Roma Pride Day: Against Stereotypes and Discrimination16. October 2012 - 11:32 — Dejan Georgievski
The participants of the debate “Between Marginalisation, Discrimination and Poverty”, held last Saturday, October 13, at the REX Cultural Centre in Belgrade, concluded that Roma population in serbia is marginalized and discriminated in all segments of society and that the state doesn’t pay sufficient attention to that problem. The debate was organized by the Regional Centre for Minorities (RCM) and the European Grassroots Anti-Racist Movement (EGAM), to mark the International Roma Pride Day.
The debate and the other activities organized on the Roma Pride Day aimed to expose the extreme poverty, comprehensive social exclussion and segregation faced by the Roma in Serbia today.
"The idea was to politicize the problem. It is a consequence of the fact that another, equally important date – April 8, the International Day of the Roma – has turned in a day that celebrates the Roma cultural identity and doesn’t allow the Roma to articulate their political demands”, said Jovana Vuković from RMC.
One segment that reflects the statu of Roma is their inclussion in the education system. In Serbia, more than 60% of the Roma population have not completed elementary schools, another 30% have completed only elementary school, while just 0.3% of the Roma earn a university degree. Activist Jelene Savić noted that affirmative action measures for enrollment of Roma in education exist, but they are rarely implemented and, importantly, non-mandatory. Another problem in education noted at the debate was the segregated classrooms for Roma children.
The expert community notes that Roma women are additionally marginalized and invisible. According to Vera Kurtić, Roma and feminist activist from the “Women’s Space” association, the official anti-discrimination plans pay lesser attention to women in the Roma population.
"Some points in those official policies refer only marginally to Roma women. We initiatited a national action plan when we saw that the state, in the preparation of official plans and policies, makes little, if any, mention of Roma women. We tried to repair that situation. A review of what was implemented shows that most of the implemented measures don’t refer to women at all. It speaks volumes about the status of Roma women and the need for Roma feminism”, Vera Kurtić said.
The Roma are often exposed to verbal and physical abuse at the hands of the majority population, and the instigation usually comes from political figures. Kenan Rašitović noted the example of the Mayor of Belgrade Dragan Đilas.
"If you have the Mayor of Belgrade writing to the Mayor of a Belgian city, saying ‘if you like the Roma so much, why don’t you take them to Belgium’, the message that the mayor sends to the public, especially to the extreme right, is quite clear”, Rašitović said.
The Roma Pride Day – this is the second year of its observance in the whole of Europe, was also marked with activist workshops for Roma youth, screeing of documentary film about Roma from Serbia and Macedonia “From Belgrade to Skopje” (Od Beograda do Skoplja), and concert of Roma hip-hop artists from Serbia. (Source: Civic Initiatives/Radio Free Europe)