Anti-discrimination work on Roma and Sinti in Europe
By Constanze Jaiser
One key area in international youth work about discrimination concerns ways to address the subject of minority groups. The largest minority in Europe is made up of the many different communities of Roma and Sinti, which are grouped together (not uncontroversially) under the general heading "Roma." Their history and culture is now the subject of numerous political campaigns and educational resources, along with their experience of exclusion culminating in the murder of their families by the National Socialists in a brutal genocide, which many Roma and Sinti refer to as "Porajmos." Their exclusion in many European countries continues to this day. Several resources that are suitable for international youth work [meetings] and available online are recommended here:
An online module about human dignity and images of Roma and Sinti
First up is an online module in English concerning historical learning and human rights, commissioned by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, developed by the Agency for Historical, Civic and Media Education in cooperation with the House of the Wannsee Conference. Two chapters are of particular relevance for work on discrimination then and now:
Chapter 1: Reflections on human dignity
Case Study 6: Images of Roma – continuities of discrimination
The first resource offers an opportunity to come to grips with the concept of human dignity and, as a group, to arrive at a positive definition and focus on European efforts and measures aimed at protecting human dignity. A timeline showing the most significant human rights developments since 1945 helps users form a concise picture of historical milestones in defense of minorities and key information on European institutions.
By contrast, the case study is concerned explicitly with the exclusion of European Roma and Sinti: Starting with the contrast between self-images and frequently (re)produced as stereotypes, the voices of Roma and Sinti themselves are heard. They report on their experiences of discrimination (past and present) and on their too often unsuccessful efforts at obtaining compensation for the injustices they suffered under National Socialism.
A Video – "We call ourselves Roma"
Another good, concise introduction to the subject of Roma and antidiscrimination work is the video, in English, entitled "We call ourselves Roma," in which the Romanian Roma woman and human rights activist, Margareta Matache of Harvard University, provides an introduction to Europe’s largest minority.
The video is on the "Facing History Forum."
Accompanied by music, maps and well-chosen historical and contemporary photos, the video highlights various European countries, explains the origins of the Roma and Sinti peoples and provides a brief historical overview.
The "Dosta" toolkit
One useful, English language resource is the "Dosta" toolkit, published by the Council of Europe, Roma and Travellers Division.
"Dosta" is a Romani word meaning "enough," and the toolkit is intended to familiarize non-Roma people with Roma culture.
The second chapter in particular, "Is this a stereotype? A tool for fighting stereotypes towards Roma" (pp. 19-33), clearly explains 16 common stereotypes that could form the basis of discussions when working with young adults. Another section deals with ways to prepare and carry out an antidiscrimination campaign; numerous useful tips are listed, from a planning checklist to producing a video, to public relations work.
A case study on Roma migrants: A simulation game for use in youth and adult education
This game provides insight into the issues of Roma migrants. The scenario is set in a fictitious German town. In the absence of proper accommodation, a group of Roma (EU citizens) chooses a public park as their temporary residence during the summer. This situation leads to controversy among the local residents, shopkeepers, the police, the city administration and other stakeholders. The game simulates a roundtable discussion with seven different interest groups.
The aim of the game is to reach a consensus among all the parties involved. The agreement should include concrete steps and measures.
The material consists of prepared role cards and possible action cards; the latter can be used to impact the course of the discussion. Also included is background information on freedom of movement for EU citizens and the situation for Roma, as well as information on human and fundamental rights relevant to the situation.
Lastly, there are educational guidelines and a timeline to help facilitate the roundtable. The suggested game duration is four hours maximum.
The simulation game was developed by Humanity in Action in cooperation with planpolitik and funded by the foundation "Remembrance, Responsibility and Future" [EVZ] and the [German] Foreign Office. It was inspired by a real-life event and is available in English.
From personal experience I can certainly say that this method is an entirely worthwhile enterprise. In spite of the seriousness of the subject, a simulation game such as this always contains an element of fun and the opportunity to get to know other players and discover hidden talents. Last but not least, the change of perspective and options for action afforded by the role cards lead to a critical reflection of one’s own position and to personal empowerment, which could even encourage someone to start up their own campaign.