The activity, which was attended by about 60 Roma women from different parts of Catalonia, had as its central theme Family Education.
Roma Women Student Gatherings are a pioneering activity organized by the Romani Association of Women Drom Kotar Mestipen, the first of which was held in 2000. Drom Kotar Mestipen is the first Roma women’s organization that existed in Catalonia.
If last October 2021 the 20th edition of the Gathering was held at the Rovira i Virgili University, in Tarragona, this Spring edition took place for the first time in the area of Terres de l’Ebre and Montsià, in the Catalan region of Tarragona. You can see more in the following video.
The main conference of the Gathering was delivered by Professor Carme García Yeste, Professor of the Department of Pedagogy at the University Rovira i Virgili, and director of the Consolidated Group recognized by the Catalan government, Methodology of Educational Research with Social Impact (MEDIS).
After the inaugural conference, the role model table was held, with the testimonies of Roma Women from different backgrounds. From vocational training students to undergraduate students, to women who are studying for their university access exams.
It should also be mentioned that during the Trobada, a childcare service was in operation. This space, run by members of the organization team and volunteers, was designed so that the little ones could enjoy themselves by doing different activities while their mothers took part in the Trobada.
The event was opened by Ms. Cesca Domènech i Ruera, Director General of Civic and Community Action of the Government of Catalonia; Mr. Adam Tomàs i Roiget, Mayor of Amposta; and Dr. Rosa Maria Kostic Cisneros, President of the Romani Association of Women Drom Kotar Mestipen.
Academic pathways, paths that lead to educational success
On 14 February 2002, the 1st Roma Women Student Gathering was held, organized by the Romani Association of Women Drom Kotar Mestipen, and since then this activity has been going on non-stop, even during the pandemic. On Saturday 23 October 2021, the 20th Roma Women Student Gathering of Catalonia was held at the Rovira I Virgili University in Tarragona.
Today, the event has much more importance and impact than we could have imagined when preparing the first Gathering when our objectives were to create a space for dialogue and to bring girls and women closer to positive role models. After 20 editions, we can say that it is the only event that mobilizes an average of 250 Roma women to talk about education on a Saturday afternoon and to put at the center of the debate the quality of the education that they and their children receive, to dismantle social and educational barriers, and to seek to overcome inequality due to the fact that they are Roma. We can also say that we have created a network of trust and support for girls and women who want to pursue educational success. As well as overcoming the misconceptions surrounding Roma women.
“Tell me what it takes to raise their level, but don’t take them out of class, because then they get to secondary school and they don’t have the level and that’s why they drop out.”
On Saturday we were able to talk about the possible itineraries in our current Educational System, its “traps” and its alternatives with Manuela Fernández, who is an example, for having overcome the barriers mentioned before, and also for her commitment to the Roma people, and especially to women.
At the role model table, Tatiana was able to explain to us how she is the first Roma girl to graduate from secondary school thanks to having studied at the Mediterrani Learning Community in Tarragona, encouraging other girls to overcome barriers by seeking support and help from people who work in organizations and other services.
Within the Working Groups, there was an intense debate to provide the elements to overcome educational inequality from which the Romani Association of Women will work during this year and which will be handed over to the different administrations so that they can take them into account.
On Saturday we were able to hear Roma girls and women who have studied or are studying Social Integration, Pedagogy, Medicine, Engineering, Nutrition, and Dietetics or the ESO Graduate course. All of them encouraged the other participants and were able to share how their families have been their main support, or a teacher, or an organization, but above all that being able to enjoy Successful Educational Activities and not just occurrences or entertainments is what has helped them to overcome the historical educational inequality they suffer.
Paulo Freire told us that education needs technical, scientific, and professional training as well as dreams and utopia. The volunteers and those of us who are part of the Romani Association of Women Drom Kotar Mestipen were able to feel again the rigour, strength, dreams, and illusion in Tarragona. And as Manuela Fernández said: how beautiful that it remains as beautiful as the first day without losing its validity and meaning.
This is the English translation of the article written by Montserrat Sánchez Aroca for the virtual journal “Diario Feminista”. To read the original in Spanish, please click on this link.