Have you ever thought about how you can just go to school without being judged for who you are and where you come from? How lucky you are that you are you and not anyone else? You may take this for granted but some people have to fight for their right to be accepted. On the 8th of April it is the International Romani Day and due to their constant struggle to fit in and have the same rights as everybody else, we want to draw attention to their situation and this article is a try to understand Romanis better.
Their country of origin is northern India but nowadays they live all around Europe. The exact amount of romanis in Croatia is not known because the amount of registered people are less than 50% of the estimated actual number of romanis, which is around 30 to 40 thousand.
As for now, the government with the help of the Office for Human Rights and National Minority Rights and other institutions and are working to make the peoples’ lives better. If nothing is done, they are in a situation they cannot take themselves out of and one reason for that is that they are not getting educated. The level of education of a mother is usually around the same level of education her children will get, so if the mother is illiterate, which many romani women are, the child has an 80-90 % chance of not attending primary school. For romanis this is an explanation for the vicious cycle they are in. The lack of education also leads to the high unemployment rate among romanis. According to a survey done in 1998 70 % of surveyed romani families at the time did not have permanently employed family members. Only 6% of the families had 2 or more employed family members.
Not only do Romanis have to fight against poverty but they also have to fight against prejudices. Many of those prejudices are not based on facts, rather on fiction but the effect of them are crucial. Romani communities are strictly patriarchal. Women might never leave their settlement, not even when they are giving birth. Can you imagine a life like that? In rural parts of the country, settlements are not connected by any bus lines, so volunteers are crucial to help women in those communities. That is why the Office is starting a pilot project of helping suppressed members of settlements – children and women. Another problem is that the romanis who have come out of poverty, do not want to help their fellows who are still struggling which can worsen the romanis situation even more.
The worst part is the way majority of people, when they face all these problems, think ”this is their way of life”. But most Romanis did not choose that life style. They did not choose to not go to school. They did not choose to have kids at such an early age. Maybe our society has chosen that for them. With our prejudices and with not giving them the opportunity to grow.
After this explanation one could argue that there is an easy solution, but sadly it is not as easy to solve as it seems. While different institutions try to support romanis and try to improve their situation, just giving extra money to municipalities with lots of problems is not enough. To make sure all of the houses have electricity and running water only money is needed, but to stop the high rate of criminality cooperation between the romani society and the government. Because of the existing prejudices and the rivalry between us and them, the necessary cooperation is hard to achieve and at the moment it is in some parts close to non existent. In order to make peaceful coexistence possible we need to overcome the prejudices and start working together to create a better living condition for everyone.