma women, since it is proven that equal opportunity approaches have a higher degree of success especially when they are linked to ethnic-related projects.
Flavio Zanonato, Mayor of Padua and Vice President of the National Association of Italian Municipalities – ANCI (responsible for Migration and Welfare), released a declaration about the theme of the conference which was also reported in a press release of ANCI a few days before the conference: “a lot of big and medium-sized cities in Italy and Europe – Zanonato said – are encouraging the clearing/overtaking of the camps through the support to initiatives of self-building / social-building or promoting the adoption of more stable housing solutions for Roma populations. There is a need – he continued – to adopt a national strategy that is able to enhance these experiences and establish efficient collaboration between public and private organizations with the purpose of improving local reception and inclusion, facing these challenges not only in the perspective of an increased security, but also – if not mainly – in the framework of a real social and economic inclusion”.
The many national and local policies aimed at combating discrimination and at promoting the inclusion of the Romany population in local communities and their active participation in the decision-making process, have shown little effect in Italy and in other EU countries. Notwithstanding some progress, the general impression of the experts and policy makers who participated in the conference was that a bigger effort is needed if we want to activate real inclusive policies and combat discrimination effectively.
Another conclusion, on which everybody agreed, is that the fight against discrimination of the Roma, as well as their participation in the democratic life of the Union, should start from the local level but these local policies need to be coordinated at national and European levels. Today, unfortunately, Italy and other EU countries experience a lack of coordination policies, or weak coordination. In this context, and even in a moment when resources for social actions are scarce, the capacity of local systems to obtain more data, raise awareness, provide services and implement measures to address poverty and foster inclusion, is crucial in order to fight against racism and strengthen the economic and social cohesion of the territories, as well as to enhance the rights and culture of Roma people as a resource for society. However, in a moment when resources are insufficient, local authorities cannot be left alone.
Another problem experienced especially in Italy is a methodological problem: the misunderstanding at the base of the public policies that have led to the camp system, that is considering Roma people “nomadic” while, today, only 3-4% of the Roma population in Italy has a nomadic way of life.
Another major issue concerns the role of the media, too often responsible for a stereotyped information. A better information, together with a direct involvement and participation of Roma people, is necessary in order to improve the situation of the Roma in the EU.
The conference was attended by more than 100 participants and interpretation was provided in three languages. Some certificates of attendance were issued at the end of the conference upon request of the participants. Unanimously the conference was considered a success in terms of participation and interest generated by the debate. The travelling stand was present at the conference, welcoming the participants and speakers outside the conference room.
The event received media coverage in Italy. An article on the conference and on the themes of the conference was published on a national Italian newspaper (“Terra”) on the day of the conference. During the conference, 100 free copies of the newspaper were distributed to the participants. Several Italian social magazines, such as “Il Redattore Sociale” (whose director was present at the thematic seminars in Rome), covered the conference with articles. Some radio networks (Radio Manà Manà, Radio Popolare Roma) were also present during the final conference and made specific services on the contents and results of the conference and of +Respect. In particular, Radio Popolare Roma, a quite popular radio of Rome, dedicated an important part of its programme (“Interferenze Rom”), on that day, to the +Respect final conference ”Strategies, Policies, Initiatives to Combat Discrimination and Foster the Inclusion of Roma People”, with interviews and in-depth analysis.
In the framework of the final +Respect conference, three international thematic seminars took place on 12 May 2011 at the Scuola del Sociale (“Social School”) of the Province of Rome, in Rome, Italy. The workshops addressed the issues of housing, inclusion, fundamental rights and participation as well as strategies for a less “stereotyped” information on the Roma life and culture, by comparing the experiences and projects at local level in Italy and other European countries. The seminars were aimed at representatives from local, regional and national authorities, NGOs and international networks, thematic associations, universities and research centers, practitioners and workers of the third sector, Roma associations/Roma representatives and they were the occasion to spread the lessons learnt and exchange experiences collected during the project. In this framework and in a wider acceptance, the seminars can be considered as part of the WP3.1, WP3.2 and WP3.3 activities of the +Respect project as they addressed all the different target groups of the training activities – local administrators, practitioners and Roma people – although the scope of the international thematic seminars was broader.
Three seminars were organized, on the following themes:
1. Anti-tsiganism and prejudices: combating stereotypes through media
2. Roma people, housing and social inclusion. Walking the path out of the camps: good local practices
3. Roma people’s inclusion and antidiscrimination policies: society, rights and public policies
The seminars were addressed to different audiences: the first seminar (seminar for media) was aimed to journalists, but also to some practitioners, and represented the last of the four meetings with focus on the fight against prejudices and stereotypes against Roma. The second seminar was participated by social workers, experts and practitioners dealing with the Roma issue in different EU countries and in particular dealing with participatory good practices and inclusive experiences concerning housing, schooling and participatory integration processes in general. The third seminar had primarily a focus on participatory rights and development of public policies able to enhance the respect of Roma rights. On the occasion of the seminars, a typical Romanì lunch was offered to the participants. The ethnic lunch was particularly appreciated by the attendees who had a chance to taste a hint of the Romanì food tradition.
Thematic Seminar II “Roma people, Housing and Social Inclusion. Walking the Path out of the Camps: Good Local Practices”
The workshop, coordinated by +Respect Project Manager Gabriele Guazzo, Cittalia, by Stefania Bragato (Coses) and Raquel Galarza and Maria del Mar Gonzalez (Puerto Lumbreras) aimed at exchanging good practices implemented at local level in Italy and in other EU Countries with the objective of improving the social and economic conditions of Rome people and their level of participation in democratic processes. The seminar, attended by 25 experts and practitioners, represented an important occasion to share experiences and knowledge on the practical solutions adopted in some EU countries to tackle the problems of the Roma community in the field of housing and, more generally, inclusion and participation in the urban environment / city community life.
COSES presented its study related to initiatives adopted in some EU countries to fight discrimination and promote inclusion: the +Respect Report “Combating Anti-Roma Discrimination: Knowledge and Policies” provides the information on the research implemented. The idea was to review and discuss the good practices in the field, the conclusion was that – in order to be effective – local policies must be based on an integrated and holistic approach, that is – for instance – they don’t have to focus merely on a unique objective/task (i.e. the inclusion at school for youngsters) but they have also to consider inclusive process with an impact on the social background (i.e. families and social groups). The support to inclusion in the job market, cultural dialogue, as well as removal of the causes of poverty: these are the elements that provide a base to foster real integration. Local policies should not only target the Roma but the whole social context, and possibly address all the population at risk of social exclusion and not only the Roma (mainstreaming). The “mainstreaming” approach, although sometimes criticized, is also promoted by the European Union in its policies. Another important topic addressed was the dissemination of the Roma culture: spreading knowledge usually helps to remove the fear of people different from us. It is also important to work through the arts: for example, the theatre helps to recreate situations that reproduce the “living conditions” of the others and people can question themselves about exclusion and feel like the others in a role play framework. Finally, when we work with Roma, it is important to work with interdisciplinary teams as this is coherent with holistic projects but also in line with an integrative approach, as they reflect the complexity of the topic.
Nicola Solimano from Fondazione Michelucci (Italy) presented its projects in Tuscany for self-construction / self-building made in collaboration with the Province of Pisa and other local authorities. The Michelucci foundation was established by an architect who has tried to deal with things that are not usual architectural topics. The foundation works on the “quality of life” of the Sinti and Roma people. The settlement of Roma and Sinti is something that in Italy was decided in the last 20 years, when they were progressively excluded from civil and democratic life, also from a “spatial” point of view (as witnessed by the isolation of their settlements within the urban areas), and these practices of “isolation” have been extended so far. The territories have re-organized their relations but appropriate social policies were not taken into consideration, so now very often the participation of Roma people in urban context is scarce and problematic. The current “social” model imposed to Roma people living in Tuscany was provided in the regional laws establishing nomadic camps, described by Michelucci Foundation as insufficient and instable settlements. These settlements were set up with resources of low quality. In the recent years 2009 and 2010, the camps are composed mainly of Roma from Romania and the level of criticism by the local inhabitants have also increased in the last years in Tuscany. In order to prevent the camps from being exclusion sites, the local authorities contributed to the drafting and introduced some new initiatives and a model of social housing recognizing the difficult situation of Roma. Another instrument was the possibility for Municipalities to regularize the situation of many groups: many of them left the camps and were given some opportunities. The other solution was to create small villages, which meant improving the quality of life without changing the structure of the Roma families living there. The first intervention of this kind was made in 1994-95: on that occasion, the local neighborhood established near the Roma newly created village reacted very badly. One of the main interventions made by Michelicci Foundation got inspiration from a trip to Kosovo of some architects, who visited the place to see the inhabitation customs. The interventions/buildings made by Michelucci Foundation were very successful as they were perceived as something different from the camps, a new organizational housing and participatory model, and they were located close to “normal” houses of the residents, thus fostering relation possibilities, integration, participation. The project was expanded due to the growth of the families and was successful, in other cases the municipalities denied the permissions. Michelucci has recently implemented housing projects in Pisa (providing houses that do not belong to a specific person and can gather 250 people with some services). Another example is the project implemented in Coltano, with 17 houses built with the support of the municipality composed as a “lego”, with a very low cost for self-construction: from an economic point of view, this solution proved to be very cost-effective as the construction of one of these units actually corresponds to the cost of maintaining two camps. Some city Councils have collaborated and developed these interventions. One of the lessons learnt in this field is that local authorities should take in consideration all kinds of possible solutions: villages, self-construction, public housing, micro-areas etc. However, it is necessary to have innovation in the policies and a strong political commitment by local authorities.
Lorin Niculae, Housing for Roma and Urban Development Programs Manager, Soros Foundation Romania, Project manager for self-construction projects with the Roma in Romania, presented the interesting housing project in Baltesti (Prahova County, Romania) already highlighted in Venice in March. Soros Foundation had conducted a wide analysis of the Roma community in Romania in 2007 and in 2009 started to build houses thanks to a Programme of Community Development. The project “One House One Future” was aimed at communities facing extreme poverty: the families addressed could not maintain a “normal” house. They changed to this life due to the Romanian revolution and little by little the Roma communities left the cities and faced exclusion and started living in extreme poverty: this is the worst kind of poverty that means one dollar per day per member of family. Soros Foundation Romania cooperates with the municipalities and other associations at local level to support the integration of interventions with 400 and 250 families living in the two areas of intervention. The idea is to replicate these initiatives at national level in the future. Soros Foundation Romania has improved the living conditions of the Roma people in those areas, but the methodology of intervention has not being established yet: there is no universal cultural and architectural model that can be applied in all situations. The architectural model must be adapted to their culture but this has to be made case by case and consider the individual differences, individual needs and individual life paths. The main challenge of the programme was to create hope for the future and its core concepts are: to fight ghettos respecting cultural identity; provide a collaborative methodology; link Roma communities with the cities; foster capital building (raise of money and self construction, new constructions and refurbishments); develop a plan of Community action. Soros Foundation Romania has created a group of architects that works to create designs and propose to the local communities ways to face the needs of the Roma population in such a way that they cooperate in the design of their own houses and also of other services (social centres, educational centres, etc). This is also interesting as the students of architecture can open to social issues and understand that their work can have a real impact in their communities. The experience of Soros Foundation Romani was already presented in Romania and +Respect partners decided to further promote it in Rome given the relevance of the housing issue in Italy.
Cleo Albanese, Association “Terra del Fuoco”, presented an experience of self-construction and co-abitation in Torino: an innovative house sharing experience called “Il Dado” (the “Dice”, due to the shape of the building) in Settimo Torinese, close to Torino. The Project was aimed at Roma people living in camps where there was a fire. After many difficulties, Terra del Fuoco decided to focus on the integration in the long term and seek for the support of the municipalities in order to foster real integration. The Municipality of Settimo Torinese provided the spaces and an entire building which was therefore restructured by Terra del Fuoco in collaboration with Foundation Compagnia di San Paolo and together with Roma workers. A lot of Roma families then decided to leave the camps and enter the social structure “Il Dado”, which is conceived as a temporary housing solution where Roma families willing to change their lives and exit from the camps, share their living spaces (Roma families live there with other families and with other migrants, also refugees from Africa and other third party Countries). The building is located in the city of Settimo Torinese. At first, there was a negative reaction of the citizens but then the citizenship, helped by the Municipality, understood the importance of this initiative and started to appreciate it and consider these Roma families as fellow co-citizens.
Daniele Bergamini, Association “La Piccola Carovana” – Bologna, presented inclusive actions for Roma and Sinti people in Bologna. The association has done a voluntary work between 2004-2005 with contacts with Roma community and the only solution from the local community was to send the Roma families away from the river area. Finally the association made a survey to find a solution, an individualized approach was conducted looking for flats in the local market, and municipality paid 50% of the rent during 4 years to find solutions. Some Roma people requested to come home to Romania because of difficulties in finding a job, other families that wanted to stay were helped to have a house they could be able to afford. The municipality supported the Roma in sharing houses, that was from the economic point of view the only possible solution. There is now a cooperation project entitled “the invisible city” that uses volunteering to support Roma people who don’t have possibilities to integrate themselves as they are coming through emigration. From an economic point of view, it is much more efficient to help the Roma to integrate in the social fabric than simply having them in the camps.
Calin Pop, FDP Director, presented the inclusive projects for Roma people in Romania implemented by FDP: interventions with kindergarten, in secondary schools and also supporting into University, in the integration into the labor market, monitoring of the process of integration of Roma people coming back to Romania from Italy (Milan). The project of accompaniment consists of the refurbishment of houses with the funding of Milan municipality. FDP helped the Roma families with the legal documents, translations etc. After the construction of the houses, they supported the labor inclusion, working with the employment offices and helping with the implementation of CVs, for 2-3 months different Roma people were trained in local companies. There was school readjustments and also language problems and they had to adapt to new contexts. The work of FDP is crucial as they address one of the largest Roma community, the one living in Romania, that often experiences hard living conditions and isolations. The methodology is clear: an holistic and integrated approach is needed when we are confronted with the themes of inclusion and participation.
Koen De Mesmaeker, City of Gent (Kompas Inburgering Gent), presented the Civic integration processes for Roma people in Gent. Since 2007 Gent had the first wave of Roma people and currently there is a rise of Roma presence (more than 4,000 Roma persons) in Gent mostly from Romania. In Belgium there are no campsites and the local governments support housing solutions even if usually Roma people live in poor or low income areas. Integration is in the capacity of the Flanders Region and municipalities and immigration is responsibility of the national government. Main problems among the Roma community are unemployment, exploitation at the labour market, low income, bad living conditions, subject to exploitation at the housing market or living in squatted houses, health problems, problems with access to children education. In Gent, all migrants can benefit from the civic Integration programme, language courses, health provisions, education for children and there are special measures for some migrant groups (among them, the Roma) who can benefit from social welfare allowance and support to enter the labor market. Gent has developed a model based on three steps/levels: answering basic needs, integration “light” and integration. Many people arrive in Ghent with no financial means to survive: no housing, no food, no adequate clothing. Charitable organizations try to meet these basic needs by providing night asylum, food distribution and distribution of clothes and blankets. These organizations often act as a first point of contact and redirect those clients towards the regular welfare services and organizations. Once the basic needs are being met and Roma have been registered, Inburgering Gent adopts an integration “light” procedure to make sure that they receive sufficient means to live and survive in Gent. This include financial support, language tuition and social orientation. Gent provides money to immigrants, in this case Roma people from Romania, but they have to follow the language courses and send children to school in order to receive an allowance of around 1000 € per family and 750 € per single person. The city of Gent also provides the participants of the integration courses with counseling: education, school transport, health, and 120 hours of basic Flemish course. Every Wednesday there is a counselor providing assistance in finding a job. Gent is a generous city by offering Roma (and other EU-citizens) financial support, but this generous attitude is attracting more and more Roma and recently the city has started to reconsider this policy as it threatens the support of the local population. Linking this financial support to the obligation to follow the civic integration programme and to send the children to school is a strong incentive for the Roma to follow these courses. Roma themselves are in the beginning very opposed to follow these courses, and many stop the course, but most of them start again the courses later because their financial support has been cut. Roma that follow the course till the end are very positive about having followed the course and since the financial allowance has been linked to school attendance by the children it has been noticed that regular attendance has increased, notwithstanding some collateral problems such as some reluctance among some school to inscribe Roma children at school. Roma are also entitled to health provisions once they accept this “social itinerary”. However, main problems persist in particular in relation to housing and finding jobs.
Maria del Mar González, Municipality of Puerto Lumbreras, Region of Murcia (Spain), presented the intercultural works and school curricula implemented in Puerto Lumbreras in the framework of the project +Respect. Curricula with focus on intercultural dialogue and knowledge were developed in 4 different schools in Puerto Lumbreras. The development of the school curricula was accompanied by an intense activity of communication of the Municipality with the schools (teachers) and with the families of the children.
Alfa Strozzi, City of Reggio Emilia, presented the experience of Reggio Emilia. The city has an important sinti community and recently it has received a lot of Roma and Sinti people from Romania. They were provided inclusion courses, being EU citizens – the development of camps in the 80s are seen today as system of segregation. In 1985 there were the first educational interventions. In the 90s a group in the municipality to work with the Sinthi community within social services department was established, the integration policies were applied and the city worked in this way in contact with other agents and trained operators and focused on problems that arose. The city supported the Sinti accompanying them in social initiatives, providing communications and contacts with other services, support to families and education facilities, as well as supporting the families. The municipality has also supported a series of interventions to provide some Sinti families with a more appropriate house. Citizens were often against these initiatives and it was not easy to foster acceptability of these provisions. Now the municipality does not intervene more in the field of housing. Reggio Emilia highlighted the necessity to access national funds from the government in order to activate projects for the inclusion of the Sinti community.
Adelina Chalmers, Equalities Development UK & International Affairs – MENTER – Cambridge, UK, presented a project made in collaboration with ARDC (Asociaţia pentru Relaţii şi Dezvoltare Comunitară) and implemented in Craiova, Romania. Original project aim was to attempt to solve identified issues within a community by piloting a new type of approach to community development. This was about involving children and young people in the process of identifying the issue and presenting this back to the community through art. This was tested out in 3 counties within Oltenia – SW Romania. Marza was the only community where the majority of the population was Roma 80% and to which the final outcome with such a big success that led to building a church in the village. A young people’s camp was organised, attended by 12 children and young people aged between 9 -14. The children were selected by the Roma community leader and the facilitator. The camp was also attended by the Roma leader. The community leader’s participation was key as the young people were better able to relate to him and they knew him and respected his authority. Through this camp the community leader himself learnt about community development and the process that was due to follow and he was involved throughout the project. The children who were selected were going to school and had excellent dancing, music and poetry skills. In the camp the young people worked with a group of young actors to help them improve their acting skills. After returning from the camp, the young people went through a process of identifying and prioritising community issues. The biggest priority was identified and focus groups were organised in order to create a theme for a role-play. The summary of the role-play theme and issues was sent to the actors which from this created a role-play of about 25 min. 3 days in a row they worked with the kids to teach them their lines. The only organisations involved were: project managers – ARDC, Church Association of Olteniei si Salcuta Parish Council. Cultural Department Dolj said they had no funding and were unable to help build a place of worship. The impact of the children’s role play was massive – not only on their parents and the local adult population, but also on the children themselves who are now adults and remember the camp, the actors, the role play and the fact that their wish came true – building the church. The church was built by them and local Roma people are very proud of it, take good care of it as they worked hard to have it built. The key to success was the local Roma community leader, brave but warm; the mayor which also wanted to change the community and the mentality of the people living there and of course ARDC’s support, which only intervened as and when necessary, however gave the tools to the local Roma community to carry out the project for themselves.
The workshop was the occasion to highlight many good practices and experiences, but also the difficulties that still affect the impact of these initiatives, measures and projects at local level. The main problems remain the access to the labor market and the achievement of decent housing conditions. When these elements cannot be achieved, no integration nor participation is possible. Another aspect that was underlined was that there is a lack of coordination of the policies for the Roma population and the interventions are independent and not harmonized. The good practices are often specifically “local” so it is difficult to transfer them to other areas. The solutions are complex, there are as many solutions as different situations. The main problem, especially in Italy, is that there are many good practices in the fields of housing and inclusion but they are not coordinated due to the lack of a national framework of action shared with the local authorities. Gabriele Guazzo had anticipated the reason why the good practices should be “handled with care”, as replicability is not ensured in all cases and there is no necessarily a continuity even between projects that can seem similar at a first glance.
Thematic Seminar III “Roma peoples’ inclusion and antidiscrimination policies: society, rights and public policies”.
Notwithstanding the existence of tools and legal provisions for the protection of Roma rights, there is still a widespread lack of inclusive policies in many EU countries. In the framework of an enlarged Europe, national and local policies are still not able to ensure the Romany population the access to the right to decent housing, education, health and employment. In particular, the policies aimed at the education of children and job placement for adults are still inadequate, although a significant number of good practices is blooming in the EU. A major effort is needed at all governance levels, requiring also a “multi-stakeholder” approach, in order to improve the levels of inclusion and participation of Roma people in their countries of residence.
The workshop “Roma Peoples’ Inclusion and Antidiscrimination Policies: Society, Rights and Public Policies”, attended by more than 20 participants, represented an opportunity of interaction and discussion for institutions, practitioners, social workers and Roma representatives in order to analyze and assess the legal and social aspects related to Roma rights and contribute to develop ideas, proposals, strategies and policies aimed at fostering the inclusion of Roma peoples and at tackling discrimination. Widespread discrimination and dearth of systematic inclusion policies for the Roma are still the norm, in spite of the progress and the general legal provisions and tools put in place at EU and member state level. The thematic workshop has been an attempt to create a policy debate giving voice to a multi-stakeholder panel, which reflected and shared both positive policy options and persisting obstacles and limited approaches to rights, inclusion and participation of different Roma groups.
The thematic workshop included discussants representing the main players of Italian and European local policy formulation and implementation: scholars and practitioners, local authority representatives, Romani associations. The discussion has revolved around the linkages between politics, policy, political and civil participation, and practice, touching upon the many interrelated factors, and facts, that hinder – but not overlooking at those that can facilitate – access to rights, the debunking of stereotypes, the interactions and coexistence of diverse components of today’s society.
Carlo Stasolla (Associazione 21 luglio), Valerio Tursi (President of ARCI Rome) and Ulderico Daniele (University Roma Tre – Tor Vergata) have analyzed the case of the Roma settlements in Rome from different perspectives, highlighting respectively the historical context of the Roma settlements, the communication and interaction with Roma leadership, and the political communication of local politicians with regard to Roma especially during elections times. In the discussion of the “Piano Nomadi” of Rome as a plan to contrast a situation of “emergency”, with a high financial envelope (34M €) that has not translated into an effective and efficient solution for the housing and living conditions of the Roma groups involved, because of lack of decent alternative solutions (the new settlements are closed and surveilled by armed guards) and other housing solutions have still to be found, with the result of an increase of “illegal” settlements. Internal struggles among Roma groups leaders on the issue of representativeness in the dialogue with the authorities also seem to make it harder to find a shared solution. The need for a neutral body /agency (independent from government) and with expertise to deal with the Roma situation that can incorporate the different perspectives and needs has been proposed at national level.
Housing policy has also been the topic of the presentations of two new cities’ representatives, Sénart in France and Niewiegen in Holland. The specific conditions of these municipalities (towns created after WWII) and the relative new arrival of Roma groups has made it possible to plan holistic policies shared among the different departments of the local authorities, with a “do ut des” approach, that is, linking rights and duties and assisting individual families on housing, social and educational issues. The openness of new towns to newcomers has resulted that there are no settlements in camps, but Roma are housed in regular social or private housing. The experiences show, however, that it is impossible to deal with generic policies on “Roma” and successful experiences are those carried out with individual or family-level approaches, resulting also in a greater financial effort in the side of local authorities and the public budget.
Comparing these two very different situations the first conclusion of the workshop, which has also been highlighted by the presentation of prof. Antonio Tosi (University Politecnico di Milano) in the analysis of housing policies, is that policy making must be approached according to the specific situation, and that, in order to be effective, policies require a long-term approach, not limited to emergency situations, but also embedded in mainstream policy. That is to say that, even though tailored measures on housing for Roma populations may be and indeed are necessary, they must be consistent with sound housing policies (for example social housing policy, dealing with all groups at risk of poverty) at a higher level.
The concept of exclusive and inclusive policies, that is, policies aimed exclusively at specific target of population, has also been discussed and the dangers that “Roma –only” policy may lead to further exclusion, or reinforcement of the “exceptionalism” and stereotyping of the Roma (they are different) has been highlighted. The need to acquire more and better knowledge (for example data on the actual numbers of Roma populations) is also an issue related to the capacity of decision- and policy-makers to formulate effective policies.
In addition to policy coherence (between Roma and non-Roma, social, economic inclusion, housing, education policies etc), the discussants have also pinpointed two other important factors that influence not only policy-making, but the role of the public authorities in setting the foundation for equal opportunities and inclusion: 1. clear and unbiased public (institutional) communication both at internal level (to ensure policy coherence) and towards citizens and interest groups (to ensure access to public services, and to promote participation).
The second aspect relates to the policy makers on the one side, and to the Roma representations on the other, namely it is the capacity (in terms of institutions or organizations) and skills (in terms of individuals working in institutions/organizations) to communicate, negotiate, develop, implement and monitor policy and actions. This capacity building is necessary to promote more participation and negotiation power for the Roma representations and, eventually better policy. Discussants have repeatedly raised the issue of the use of the “Roma issue” as an easy culprit for political agendas, furthermore the instrumental use of such an issue has made Roma peoples as an object rather than a subject of (other) economic interests and players.
A critical analysis on the public perception and on the identity of the Roma has also been shared by Roma Associations representatives Graziano Halilovic and Dijana Pavlovic, who have highlighted, on the one side, the stereotypical approaches of the collective imaginary on Roma, and, on the other side, the social and psychological consequences that such labeling or attitude has on the Roma groups and individuals, and their rights.
The issue of identity (and identities within the general term Roma – which includes many different cultures Sinti, Travelers and others), linked to the general Roma culture as “opposed” to the so-called mainstream culture has been approached as another limiting factor for participation, enhancing discrimination. To maintain a positive link with the traditional culture and mores, there is a need to come to terms with the fact that culture and identity are processes that vary over time and that the “diversity” of Roma today is not only referred to an equally general mainstream society, but also to an increasing variety of minorities, ethnic groups and lifestyles which generate even more difficulties in dealing with increasingly diverse “gage”. As part of maintaining a strong identity and cultural pride in this context, and not in contrast with this objective, the Roma groups need to invest in their young generations, by encouraging them to get into education/ training, as well as to enter the general labour market, not limiting the employment/income opportunities in traditional jobs, but innovating and diversifying their skills.
In conclusion, also in light of the development of the National strategy to comply with the EC communication, in different EU countries – and particularly in Italy – there is need to exit the emergency approach and to start to “normalize” the policy approach to Roma. A holistic and contextual approach, which must take into considerations facts, accurate knowledge and shared objectives, is required to increase Roma participation, their access to rights of citizenship and overall social cohesion.
The 4th thematic seminar, called “Anti-tsiganism and prejudices: combating stereotypes through media”, was held in Rome on 12 May 2011 and has addressed the issue of the role of the media in fighting discrimination against the Roma community and Roma’s active participation as a driver to combat discrimination. The seminar, organized in the framework of the project “+Respect” by Cittalia and Regione Puglia in collaboration with the Province of Rome and ANCI – National Association of Italian Municipalities, has gathered some 20 experts from the media, local authorities, NGOs and international networks, Roma associations, universities and research centres, third sector. Participants came from Italy and other EU countries. An interpretation service was provided. The seminar for media was one of the three seminars organized in the framework of the final conference of +Respect.
The first panel of the seminar has been conceived to give a picture of the history of the multiple discriminations and the racial segregation that through centuries has been going hand in hand with the negative perception of the Roma communities in Europe. According to Marco Brazzoduro, Professor at University La Sapienza – Rome, Roma people are still pictured and portrayed as a problematic “ethnic group”, by use of negative stereotypes and prejudices, as if the social exclusion of Roma people is an innate element of their ethnicity and not the consequence of long lasting discriminating policies and untrue stories.
This negative image is seriously widespread in Europe and is given more emphasis by offensive political discourses and deceitful information campaigns. But history could actually help us understand more the stories of Roma people, too often fallen into oblivion. Knowledge brings respect: this is the point stressed by Luca Bravi, researcher at University of Chieti, who has focused his research activities on the history of the “Porrajmos”, the Roma holocaust, which has witnessed the cruel murder of more than 500.000 people. Dissemination of information is a way to combat and revert the negative perception of a community: schools do play a crucial role in this sense. Anna Maria Rivera has then referred to the use of “institutional racism” as a way to channel fear and weakness of the majority of the population against a precise target group, Roma people. Media can create and support a vicious circle reporting and passing on negative messages without taking into account the consequences of their words.
The second part of the seminar has highlighted good experiences of journalism and communication practices in Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, Romania and Czech Republic. Gabriele Flamma (TG2, Associazione Giornalisti Scuola di Perugia, Italy) has presented the initiative “NewsRom – Inform without prejudice”, a project launched within the CoE “Dosta!” Campaign, which aims to foster discussion on the way media normally channel news concerning Roma communities and develop a knowledge-based approach. Education should be done first to news-providers rather than addressing only the general public. Paolo Butturini (Associazione Stampa Romana, Italy), has announced a vademecum on how to communicate Roma life (in line with the Charter of Rome) and called for a stronger interaction between different player in the society: Roma communities should be widely included as sources and speakers of their own stories. Stefano Trasatti (Redattore Sociale, Italy) has questioned so-called “journalists alibis” when reporting certain kind of news in a certain way. The starting point is admitting that we live in a truly stereotyped culture towards Roma people. Those writing about them do not always belong to their communities, leading this to traps and misleading concepts.
Sara Giménez (Fundación Secretariado Gitano, Spain), has presented the set of guidelines for journalist that her organization has produced in order to tackle cases of discrimination in the media (press, web, TV), which amounts to more than 30% of the total. Sensationalism and news based on ethnic profiling should be absolutely avoided. Adelina Chalmers (Menter, United Kingdom) has underlined the urgency of making the “business case” of equality news: a communication strategy which brings together different key-stakeholders could show more positive stories in the media (approach which seems to work both in Romania and East England). Elena Borghi (Articolo 3, Italy) has presented the content of “In other words”, a EU co-financed project aiming to set up monitoring observatories in charge of analysis of media and reporting deceitful cases of information as a means to combat stereotypes dissemination. Kamila Zlatušková (Czech Television) has presented the episode named “My Ghetto, My World” from the docu-soap “Nestlings” nominated for the CIVIS Media Prize for Integration and Cultural Diversity in Europe. The whole documentary shows the story of kids (mostly Roma) from poor areas who suffer from spatial, educational and cultural segregation and whose basic rights are constantly violated.
Download the programme here: Agenda of the +Respect Thematic Seminar for Media
Aidan White, former General Secretary of the International Federation of Journalists, wrote an article for +Respect, addressed to the participants of the seminars. Download the article here: Debunking stereotypes about Roma people: an article of Aidan White for “+Respect”
Some 50 experts from local authorities, the media, NGOs and international networks, Roma associations, universities and research centres, third sector have attended the third thematic workshop “Anti-tsiganism and prejudices: combating stereotypes through media” organized by Cittalia and Regione Puglia in the framework of “+ Respect”. The 3rd Seminar for media was organized in Brussels at the offices of Regione Puglia on 4 May 2011.
A first panel has been conceived to give a picture of the state of play of EU/European policies for Roma communities.
Cathie Burton has presented the longstanding commitment of the Council of Europe to help fight segregation and discrimination of Roma people. In particular he addressed the CoE role in the media and communication field through the organization of campaigns, training, meetings useful to bring together relevant stakeholders whose work could fight widespread negative perception of Roma communities. According to Alvaro Ancisi, ANCI Vice President and CoR Rapporteur on the “New EU framework for national Roma integration strategies” to meet the challenge of a thorough Roma inclusion it is necessary to combat discrimination based on ethnic origin or membership of a minority, break stereotypes, bring our people closer, facilitate a dialogue with the Roma civil society, promote self-determination, participation, representation, active citizenship of the Roma population.
The second part of the seminar has highlighted good experiences of journalism and field work in United Kingdom, Luxembourg, Belgium, Romania, Slovakia. Veronica Scognamiglio (Amnesty International, EU Office) has presented the human rights approach in their work both on the field and through the media. Adelina Chalmers (Menter, United Kingdom) has underlined the urgency of making the “business case” of equality news: a communication strategy which brings together different key-stakeholders could show more positive stories in the media (approach which seems to work both in Romania and East England). Karin Waringo (Chachipe, Luxembourg) has mostly focused on the obstacles Roma activists and NGOs have to tackle in order to fight discrimination spread out by inaccurate/deceitful information of media moguls. Koen Geurts (Foyer, Bruxelles) presented their daily experience in working close to Roma people living in Brussels and how they address their needs to improve their social conditions (through job-search, education, trainings, information campaigns). Marta Pinto (ERIO, Bruxelles) has explained the ratio behind the work done in collaboration with Redattore Sociale which resulted in a set of guidelines for Roma activists on how to address the media world to let their voice be heard.
Finally, Thomas Mougey (Cafebabel, Bruxelles) rounded up the afternoon session highlighting pros and cons of the different approaches to communication about Roma issues. He also wrote an article published on-line by Cafebabel on the content of the +Respect project and more specifically on its fight against Roma discrimination through media:
The City Council of Puerto Lumbreras, through its municipal department in charge of Social Affairs, on 7 April 2011 organised a seminar to present the results of the project +Respect, achieved both at municipal and international level, and created a forum where innovative good practices related to the project’s target group were presented.
Target public was made of politicians, education professionals, principals of schools, social service technicians, municipal police, members of the State Security Forces, Roma community and the general public. The session started with the welcome of the Mayor of Puerto Lumbreras, Pedro Antonio Sánchez, who highlighted that “the Municipality of Puerto Lumbreras put into practice research actions and analysis on the Romani population, as well as participative workshops and cultural events in addition to activities aimed at people at risk of social exclusion”. Sánchez also highlighted that “several actions were aimed at all the collectivity of the municipality and have involved all the Councils, as the social integration of ethnic minorities requires the effort and work of everyone, especially in the education and training sphere”. He congratulated the effort done by the Social Services Department and also by the schools involved in the project at local level, encouraging key stakeholders to continue on the path indicated by the +Respect project. Following the presentation of the Mayor, the Councillor for Social Services, Mª Ángeles Túnez, who has been involved in the project since the first coordinating actions, stated that for the Department it has been a very rewarding experience and also an opportunity to improve the integration and understanding of the local population towards the Roma as well as an opportunity for the Roma to show and be proud of their culture and relevance in history. She also highlighted that the Social Services Department has a strong commitment to fight discrimination and support all actions linked to the promotion of equal opportunities, the erase of discrimination and the co-existence in respect to each other.
A panel was specifically dedicated to the presentation of good practices. Mr Mariano López Oliver, technical Advisor and Professor of the Attention to Diversity Service (Regional Ministry of Education, Training and Employment of the Region of Murcia), stated that Spain is one of the Member States that has implemented better policies related to Roma people. Still, there is an educational challenge to face in the secondary education as only 20% of Roma students finalise this stage. According to the Spanish Constitution, all students have the right to education in situations of equality. In this sense, the Regional department related to Attention to Diversity was established in year 2000, to achieve an equal opportunities situation in terms of education and quality. A Royal Decree stated on 27/04/83 defines the compensatory education, which also supported these policies.
The department has taken part in different EU projects to cooperate in this line:
- EUROM in Socrates/Comenius: a methodological guide was created as well as modules for teaching staff to integrate Romani culture.
- DROMESQUERE EUROSKOLA: Distance learning for teachers in culture and curriculum Romani (2004/2007). The aim was to integrate culture, new technologies and respect for others.
As a consequence of these experiences, some actions were implemented:
- A national congress (2008) related to compensatory education which combined distant and regular training aimed at teachers.
- Publication of some studies related to Romani population: Situation of the Romani students in educational terms, in 2006; Maj-Kethane: Educational materials to work in class with Romani contents; Memories of paper.
- Some educational funds were also used to complement with other activities to reinforce Romani contents.
- A Regional Plan for the prevention, monitoring and control of absenteeism in Murcia Region, with a regional table on this topic.
Mr Jesús Salmerón Ruíz , Territory Director of the Gypsy Secretariat Foundation in the Region of Murcia, mentioned an old law related to “Lazy people and dubious people” which was used to deal with Romani people, since XVIII century. The first national and regional interventions were made in XIX century in terms of housing in years 70/80 and also efforts related to normalized employment of Romani population. One of the aspects that still today need a lot of work is the recognition of equality taking into account the cultural identity. Roma people are afraid of losing their cultural identity when they enter the mainstream education. There has been a clear progress in the insertion within basic education however there is a problem, the degree is only achieved after finalising secondary education, something that is not always possible. According to the studies implemented on this issue, females that enter secondary education finalise in higher degree their studies in comparison to males. The final scenario is that when they are 18 years old without having this degree, they are very vulnerable for the current labour market. Another issue that needs to be taken into consideration is that interventions cannot be limited only in the educational sphere, as the student needs a more comprehensive intervention in his/her background to really change situation. The present situation of crisis affects deeply those that are more vulnerable as the Romani families creating responsibilities to the minors that sometimes have to leave the centres to cooperate with the family unit. Some data compiled from the present situation of the Romani population provide some hints: there is an early incorporation of Romani children to schools. An increase in the consideration of education for Romani families has also been observed. However, there are some repeating problems, such as the absenteeism, punctuality, relations with others, etc. Equal opportunities could be improved with the participation or integration of the Romani family within the educational community. In this way the homework from school could be considered as important as the tasks allocated to the students by their own families. Families should be involved in the extra-curricular actions and as a support for the educational enforcement. There is a need for educational support through educational staff and places where to implement the interventions.
Along the time, there has been a relevant advance in the situation and problems address linked to Romani students. At the beginning, the main issue was the enrollment of Romani students within the educational system and the arrangement of documentation in order to do so. There were “bridge” schools where these students could obtain a certification but in some regions this option did not exist. In this sense, the PROMOCIONA Programme was launched, which consisted in the cooperation with the educational centres devoting a teacher per 20 students with intensive interventions to help the vulnerable group to enter secondary education. Apart from this, both were supported by family contracts (agreements with the families to support the students), an intensive follow-up with calls, materials developed “ad hoc”, educational support, etc. This was implemented after observing that between 37-38% children left studies or have failures. The European Union has also taken into account policies of future such as for example in the Strategy 2020 related to an increase of employment in a 10%. Regional bodies should follow this road, and take effective measures as for example to include the third sector in the educational planning platform to establish an open coordination.
Mr Andrés Lledó Mula, Sergeant-Chief of the Municipal Police Department of Puerto Lumbreras, said that in terms of cooperation with the Romani population, some interventions are done at local level such as the raise of awareness aimed at civil servants to break stereotypes and taking into account best practices at EU level. Key issues are: analysis, raise of awareness, equal opportunities and best practices. In this sense there is a project entitled STEPPS, leaded by the Municipality of Fuenlabrada (Madrid) with the participation of key actors such as Luis Santiago (introducing the importance of consideration of ethnic minority Romani population by the Council of Europe and the work of the Regional Centre which promoted the Romani culture), Maite Andrés (introducing the implementation of the EU Directive 2000/43, with transnational projects and a support system to victims of discrimination), Carmen Gómez (enhancing the importance of Romani population being the most relevant ethnic group in Spain, with more than 600 years of permanence and having less consolidated rights in comparison to other minorities), David Martin (local policeman of the Municipality, who coordinated efforts with other corps from Catalonia in the perspective of non discrimination).
Mr. Lledò Mula highlighted the relevance of promoting some actions to improve relations between Romani population and policemen: need of training aimed at policemen for personal identification and corporal registers, a system of follow up actions, the promotion of dialogue, and the implementation of best practices.
Ms María del Mar González Morales, Social worker and municipal officer in charge of the +Respect project, and Mr Tomás Robles Guirado, Social Counselor and Municipal collaborator of the +Respect project, presented +Respect (specific objectives, activities, awareness raising) and highlighted the importance of the involvement of local authorities, that is crucial in terms of the observation of needs and of the implementation of local policies aiming at full inclusion.
In a primary stage, Puerto Lumbreras has searched for best practices and intercultural days. Conclusion of this prior work have been: the need for a higher visibility of the Romani population, the need for scientific data and a deep revision of methodology to obtain data from the different ethnicities and the need of participation of Romani professionals in this work.In the framework of the general project, Puerto Lumbreras, being responsible for the WP related to the work at schools, has established a series of specific objectives:
- To work in the school curricula, as an entity group.
- To contribute to co-existence and intercultural contents.
- To facilitate pedagogic suitcases to educational centres, with materials analysed from the project partners and at regional and national level.
- To promote the participation of Romani families.
In particular, the cooperation with partners of Italy and Romania in the framework of the project was highlighted and the activities implemented by the Municipality were presented.
Ms Encarna Guirado Caparroz and Ms Carmen Elena Alcaráz Ayen, Teachers in the Public School Juan Antonio López Alcaraz, were members of the staff from the educational centres that cooperated in the adaptation of curricula to contents related to Roma intercultural issues. The materials used were those taken from the Library and audiovisual materials. The places and venues used were the classes, the computer rooms, the playrooms and the library. Students were deeply involved. The objective of the activities was to transmit to students the spirit of peaceful co-existence and the respect to the others. There is not a radical change but it has been noticed that there is an increase of interest in general for Roma culture and Roma students are better valued by their peer group. The success of the intervention has been the connection to students and the fostering of “food for thought” regarding other ethnicities present in the daily life. Some sentences recorded from the students were played among them: “If we do not judge a book for its cover, why do we have to judge a person from his/her appearance?”
In conclusion, the Municipality of Puerto Lumbreras confirmed that in 2012 the work already developed in 2011 is going to continue. The experience is going to be taken to a Congress on plural education and also to the Regional Congress on Education. The number of students is to be broadening to other levels in Primary education. After the conclusions a prize with the name of the schools and their participation to the project was delivered to the representatives of the three schools that cooperated in the project implementation. To finalise the session, Herminia, a Roma woman who also has cooperated with the project, read a Roma story linked to respect to others and sang some Roma songs to the audience. Finally, there was a projection with the works implemented in the classrooms.
The travelling stand was sent to Spain and exhibited in Puerto Lumbreras from 6 April to 11 April 2011. In particular, the stand was displayed in the schools and on the occasion of the +Respect local dissemination workshop held in Puerto Lumbreras. The Municipality of Puerto Lumbreras used the second monitor of the totem to display the activities implemented in the schools of Puerto Lumbreras, also projecting the video that summarizes the intercultural curricula and educational modules organized by the municipality in collaboration with the schools.
On 11 March the International conference entlited “Local Authorities and the Inclusion of Roma People: Exchange of Good Practices”, took place in Venice (Palazzo Cavalli Franchetti). Organised by the Veneto Region Brussels office in collaboration with Cittalia, the event highlighted the current situation of Roma people and the demand of social inclusion policies. The local authorities play a strategic role in order to foster the Roma participation to the decision making process.
In addition to the third and social sector representatives, many practitioners and local authorities rapresentatives participated in the conference, like Remo Sernagiotto (regional minister responsible for social policies of the Veneto Region and President of ELISAN network), Claudio Tessari (councillor to education of the Veneto Province) and Sandro Simionato (deputy mayor of the City of Venice). Indeed Salvatore Petronella, European Commission rappresentative, offered an overview on the European policies for Roma inclusion. Gabriele Guazzo, +Respect project manager, presented the activities promoted and realized within the project while Stefania Bragato (Director of Research, COSES), presented the report “Combating Anti-Roma Discrimination: Knowledge and Policies containing recommendations addressed to the local authoritie”s. The report offered the occasion for debating over the existence of good practices (in order to integration and social inclusion) at European level with the participation of many practitioners coming from Romania, Sweden and Spain.
At the final session of the conference, Ana Gimenez Adelantado, anthropologist, presented some significant experience (OPRE ROMA and The education of gypsy childhood in Europe project) in the educational field in a view of empowerment of the Roma people. Lorin Niculae, Soros Foundation Romania project manager, described the Housing program for Roma entlited “One house, one future”. During the conference Andreea Tita, Doly County Council (Romania), presented a National Strategy for Improving the Situation of the Roma Population in Doly council. Finally, Leena Eklund PhD, Senior Lecturer, Project Leader University West (Trollhättan, Sweden) presented a project focused on the Roma participation in social and working life through empowerment and work-integrated learning.
Andreea Tita, Officer for the International Affairs of the Dolj County Council (Romania), presented a EU funded project implemented in the county aimed at improving the situation of Roma people living in the communities identified as those with fewer opportunities (Municipality of Craiova, districts Hanul Rosu – Fata Luncii - Catargiu, Facai -Romanesti, Brestei – Cernele – Băileşti – Calafat,- Filiaşi – Segarcea – Amărăştii de Jos). The specific objectives of the project were a significant reduction of the number of Roma people in Dolj County without identification and civil status documents, the facilitation of the access to the public services and labor market for Roma persons in Dolj County which are excluded from these services, the improvement of the access of the Roma people in Dolj County to social, medical and educational services and the creation of partnerships and team work between the public sector and the NGO sector. The results of the project were important: 3800 questionnaires filled in with the data concerning the civil status and identity documents; completed and updated data base regarding the situation of the Roma people without civil status and identity documents; 9 working groups (with 2 facilitators each) prepared for developing counseling and assistance for the Roma communities; 935 birth certificates issued; 390 duplicate marriage certificates issued and 1.270 identity documents issued. Recognition of legal status is, in fact, the first condition for true participation of Roma people and, still, many Roma lack identity documents, which cuts them completely out from the civil and democratic life of the Union.
Leena Eklund, PhD, Senior Lecturer and Project Leader of University West of Sweden, presented a Swedish project aimed at Increasing Roma participation in social and working life through empowerment and work-integrated learning. In Sweden, too, Roma people live under worse conditions than the average citizens and are are denied full access to the social and economic rights. They do not have full access to their political and civil rights (voting, dialogue with government through Roma organizations) and are poor in both social and economic welfare, powerless and lack influence in the society. According to the Official Reports of the Swedish Government, “Sweden has an unresolved under development problem caused by racist structures that affect the entire national Roma minority.” In order to improve the situation of Roma, University West implemented the research project “Empowerment and participation in health among Roma in West-Sweden”, aimed at increasing the knowledge about Roma culture, reduce prejudices, increase Roma influence and control over lifestyle-related and social determinants of health and increase Roma self-confidence and sense of belonging to the majority society. The activities implemented included “train the trainers” workshops aimed at training civil servants of Public Sector and mobilize their local community for social action, support and work integrated learning for Roma communities and concrete initiatives (theatre laboratories, participative forum, dances, music).
Lorin Niculae, Programme Manager of the Soros Foundation Romania, presented the project “One house, one future”, a participative housing project implemented in Baltesti and Vanatori, in Romania, where hundreds of Roma people lived in segregation and without decent housing and health conditions. The project succeeded in building several houses for Roma through a participative approach (participative design) and respecting Roma life and traditions, also qualifying Roma people in jobs related to building and offering job opportunities and a hope for the future.
Ana Gimenez Adelantado, Anthropologist and Professor at University Jaume I of Castellon de la Plana, of Roma origin, highlighted the risks of a growing racism in Europe, both differentialist and assimilation racism, and presented from her unique point of view (that of expert and that of Roma person) two projects implemented by University Jaume I: the EU project Opre Roma, with a focus on education of gipsy children and aimed at fighting against school abandoning through analyses, studies, mediation with Roma families and activation of dialogue between schools and institutions and Roma families. The second project presented as a good practice is the transnational project “The education of Gipsy childhood in Europe”, made by University Jaume I in collaboration with the University of Florence and University Paris V René Descartes. It is a comparative study on schooling of Roma children in Europe which gave interesting results such as the knowledge that Roma school absenteeism is not a regular trend in EU countries (it can vary from country to country) but in general it concerns around 50% of Roma school population. The project has showed that some actions implemented with good intentions, such as the activation of information sessions to improve the knowledge of Roma culture, did not have good results and did not succeed in fostering the inclusion and in particular the school integration of Roma children, because the knowledge surplus (more information) on the Roma culture led to a manipulation of these information that in the end has fostered prejudices and reiteration of stereotypes by other students and teachers.
The conference was attended by some 45 participants coming from several NGOs and universities (coming from different Italian regions) and the local institutions and was very useful to activate contacts with experts and associations dealing with the issue of Roma inclusion and participation in Italy and in the rest of Europe, with a view to foster the networking effect of the +Respect project and stimulate interest and participation around the themes of participation and non-discrimination of Roma people in the EU.
The travelling stand was displayed during the +Respect international conference in Venice. The participants had the opportunity to watch the travelling stand and get the WP2 Report from the papers’ tray.
In the recent years, inclusion and integration of Roma and other minorities in the local policies, both at national and European level, were the subject of many debates and actions. Despite some improvements, much remains to be done to achieve full integration of minority rights in local decision making processes.
In this context, the capacity of local systems to obtain more data, raise awareness, provide services (such as access to housing, education, health services, employment) and to implement measures to address poverty, is fundamental to fight against racism and for strengthening the economic and social cohesion as well as to enhance the rights and culture of Roma as a resource for society.
The conference, organized by the Veneto Region Brussels Office, is planned in the framework of the activities within the project +RESPECT: Increasing Roma People’s Participation and Citizenship Rights: Campaigns and Tools, funded by the Specific Programme “Fundamental Rights and Citizenship” 2007-2013 . The event aims to raise awareness of local authorities on policies for social inclusion of Roma people. During the event the report “Combating Anti-Roma Discrimination: Knowledge and Policies” implemented by COSES containing recommendations for local authorities on policies for inclusion of the Roma population, will be the basis for a discussion on existing good practices at European level of “liberation of the camps” through social and spatial inclusion local initiatives. The ENSA (European Network for Social Authorities) and ELISAN (European Local Inclusion and Social Action Network) networks, associated partners of the project, will participate in the debate, promoting the exchange of good practices at local and European level and suggesting new scenarios for inclusion and participation of Roma and other groups who are at risk of social exclusion. Third sector organizations operating in the integration and raise awareness of Roma, local authorities (municipalities, provinces), cultural mediators and social workers are invited to participate.
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Provisional programme: +RESPECT Venice international conference 11 March 2011