We have spoken with Marcela Adamova, Project Manager of Friends of Romano Lav, an organization with the main goal to improve the quality of life for the Roma people by helping them to increase their confidence, self-steam and Roma pride.
(By Juliana Penha)
“Go to the people, live with them, learn from them, start with what they know and build with what they have. But with the best leaders, when the work is done, the task accomplished, the people will say: ‘We have done it ourselves’” (Lao Tzu)
What are the challenges of Friends of Romano Lav?
Marcela Adamova: I will mention two challenges: first is the lack of education amongst Roma people connected with internalized image about themselves. This is a result of a long-term historical oppression of Roma people in Europe and acceptance of the prejudice that some non- Roma have against them. Also a psychological effect of being put down constantly making you feel like they are not worthy, this makes you not confident or capable to achieve anything. It’s an internalization of an image and opinion that society has perceived about the Roma people.
This is a challenge that we need to overcome in order to avoid Roma people becoming passive takers. In order to overcome this we need to create a platform or opportunity, for active participation in planning, delivering, implementing and evaluating the projects/activities, which gives them a sense of belonging, ownership, and an interest in current matters alongside with the world around them.
Second challenge is in general working with different kind of people, those who know exactly what the best is for Roma people but have never tried to live with the Roma people or how it feels to be Roma. Also those who don’t have any passion for this kind of work and don’t believe that a change is possible. However I don´t want to doubt their good willingness for helping to improve the situation but we need to find the ways on how to work with Roma and not to work for them. The traditional community work does not work, so we need to try to find new ways, on the innovative methods of how to work together.
Why do you think Roma community is so marginalized?
Marcela Adamova: When Roma arrive in Europe from Asia, 500 years ago, Europe was predominantly white, very traditional, and conservative. These people who came from Asia to them looked different; they were different colors and different cultures (Arts, music and Food).
Particularly in that time, people were divided into social classes and those who owned the land were powerful people and who didn’t own any were powerless. When Roma came to Europe they didn´t own any land so they have travelled from place to place to earn for living. Just because they looked different people started to produce stereotypes and prejudices that grew into racism and created also the Roma Holocaust during the World War.
When the economic crises appeared people looked to blame someone for it and the Roma were the easiest target in Europe. Why? Because they do not have their own government, army and basic institutions that would stand up for Roma is what makes them vulnerable and powerless.
Fortunately, Council of Europe and other European agencies started to be more involved to improve the situation of Roma in Europe but their power is also limited.
What can be done to change Roma situation in Govanhill?
Marcela Adamova: There are many things that could be done with Roma people using top-down and bottom –up approaches.
I‘ve already mentioned the lack of the formal education among Roma people in general. I believe that the governments should establish polices that would encourage young people to precede in further education, as this is a very important key to have a more successful future. Roma people for several years have had their rights taken away from them by being sent to special schools in Central Eastern Europe instead of proper educational schools.
So I think it would be fair to have policies that would give more opportunities to Roma in order to give them back what has been taken away from them. I do believe that the compromises need to be done with and between the Roma and non-Roma people.
We should for the children’s increase education about each other, learn about Roma role models and famous people. Spread positive images through Roma culture being seen in festivals, Roma TV, radio and cultural centers. Most important is to promote a change in mentalities by creating opportunities for the multi-cultural society.
These approaches should be included in the Roma inclusion strategies in Scotland and other European countries and shouldn’t be perceived as giving privileges to the Roma communities but as making equality, social inclusion and justice reality. At the end of the day this is for the benefit for the whole nation.
At this moment Friends of Romano Lav are doing:
“Together we can”, project focuses on building capacities between young Roma generation to support them to actively participate and represent Roma in different social-politic platforms. “We started with a research about the Roma participation in the local initiatives in Glasgow and especially in Govanhill. After that we are planning to deliver different workshops focusing on Roma culture and initiatives that increase young Roma, self-stem, confidence and active involvement in the issues that are affecting them.
Roma dance classes will take part every Saturday from 3 to 6 pm, at Govanhill Baths. “Now we are doing Roma dance from Slovakia, Flamenco, salsa classes to show a diversity of the Roma culture. The classes are free and open to everyone”.
Cookery Classes, “Let´s Cook Together” a project in which “Govanhill residents, Roma and non- Roma are coming together via cooking and up skilling the participants by improving their confidence and employability”.
Friends of Romano Lav
4th Floor, Abbey House
10 Bothwell Street, Glasgow, G2 6LU
Tel: 0141 285 8880