Main Trends and Ideas in Participation
When looking through all these projects there are a number of trends that appear. This chapter will briefly explore these different trends connecting different aspects to different projects.
As obvious as it sounds, all the examples are working directly with young people and are good examples of participative youth work practice. Most of the projects and organisations have taken the approach of working with a small number of young people in order to ensure effectiveness and sustainability; for example, Kamira involved 22 young people, Roma Integration House 8, and Integro 20.
Peer education is a practice that several of the projects and organisations are using, including Sumnal and LGBT Pavee.
Participation in Youth Work
The biggest single approach that creates impact and supports participation of Roma young people in society is the participation of Roma young people in the organisation or project. Kamira promotes and encourages the young people it works with to be involved in its decision-making bodies. The Roma Support Group ensure that all their activities are developed with the young people and are guided by the wants, needs and perspectives of the Roma young people. It is the young people who choose, suggest and initiate the projects through their interaction, collaboration and co-operation. The young people are also encouraged to be a part of the management structure and/or to take a part in the organisation’s decision-making processes. Konexe works to make sure the voices of the Roma young people are heard in the organisation as they see this as a step towards the Roma young people having a voice in the wider community. ternYpe is young person led and it is the Roma young people who make the decisions, not just internally for the network but also when organising events they are responsible for all the organising aspects and the lobbying of authorities to support the respective project. LGBT Pavee’s policy and direction is guided by its membership – the Roma and traveller young people. Cooperativa Mandacaru and Fundação António Silva Leal has the Roma young people as decision makers and encourages them to have their own voice.
Developing Independence and Autonomy
The work of Roma Integration House enables the Roma young women to show that they are capable of organising activities outside of the domestic environment. Sumnal works to ensure the young Roma know their rights and how to gain access to rights: this supports the young people in being able to access social resources and support. This in turn fosters the integration of the Roma young people into mainstream society.
Partnership and Networking
Partnership and networking is another factor here, although some of the organisations are networks in their own right, for example ternYpe. However the building of partnerships is still a key factor, with other Roma youth organisations, with local authorities, institutions and services, and even international institutions such as the European Union and/or the Council of Europe youth departments. The creation and development of partnerships and networks raises the profile of the work of the project or organisation, of the Roma young people and what they are achieving, and therefore opens doors for participation.
An interesting trend in many of the examples is the promotion and support for Roma young people to embrace their identity and plural cultural affiliations. This happens in a variety of cases and ways. Amaro Foro works on Roma young people’s self-confidence and supports them in taking initiative. Gypsy Eye and Integro Association work hard to promote a positive image of Roma young people. Cooperativa Mandacaru and Fundação António Silva Leal work to provide Roma young people with the opportunity to cultivate and preserve their identity through theatre. Roma Integration House combines entrepreneurial activities by exploring elements of the Roma culture in order to support the young people to understand their identity better.
Having a focus on youth policy is another key factor in the work of many of the organisations and projects. Interacting with, influencing, and co-working with politicians and/or institutions on Roma youth issues is a hugely important part of Roma youth participation.
Sumnal works with a wide range of partnerships, creating consultations and co-operative relationships with a variety of institutions and organisations at both local and national levels. These include the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, the Centre for Social Work, the Ministry of Education and the Employment Agency. Through these contacts and partnerships, the organisation can influence the creation and development of youth policy in general, and Roma youth policy in particular.
RROMA is working to connect the groups of young people with the local municipalities and so begin a process of engagement in local policy making, and, from that, the development of local Roma Youth Action Plans. They are also working to facilitate Roma young people’s participation in youth policy making at the national level in co-operation with the National Youth Council. Amaro Foro has an ongoing developing relationship with the Berlin Senat (Berlin government) with whom they are working on the developments of youth policy and Roma policy. The young people are taking responsibility for pushing the implementation of the policies and promoting the role of young people in society.
Konexe is contributing at the European level to the drafting of measures and strategies against the growth of hatred and racism. At the local level, the anti-Roma attacks have been brought onto the political agenda by the young people. Roma Integration House is working on giving women a voice within the Lithuanian society and the Roma community, with the young people presenting Roma issues to governmental institutions.
The Internet is a huge resource for many of the organisations. For some it is a tool for networking and keeping in contact with members and for others it is platform and the basis of their work. Gypsy Eye and Roma Integration House make use of the Internet and both have websites and make use of social media. ternYpe, LGBT Pavee and RomaReact each host an interactive online platform to promote web-based youth participation and activism through the use of social media and online activities. For some it is an opportunity to identify with a specific group, to express views and to host online events. There are also chat rooms for discussions on different issues or general online interaction. Another use is to raise the profile of an issue and to use the platform and/or social media to tackle the issue.
Too often the aim of the project is achieve an end product; however the projects and organisations involved see the need for sustainability; participation is limited if there is no sustainability. Examples of sustainability include the following: the young activists from Gypsy Eye remaining active; RROMA promoting the establishment of independent Roma youth groups; most of the women involved at KAMIRA were more active within their organisations and public life as a direct result of the project. Konexe ensures that participants spend time with the threatened group or community in providing psychological and social support to the affected Roma people. Once a group in a threatened community is organised, Konexe works with them to become self-organised and autonomous.
The majority of Movit’s work is based on the promoting and encouraging Roma young people to take part in international activities and at the same time to engage Roma youth organisations in international programmes.
In Sumnal, young Roma who were active participants are now volunteers in the project: they are now providing support activities, guidance and advice, and helping to organise educational activities; in ternYpe the young people involved in the network are mentoring local groups and supporting capacity-building for youth workers.
Training the Roma young people was an important aspect. KAMIRA, Gypsy Eye and others trained the young people in competences for organising events and campaigns, or for learning about how to tackle discrimination and hate speech. Konexe delivered training on non-violent action. Integro Association not only trained the Roma young people but also continued with coaching possibilities. KAMIRA also focussed on training courses on participation itself, and engaged with the Youth in Action Programme (now Erasmus+).
Many of the projects and organisations take into account the cultural and traditional values of the Roma communities. This is seen as a vital part of the work: to work successfully with the Roma young people it is important to work with and create understanding with the whole community. Roma Support Group work a lot with the Roma family structure because of Roma traditions. KAMIRA promotes intergenerational dialogue between Roma women, and increasing the participation of young Roma women, which is seen as a key element in initiating changes for and within the Roma population. Cooperativa Mandacaru and Fundação António Silva Leal as part of their work explore the social context of being a young Roma in the Roma community and culture and being a young Roma in the wider society. LGBT Pavee explore the multiple aspects of being Roma, including sexuality, gender, age, disability, and so on. Roma Integration House show Roma culture as an inspirational resource and provided an example of the potential for the initiative of young Roma women from both poor and marginalised neighbourhoods. RomaReact and Sumnal work to heighten the visibility of young Roma and Roma youth issues, and create a growing public awareness about young Roma in Europe.
Promotion and Visibility
Good youth work impacts on the young people who then attract other young people to take part. This can be seen in the work of RomaReact where their face-to-face activities motivate other young Roma to become active and to participate. The information and testimonies from the field are shared with decision makers, the wider media and the general public at the local and European levels. LGBT Pavee exchange flyers, leaflets and information booklets with other mainstream organisations. The more publicity and visibility of the work of the Roma young people, the greater the chances for breaking stereotypes and discrimination and the greater the chance for the Roma young people to be able to break down the barriers to participation.
Konexe, Roma Support Group, KAMIRA and RomaReact all have an aspect of advocacy in their work, either for participation directly or for raising issues related to the Roma young people – especially in cases of discrimination and violence.