Roma youth as agents for change, new challenges in Ukraine
International Roma Day
International Roma Day, April 8, is a day to celebrate Romani culture and raise awareness of the issues facing Romani people. Learn more about our activities in previous years:
Discrimination and exclusion still characterize the lives of most Roma and Sinti today, reflected in racist violence, unemployment, poverty, illiteracy and high infant mortality. International Roma Day, April 8, is an opportunity to celebrate the unique culture of Europe’s largest ethnic minority, and to take stock of the challenges, both old and new, they face on a daily basis.
The OSCE in 1990 was the first international organization to recognize the “particular problems of Roma [gypsies]” in the context of the proliferation of racial and ethnic hatred, xenophobia, and discrimination.
Some of these issues are deeply entrenched in some OSCE participating States. While the situation is improving overall, new challenges, such as the crisis in and around Ukraine, have presented new problems for local Roma communities.
Young Roma and Sinti need to be seen by participating States as a demographic of growing importance. They make up a considerable proportion of population and, thus, are a significant part of the future workforce. Nevertheless, discriminatory measures in education and employment prevent many young Roma and Sinti from fully realizing their potential.
Youth as agents for change
The OSCE recognizes that Roma and Sinti youth have a potential to change the future course of their society and in 2013 foreign ministers from the OSCE’s 57 participating States confirmed that Roma and Sinti youth need to be provided with more opportunities to act as agents of change in their communities.
Roma and Sinti youth were given a platform to raise their voices on the issues that concern them at a conference in Belgrade organized by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) in December 2014. It gathered 40 youth Roma activists from across the region to discuss how to mobilize and empower their communities, and stimulate their participation in politics and decision-making processes. Read some of their ideas:
The conclusions of the conference were put forward as recommendations to OSCE participating States for empowering Roma and Sinti youth participation at the local level, for promoting the inclusion of their communities, and to help further develop ODIHR’s work with Roma and Sinti youth issues.
Deepening discrimination in Ukraine
The crisis in and around Ukraine has grabbed world headlines. It has also impacted the lives of thousands of Roma who already faced discrimination and challenges in daily life before the conflict broke out.
ODIHR’s Situation Assessment Report on Roma in Ukraine, published in September last year, noted that Roma in Ukraine have a generally negative perception of the society, where they experience threats and violence, and even pressure to join the sides in conflict. In addition to physical attacks, they have also been targeted by an anti-Roma political discourse in speeches by political representatives and in the media. Reports on Roma in newspapers and broadcast media mostly focus on criminality, violence and immigration as threats to public safety.
The Report in particular highlights the difficult situation of Roma women, who face multiple forms of discrimination in all aspects of life, and Roma children because poverty and a lack of documents are significant barriersv access to education.
In the current conflict in Ukraine, Roma women are overlooked and remain invisible, and this not only worsens their situation during the current crisis, but will continue to have a negative impact through the whole conflict cycle.
Zola Kondur, Vice-President of Chiricli, the Roma Women’s Fund
ODIHR is calling for more attention to be paid to recognizing the vulnerable situation that displaced Roma face, especially Roma children and women. It calls on the government to include an anti-discriminatory approach as an integral part of its measures for Roma inclusion in Ukraine. This is key to avoiding the further marginalization of Roma, preventing multiple forms of discrimination against them and to combating the perpetuation of negative stereotypes in crisis situations. ODIHR will continue to monitor the situation of Roma communities in Ukraine over the course of the year.
Read about how the OSCE's presences on the ground are marking International Roma Day.
- On International Roma Day, OSCE Mission to Skopje Head calls for improving living conditions of Roma
- On International Roma Day OSCE Mission to Serbia notes progress made and highlights need for continuing efforts to improve situation of Roma in Serbia
- OSCE Mission Head calls for better integration of Kosovo Roma community
- OSCE Presence launches voter education project for Roma and Egyptian women in Albania
- Head of OSCE Bosnia and Herzegovina Mission calls on authorities to implement Roma Action Plans, marks International Roma Day in Kakanj