Holger Gustavsen, Taternes Landsforening (Norway)
8 April 2009
1. Describe your job?
I am the leader of Taternes Landsforening (The Travellers Organisation of Norway) We work for our rights, to save our culture and to change the attitudes towards the Taters/ travellers.
2. What specific challenges do you face in Norway?
Well, they let us in to shops and restaurants, but working is sometimes difficult. We often have to keep it a secret that we are travellers to get a job. This is because of a general negative view that the government among others has built through centuries. We are also often denied entrance to camp sites, and since our culture is travelling, this is inhibiting our freedom to move around. The police show very little respect, and they warn the villages against using travelling workers, in other words us. Many children are bullied at school because they are travellers.
3. How would you assess the national acceptance of cultural diversity in Norway?
They fear diversity. They fear everything that is different.
4. How have cultural organisations and political groups responded to the challenges of diversity in Norway?
We have a good partnership with the Equality and Discrimination Ombudsman. They listen and actually do something. But apart from that, we are alone.
5. What contribution can your work make to the improvement of the Roma position in Europe?
They can learn from us. Don’t give up, even though you face challenges. You must believe, and you must have goals.
6. What role can media play in helping to improve the Roma position in Norway and in Europe?
First of all, stop making us the black sheep of the society. They can write positively too, not only negatively. This is not only our problem. The media is insulting to all minority groups. They can stop warning against our lifestyle and they can stop mentioning ''a man of Pakistani origin, etc.'' If the media is going to help us, both journalists and editors need to change their attitudes.
7. How can the Council of Europe’s campaign help the fight against the discrimination of Roma?
I believe all organisations that work for something good can help.
8. Looking to the future, what are the prospects for improved community relations for Tater (Roma) and travellers?
I believe it will get better but it is hard. We meet a lot of hardship.