The creation of this publication has sought to analyse, define and understand Roma youth participation in action. The process of research, writing and consultation has created an opportunity for the better understanding of forms, approaches, and practices of Roma youth participation. It serves as an invitation to others to use these good examples as starting points or inspiration. It also supports the further development of strategies and programmes for Roma youth participation, especially at the local and regional levels.
It is clear from these examples of good practice that a response to Roma youth participation is possible and can be successful. However, it is necessary to understand that the projects and organisations’ approach is based on the understanding that the “problem” does not come from the Roma young people but is a symptom of the stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination faced by Roma people in general and Roma young people specifically.
Sustainability is always an issue and projects come and go with time. Many of the organisations here face continual problems with funding – as with any youth organisation. There is a need to become broader in thinking, whereby funding can come from and not rely solely on traditional funders or the big well known European funders. Sustainability is also affected by an organisation’s ability to adapt, the lives of young people are ever-changing, and young Roma are no different in this respect: organisations need to keep adapting to the needs of the young people they work with. Strength comes in numbers: this publication offers a secondary aim of connecting organisations, and networking is hugely important for survival. Whether it be seeing that others also experience similar issues and problems, whether it is about inspiring each other with new ideas and creativity, or whether it is simply knowing that you are not alone – this publication can serve as a means to linking individuals and organisations, whether you are in the publication or not.
These combined examples show a need for further developments in youth policy at local levels but also at a European level. In order to be effective, youth policy needs to step out from the pages it is written on and become action on behalf of and with and by the young people it is targeted at. Added to this, vulnerable groups, including young Roma, need to be specified in such policies in order that their circumstances and needs are taken into account. Again, strength in numbers: organisations can learn from one another and add support for one another in the developments of strategies and policies, at both local and national levels. This is vital for the continuation of the work being done by, with and for young Roma.
This collection of examples is evidence that young Roma are willing and able to contribute to local, regional, national and European-wide developments for enhancing their own participation.
The examples reveal that Roma young people are reshaping, redefining and developing their cultural response to the world. Young Roma, through their participation, exhibit courage and optimism; this is something that can influence their immediate families and wider Roma community in a positive way. This is a creative process on the part of the young people, as they move beyond being consumers to becoming activists.
Perhaps the greatest achievement of the work of the projects and organisations included in this publication is that they work with young people in order for the young people to empower themselves. Through creating their own place within the world they refuse the option of isolation and segregation.
Another aspect worth highlighting is that Roma young people have much in common with other marginalised groups and communities. Recognition of this can help build contemporary models of better political, professional and social practice.
In the light of growing political extremism across Europe, such co-operation, via the promotion of understanding and cultural / ethnic interaction and co-working, has the potential to alleviate and counter exclusion, prejudice, exploitation and oppression.