9. 3. 2020.

Month of Roma Women Activism to be launched on the International Women’s Day. ROMA WOMEN DEFEAT PREJUDICE

The campaign aims to draw attention to stereotypes and prejudices often observed as the common denominator in discrimination against Roma men and women. At the hearth of this year’s campaign running through 8 April, the International Roma Day, is a fight against stereotypes on how early and child marriages constitute an integral part of Roma tradition.

On 6 and 7 March, just before the campaign, a two-day capacity building training for members and activists of the Roma Women Network (RWM) took place in Belgrade aiming to help participants improve their existing, and acquire new knowledge in public speaking, use of social networks, and press release preparation to promote the activities they are implementing. Association “Ternipe” organised the training with support of the German Development Cooperation project “Inclusion of Roma and Other Marginalised Groups in Serbia”, implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.

“Prejudices and stereotypes massively instigate the discrimination against Roma. In light of the disappearance of Roma girl Monika, as in similar situations before, there have been numerous interpretations given in comments and media reports regarding child and early marriages being a Roma tradition. Such attitudes can significantly hamper the speed of adequate reaction and protection of Roma women, including their position in the society”, explains Radmila Nešić, the President of Association “Ternipe”, the association that currently as member of RWM coordinates the work of the Network. “Presence of early marriages is a fact in some Roma communities, but not owing to their tradition or culture, instead owing to the inaccessibility of education, inability to find jobs and other social and economic circumstances present in daily lives of Roma”, Nešić concludes.

The campaign on the occasion of the Month of Roma Women Activism is to include series of activities and events to be held throughout Serbia. Since one way to combat prejudice, stereotypes and discrimination is through positive examples, the focus of campaign activities is in showcasing positive experiences. They are to illustrate successful stories in the media, on social networks, at round tables and workshops, during outdoor activities, film screenings and other activities, where women leaders and RWM activists are to be introduced alongside many other Roma women and girls who embody positive examples and triumph over prejudice – as they are educated, have not married as children, attend universities, work…

“Prejudices and stereotypes about Roma are abundant. This is not merely an assumption or an impression. It is a well-supported fact. Labour Market Discrimination Survey, completed in 2019, suggests that more than 70% of employees agree or partially agree with the following statement: “Roma people dislike working”. This attitude is prevalent even among respondents who condemn discrimination. That further underlines the utter importance of helping people shed light on stereotypes and prejudice as habitually the main reason for discrimination. Campaign’s message is therefore: “Meet, Do Not Judge!”, Petar Antić from GIZ, explains.

Antić also points out that discrimination Roma women face is quite often multifaceted: “Results of the survey Citizen Attitudes on Discrimination in Serbia from 2019 show that two thirds of citizens (69%) believe discrimination in Serbia is extensively present, while 50% see Roma as the ones most exposed to discrimination, right after women (33%).”

Roma Women Network brings together 30 organisations and initiatives that work throughout Serbia. RWM fights for systematic solutions to problems Roma women face – fight against domestic violence and trafficking in women and children, gender equality, education, work, employment and economic empowerment, improved health care, Roma women participation in public life, culture development, and much more that constitutes the foundation of human rights and human dignity.