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Teacher’s Union discuss Role models in Schools

Rosa Cisneros, Coventry University, March 14th 2023

The National Union of Teachers was a trade union for school teachers in England, Wales, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. It was a member of the Trades Union Congress. NASUWT, the Teachers’ Union, provides unrivalled protection, benefits and support for teachers, from professional advice and legal support to High Street discounts and free training. By ‘putting teachers first’, the NASUWT works to enhance the status of the teaching profession to deliver real improvements to teachers’ working lives, seeking to ensure they are recognised and rewarded as highly skilled professionals with working conditions that enable them to focus on their core role of teaching.

The NASUWT have access to national advice lines and offer trainings and sessions to their members. The NASUWT asked members of the GTRSB school and HE Pledges to deliver a session. Rosa Cisneros from the RTransform Project presented the resources and the importance of having role models in the schools. The workshop included presenting various GTRSB Pledge films and also answered specific questions on how to improve educational success for GTR pupils in the UK. The participants ranged from head teachers of schools, to teachers, teaching assistants, and other staff. Cisneros provided evidence of the benefits of implementing successful educational actions and invited guests to peruse the website and all of the open access materials.

The Future is in your hands! 

Rosa Cisneros, Coventry University (UK) Feb 18, 2023 

Romano Lav, a community-based organisation and registered charity working in Govanhill, Glasgow with the local migrant Roma communities. Romano Lav comes from the Romanes language, meaning ‘Roma Voice’. 
The organisation is steered and shaped by the voices of the Roma communities they work with; and in particular the voices of Roma youth. The staff and sessional workers work together to support and empower the local communities, with Roma youth-led decisions at the heart of everything they do. The Roma young people are the leaders of the organization, and work within their communities through street work to achieve a number of outcomes, such as identifying real-time needs and concerns that the communities may have. This grassroots approach to their work is also present in how they organise their events and activities. All their decisions are made horizontally and work through an ethos of equality and mutual respect and shared responsibility. 

For the last year and half Rosa Cisneros has known the organisation and was involved with the first iteration of the Community Catalyst programme. Rosa travelled up to Glasgow, Scotland to meet and work with Roma young people from the vibrant Govanhill area. The session presented the RTransform project and our ethos and values. Health inequalities were discussed and the manner that voices can be amplified through education. There were a total of 12 young people from the age of 15-22 years of age. We discussed the RTransform Gatherings and the importance of bringing together policy and grassroots voices. Specifically, we looked at real-life,  evidenced-based examples of health inequalities and problem-solved how we would react in those situations. The young community catalysts were engaged and super excited to know more about the project and to contribute to the thinking happening. The participants discussed the various ways they have and lose control within health environments and offered powerful insight into what could be done. Personal stories were shared and deep listening took place. The young Roma leaders acknowledged that education is key to defending human rights.  

Students are speaking your language!

Rosa Cisneros (Coventry University, UK) Jan 30th, 2023

FirVale School (Sheffield, UK) was the host of the second UK Roma Women’s Gathering. The school has a mix of different ethnicities and the school celebrates success, hard work and achievement, and take pride in what they do. They instil should confidence in their pupils and show respect for the school’s environment and their communities. They take an interest in learning about what the multiple families have in common and believe we should all be kind to one another and treat others as you want to be treated. FirVale school prides itself in being a safe space for Roma young people and gives them loads of opportunities.

Recently, the schools started the Language Leaders programme where pupils are given opportunities to tap into their multi-lingual backgrounds and are encouraged to bring the language and the cultural surrounding, into the classroom.

Students from all year groups applied for a Language Leader post and the successful applicants were awarded their badge in an assembly with external visitor Rosa Cisneros from Coventry University. Cisneros discussed her own non-linear career path and also the importance that languages has played for educational success for Roma pupils within the RTransform project. Cisneros actively encouraged the young people to embrace their languages as these could be future career paths. The Language Leaders will be supporting staff and students in the FirVale school community.

The role of the National Coordination Committee in the terms of RTransform project by Municipality of Ampelokipi Menemeni.

Στο πλαίσιο του διακρατικού έργου με τίτλο: «Roma Women transforming the educational systems around Europe through their social and political mobilizations – (Romnia Transform – RTRANSFORM : Οι γυναίκες Ρομά μετατρέπουν τα εκπαιδευτικά συστήματα σε όλη την Ευρώπη μέσω της κοινωνικής και πολιτικής κινητοποίησής τους)», του ευρωπαϊκού προγράμματος Erasmus+, που συγχρηματοδοτείται από την Ε.Ε. (https://rtransform.eu/), ο δήμος Αμπελοκήπων – Μενεμένης αποτελεί εταίρο ενός πολυδύναμου συνεργατικού σχήματος, όπου συμμετέχουν φορείς από την Ισπανία, την Ουγγαρία, την Αγγλία και τη Βουλγαρία. Κύριος στόχος του έργου είναι η ενδυνάμωση και η ενίσχυση της συμμετοχής γυναικών Ρομά στην εκπαίδευση ως βασική προϋπόθεση της κοινωνικής ένταξης μέσω της εφαρμογής της καλής πρακτικής των Συναντήσεων που προάγει τις φωνές των γυναικών από το τοπικό επίπεδο προς τα κέντρα λήψης αποφάσεων και χάραξης πολιτικών.

Συγκεκριμένα, το έργο στηρίζεται στην πρακτική των εκπαιδευτικών Συγκεντρώσεων Γυναικών Ρομά (Roma Women Students Gatherings / RWSG), που αποδεδειγμένα έχει φέρει θετικά αποτελέσματα κατά την πολυετή εφαρμογή του στην Ισπανία. Ειδικότερα, πρόκειται για μια πρακτική που εφαρμόζεται τα τελευταία είκοσι χρόνια από τον οργανισμό Romani Association of Women Drom Kotar Mestipen, ο οποίος αποτελείται από γυναίκες Ρομά με έδρα τη Βαρκελώνη της Ισπανίας.

Αξιοσημείωτο είναι το γεγονός ότι γυναίκες ανεξαρτήτως ηλικίας και εκπαιδευτικού υποβάθρου συμμετέχουν ενεργά σε όλα τα στάδια σχεδιασμού και διεξαγωγής των συγκεντρώσεων με σκοπό τη διασφάλιση της ουσιαστικής συμπερίληψής τους. Στην προσπάθεια δημιουργίας πεδίου έκφρασης των πραγματικών αναγκών και προβληματισμών των γυναικών σχετικά με την πρόσβαση στην εκπαίδευση αλλά και της δημιουργίας διαύλων επικοινωνίας με τον ευρύτερο κοινωνικό χώρο, η ενεργή συμμετοχή των γυναικών αποτελεί κλειδί, καθώς η φωνή τους είναι αυτή που μπορεί να φέρει την αλλαγή και τον μετασχηματισμό στο κοινωνικό αλλά και το εκπαιδευτικό σύστημα.

Δεδομένου του πρωταγωνιστικού ρόλου των γυναικών, η μεθοδολογία του Έργου προβλέπει εξ αρχής ως αναγκαίο όρο τη δημιουργία Εθνικών Επιτροπών Συντονισμού (National Coordination Committee / NCC) αποτελούμενων από γυναίκες Ρομά. Χαρακτηριστικά των εν λόγω επιτροπών είναι η διαγενεακότητα αλλά και η ποικιλομορφία, αφού σε αυτές συμμετέχουν γυναίκες από τις τσιγγάνικες κοινότητες με ποικίλα κοινωνικά προφίλ που εκφράζουν διαφορετικές εμπειρίες και προοπτικές, αλληλοεπιδρώντας θετικά στην ενίσχυση και τη συμμετοχή κι άλλων γυναικών από όποιον χώρο κι αν προέρχονται, ακαδημαϊκό ή μη. Ειδικότερα, η συντονιστική επιτροπή ως κεντρικός πυρήνας και κινητήριος μοχλός των Συναντήσεων επιλέγει κάθε φορά τα θέματα προς ανάπτυξη και συζήτηση, συμμετέχει σε όλες τις φάσεις της διοργάνωσης καθώς και στις διαδικασίες διάδοσής της.

Όπως αναφέρεται και στον Οδηγό διεξαγωγής των Συναντήσεων, ο οποίος δημιουργήθηκε για τις ανάγκες του Έργου, οι γυναίκες “είναι αυτές που οδηγούν την όλη διαδικασία προετοιμασίας από την πρώτη λεπτομέρεια μέχρι και την τελευταία”, ενώ ο ρόλος των οργανώσεων παραμένει επικουρικός.

Έτσι, οι γυναίκες γίνονται κύριοι φορείς (πομποί) και αποδέκτες των θετικών επιδράσεων των Συναντήσεων. Μεταξύ αυτών αναφέρονται η ενθάρρυνση των κοριτσιών να παραμείνουν και να συνεχίσουν στη δευτεροβάθμια εκπαίδευση και έπειτα και στο πανεπιστήμιο, καθώς και η προώθηση της κατάρτισης ενηλίκων γυναικών Ρομά. Ακόμη, η κινητοποίηση των γυναικών, η βελτίωση των εκπαιδευτικών προσδοκιών, η κατάρριψη στερεοτύπων που φέρουν οι ίδιες για τη θέση τους στην κοινωνία, καθώς και η διεκδίκηση του δικαιώματος στην εκπαίδευση είναι σημαντικό να αναφερθούν ως θετικές επιδράσεις. Τέ

λος, η άρση των πολλαπλών διακρίσεων που αντιμετωπίζουν οι γυναίκες Ρομά και η καταπολέμηση των παγιωμένων στερεοτύπων που παρουσιάζουν γυναίκες και άνδρες από τις τσιγγάνικες κοινότητες να απέχουν από την εκπαίδευση αποκλειστικά κατ’ επιλογή βρίσκονται στο επίκεντρο των Συναντήσεων, ενώ ταυτόχρονα συναντούν στον αντίποδα τις πραγματικές φωνές των σύγχρονων γυναικών Ρομά που προτείνουν λύσεις στο πολύπλευρο πρόβλημα του εκπαιδευτικού αποκλεισμού, λύσεις τελικά που είναι απαραίτητο να ληφθούν υπόψη στη χάραξη πολιτικών για την κοινωνική ένταξη και στη διασφάλιση ενός δημοκρατικού κοινωνικού διαλόγου.

RTransform News Item

Author: Rosa Cisneros

Rosa Cisneros from Coventry University was invited to the Advisory Council for the Education of Romany and other Travellers 2023 Conference. The conference was held at the Liverpool John Moores University in Liverpool, UK on Friday Feb 3rd 2023. The theme of this year’s conference was Storytelling, Education and Wellbeing. There were several strands to the day with an official Welcome by Baroness Whitaker (ACERT Patron) and Patricia Joliffe of Liverpool John Moores University. The day also included the The development of the GRTSB Pledge – by Sherrie Smith, Ruby Smith and Emma Nuttall.

There were several Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community members sharing their important work. The conference, seeks to address Storytelling, Education and Community from the perspectives of schools and communities. We heard from individuals  how the GRTSB Pledge is being implemented in Schools and Higher Education and the role of the communities in providing culturally appropriate resources for curriculum.  

The conference also discussed  how to extend its reach and impact, looking at the role of activists and governments and the importance in brokering that relationship.  The panels discussed how discrimination and exclusion can damage mental health, and Sheldon Chadwick, Candace Thomas, Sally Carr, and Violet Cannon Smith discussed their work with Showmen and other Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities to recognise the issues and promote well-being. 

Image Credit: Travelllers Times 2023 

Finally, Cisneros ended the day discussing her work with local grassroots communities and presented RTransform and the project’s resources, values and methodological approach to working with political units, as well schools and grassroots community voices.   

Full programme can be accessed here: LINK 

Roma Women Students Gathering, in the Second Chance School in Thessaloniki, Greece

On Friday, 27th of January, Alternative Innovative Development organized their second Roma Women Students Gathering, in the Second Chance School Ampelokipi Menemeni in Thessaloniki.

Around 60 Roma women attended from all parts of Greece, and representatives of the project partners and participants were able to attend the RWSG as well!

As always, this is an incredible step towards the transformation of the educational systems and the inclusion of grassroots Roma voices in the Second Chance Schools!

You can see the highlights video for more information and the report about the conclusions

Girls with Dreams: Let’s Turn the Page! The university is also a Place for Roma Women!”: the Strength of the Roma Woman to Fight for the Change in Herself and in er Community

October 20, 2022 for many women in Bulgaria is probably just another monotonous day, but for more than 50 Roma women it was the beginning of a new period of their lives. They gathered in the “Europe” hall of Veliko Tarnovo University “St. St. Cyril and Methodius”. The occasion was the National Gathering of Roma women under the title “Girls with dreams: Let’s turn the page!” The university is also a place for Roma women!”. At the meeting we discussed the challenges each Roma woman face, the challenges she faces in her work and everyday life, the strong role models to motivate the participants to face the difficulties along the way of education, opportunities and the importance of mothers supporting their children.

Тhe Vice President of Bulgaria Iliyana Iotova, the Rector of Veliko Tarnovo University “St. St. Cyril and Methodius” Prof. Dr. Hristo Bonjolov, Neiko Genchev – Deputy Mayor of Veliko Tarnovo Municipality and the Regional Governor of Veliko Tarnovo Region Georgi GuguchkovThe were special guests who honored and supported the initiative to empower Roma women to seek a path to a better future.

And while the men left the meeting after the official welcoming, Iliyana Iotova stayed almost for the whole Gathering and took active part in the discussions with Roma women. Her presence and active participation was a particularly strong message. In her welcoming words, Vice President Iotova stated that “we must understand the traditions of the Roma. To be able to know more about their history, about their livelihood, what really excites them, about what they revere, about the relationships inside the home. Only then, if we know this essence, only then will we be able to find the good suggestions, we will be able to be adequate.” She strongly welcomes the willingness of Veliko Tarnovo University to host this meeting. “It is very important that young people are stimulated. A young person is stimulated and educated through the Bulgarian education – at school and then at the university. This is the natural place for such discussions. Our teachers work here in this building. There is no one better than them to give good advice, to tell us about history… and through history and the past to say “this is how it is decided and you can make the appropriate decisions”. We must make sure that young people see their future in Bulgarian education […] They say that a person’s life is a blank sheet of paper. Everyone writes this white sheet of paper themselves. It is as long as we are allotted. But what is written inside depends largely on each of us. I would very much like, not only for you, for every Bulgarian girl, for every Bulgarian young person, to use the conjunction “and” more often when writing this page. And I get up in the morning early, and I see that I slept well, that I look good, and I want to go to school, and I want to go to work, and I want to tell about my life today, and I want to meet many friends today, and I want tonight, when I come home, to have something to tell my children, and I want to have something to brag to my parents about, and I want to have more and more colleagues to be friends with, I want to have more friends. Let this little conjunction “and” be used more and more. Because that’s how dreams are born. And that’s how dreams come true.”

When a person is ambitious and when s/he really looks positively at the world and wants to show that s/he is also ready, s/he is not another dough, s/he is not different from everyone else. On the contrary, how s/he will realize her/himself tomorrow depends on his/her own strength and self-knowledge. In order to achieve all this, we also need something very important. This is the example we follow. We have often talked with “Amalipe” and other civil society organizations about how important this campaign is “for everyone who follows – pass it on!” If some have already achieved their successes, they attract more and more people…. let’s pass on what we’ve learned, let’s tell each other without hesitation where we’ve gone wrong, where we’ve failed, because that’s how we’ll make sure that the next one who comes after us and who takes this example and who wants to continue in our direction , to protect him/her from the mistakes we have already made and lost a lot of time because of them. To tell what we have achieved, to give him/her advice, to give him/her a hand… Long may this campaign continue.”

“It is good to show the good examples, not to paint only with poisonous paints what happens in Roma families with Roma girls: we already have a significant number of examples. When we show these good examples, we tell everyone: you have an alternative, you can count on a helping hand, you have people who will help you and you have every chance to make your dreams come true. Let’s do it together. There is no reason why anyone should try to lock them up in certain, very conservative societies, in ghettos, they are one of us,” said Vice President Iotova. “These problems cannot be dealt with in a campaign way. This is even dangerous and does not produce any results. We need a policy of small steps, to support mediators, to support civil society extremely much, because it is on the ground. “, the vice president also pointed out.

Teodora Krumova – Program Director of the Amalipe Center shared that “the purpose of the meeting is to talk about who we are, where we come from. what is behind and ahead us. We are not starting from scratch, and in order to have the opportunity to organize this meeting, many other Roma women have already taken the first steps.

Prof. Dr. Hristo Bonjolov, Rector of Veliko Tarnovo University “St. St. Cyril and Methodius”, shared that “the most important thing is the unification of our society. We must somehow bet on this education, because you see that in today’s world without education a person cannot realize himself. Here the emphasis should be on everyone. … There is no other window to the world than education. Whatever the differences, we have to commit to this school, together with the parents, to educate the children so that we do not end up in these cases… I am sure of success, but it comes with unity, not with division.

The deputy mayor of the municipality of Veliko Tarnovo, Neiko Genchev, said that education is the key to solving the problems. “I really like the name of the initiative that you have chosen, because a person who has dreams has not given up. The one who has dreams has a future. The Roma woman has a future, although she sometimes has to fight on two fronts, because gender inequality is a fact, both in domestic and social relations. Some Roma women live as they did 500 years ago. A society in which a part of it lives in the past cannot move forward. On the other hand, we have a huge potential in the face of these smart and beautiful women – the Roma women… the best means for the advancement of women in society is education.” “We achieve everything because we know it can be achieved, nothing is impossible! If you have a goal to strive for, you can always achieve it“, shared Teodora Krumova. She expressed her gratitude for the support from the institutions, without which achieving the set goals would be much more difficult. “The idea of the meeting is to leave here with specific ideas and plans that each of us can make in our own locality. Going back to pass that on to the girls and women we work with.”

In the second module, the participants shared real examples and difficulties they have faced so far. The difficulties they encounter during their work as educational mediators or teachers, the early marriages, the still existing domestic violence not only against Roma women, but also children. The girls shared what inspires them, what helps them survive the hard stories they face. The general opinion was how important it is to know that you are not alone, that there is someone to call when you need, someone to share successes with, but also problems. It turned out to be extremely useful that we were able to adapt and continue our meetings during the pandemic, albeit over a virtual coffee. And, of course, they all emphasized the power of role models.

Vice President Iliyana Iotova expressed her gratitude and admiration for the women who took part in the event. “In just one hour, you managed to make me believe that this country has a future, because you all follow the political situation. My team and I feel like we are in an oasis of kindness, of positive news and of many warm-hearted, energetic and ambitious and most importantly – very good people who are doing something most important and giving young people faith, faith not just in something, and most importantly – in yourself. That they can literally walk through walls, change their lives, break stereotypes, fight long-established dogmas and show that this fight and this struggle is worth it, because they all have a better destiny than what they are what their grandparents and parents expected or thought about… I have an observation that our grandparents lived well. The missing generation is our parents. And this does not apply only to the Roma community. This is a problem of our country as a whole… It is very commendable and one wants to help you because you are the people who disagree with it, grumble against it and want to change it.” Mrs. Iotova shared that the President’s institution is always open to signals. “We have the leverage and the means to contact the relevant authorities discreetly enough so that we don’t put anyone in danger…. I think there is more to be owed regarding your work. For years I have dealt with the topic of violence against women, not only in the Roma community. Unfortunately, the pandemic has made this problem even more drastic. The perpetrators felt unpunished. Women can’t go outside, they can’t complain, they can’t go to their workplace. This broke out as a second epidemic. In our society, these issues are not talked about…

Silvia Stancheva – regional pedagogical coordinator for the districts of Shumen, Targovishte and Razgrad, presented data about the state of education of Roma women. The problems with early marriages, the importance of the parent-child relationship were discussed. “A mother is the person who loves her child the most and who can do anything for her. We as mothers need to show this to our children. And not for the children to say “I want to run away from home, that’s why I’m going to get married.” It is not known in the other house, in a new family, whether the child will be well, whether he will be so loved and cared for.

The topic of domestic violence in the Roma community was not forgotten either. The participants shared about cases of domestic violence not only with Roma women, but also with children. They shared that one of the most difficult parts of their work as educational mediators is precisely the topic of domestic violence. They indicated that victims need support, but the most important thing is for the victim herself to be willing to take action to end the abuse she and her children are suffering. The film “Turn the Page” produced by the “Amalipe” Center was also presented.

In the last session, the participants were divided into groups, and each of them had to present their strongest impressions from the national meeting of Roma women and their action plan until the end of the school year.

The meeting ended with lots of smiles and inspiration. The motivated Roma women expressed their joy at the new acquaintances they made during the few hours spent together in a joint photo.

More photos from the event can be found HERE

The motivational messages that were presented at the meeting can be downloaded HERE

The meeting is organized within the framework of the project “RTransform: Roma women are transforming education systems across Europe through their social and political mobilization.”

XXII Roma Women Students Gathering, in the University of Girona

On Saturday, 8th of October, project coordinator Drom Kotar Mestipen organized their XXII Roma Women Students Gathering, in the University of Girona.

Around 230 Roma women attended from all parts of Catalonia, and representatives of the project partners and participants were able to attend the RWSG as well!

As always, this is an incredible step towards the transformation of the educational systems and the inclusion of grassroots Roma voices in the University!

Second Roma Women  Gathering in Hungary
Took Place in July 15-16 2022 
Central European University Budapest (CEU) – Hungary 

The meeting was held in Budapest at CEU, the Central European University where 26 women participated.

The Central European University is one of the best universities in Hungary and offers great opportunities for students.

Most Roma girls don’t even know about this opportunity and don’t have the skills and education needed to enter. We managed to invite some friends who told the girls all the necessary information about this university. The girls had the chance to visit the building and meet some of the students studying there. Accommodation was also arranged for them in the dormitory of this university.

We tried to invite and address women with few opportunity to express their views on public issues. They chose a very important topic and it was very important that they were heard and that their message was passed . Our topic was the impact of the war in Ukraine and its consequences on our daily lives and access to services.

We celebrated the meeting by listening to each other, exchanging information, making suggestions and an evening of informal discussion and a dinner at a very nice place in Budapest where everyone could eat whatever they wanted.