This week saw the annual meeting of our Roma Network. Over 20 members gathered in Brussels to discuss how best to develop social inclusion programmes for Roma people and how to ensure that these support key areas such as access to housing, education, employment and health care. Members also reviewed the state of play as regards the National Roma Integration Strategies (NRIS).

While the whole discussion was very interesting, there was a key moment when it was stressed that we should be starting to move away from an exclusive ‘needs’-based approach to a more ‘rights’-based approach when working with and for Roma. It was stressed that the rights that many of us enjoy are not automatically available to Roma citizens in Europe, therefore our work must ensure that those rights are available and respected.

DSC_5425 (2500x1669)This was reinforced later in the week in the joint hearing we held with the European Economic and Social Committee and the European Roma Information Office. This hearing focused specifically on the gender dimension of Roma Inclusion, a much overlooked area. Members and other guests discussed the double discrimination and exclusion experienced by Roma women and girls and the actions needed. Again, what struck me here was the huge number of projects in this area, but somehow a lack of capacity to transfer the outcomes of these projects into structural or political change. Another point strongly made was the need to ensure that social inclusion actions went hand in hand with anti-discrimination work, ensuring that appropriate legislation is upheld.

Perhaps in Eurodiaconia, we have been more focused on the actions in this area rather than the political change that is needed to remove structural barriers to Roma inclusion, particularly those related to exclusion. Our challenge now is to integrate a stronger rights dimension to our work, but this is a good challenge to have!


Have a good weekend,