this Thursday and Friday I attended the event called “Regional conference: Economic (in)dependence of Romani women: Challenges and early causes” organized by CARE international and Regional Cooperation Council 2020 in cooperation with the Government of Serbia.
Regional Conference “Economic (In)Dependence of Romani Women: Challenges and Early Causes”
The Regional Conference “Economic (In)Dependence of Romani Women: Challenges and Early Causes” is organized jointly by the Regional Cooperation Council Roma Integration 2020 Action Team and Care International Balkans, hosted by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure of the Republic of Serbia Zorana Mihajlovic.
Its main objective is to explore the causes and consequences of the economic (in)dependence of Romani women in early childhood and youth and propose ways forward for effective employment policies of Romani women in the private and public sector.
THE NUMBERS, THE GROUNDHOG DAY
As usual, representatives of the State come to recite their numbers and then they leave. I think the only thing these people do is go from event to event and recite some numbers, and get paid, or at least most of their time they do this. For the last 18 years I think this image appears as in Groundhog day.
The State actually did not do much for Roma women. They have an issue even with Roma mediators who even after doing the massive job for the State from which most of their numbers they brag about comes, are not in the system. If they did not resolve employment for these women who did so much for them, you can imagine how much they are able and willing to do for the other Roma women.
As usual, the issue of Roma mediators is left for the last session, when everybody leaves, and Roma women stay to talk to themselves. This time there was a person, Vesna Kneginjic who is an assistant of the Minister though. I was thinking how it looks like you have a dog and it works for you and you barely feed this dog, and even after 18 years its just about enough to offer this dog a biscuit, and it will stay calm. I did not want to listen to that, I did not come to this session.
I was also thinking how it is possible that after so much time there is nobody standing with some banner or something on the first session and makes an issue regarding the status of these women so that State representatives can see them, and stop bragging with the results these women achieved and did not manage to make them part of the system for 18 or more years. I mean I was thinking about it. Its possible. Obviously they need to invent another word for need how much there is a need to change the way things are done, but its not happening. I did not make any scene. I did not come.
Other presenters talked about some small projects they do, very silly in a way. You listen to it like you look at the star dust. Not to mention that Dimov was the best presenter with the most realistic entrepreneurial approach. I guess that’s why he is called, since otherwise he is the person not really welcomed by Roma women since he tends to commodify women themselves.
We did not hear anything new from the National Employment Service. I feel bad for Darko Marjanovic since he has to appear and pretend this institution has some role in Serbian society. The only thing this service can provide is a paper to get discounts on privatized public transportation, and eventually some small amount of money if you are very poor. That’s what it its primary role. Other than that, they offer some courses “how to write a CV” and when you are signed in until eternity you have the right to choose 1, in letters one, course for professional development, like to learn to work in some program or whatever. I took 1 course to learn how to use Office in the 90s.
Also, last time I went there they made me declare my nationality in front of every user there in the hall, they shared my personal data like my ID card with everyone in the room when I went on this course to learn how to write my CV, the person who is my advisor there did not know anything about racism against Roma, actually they tried to convince me that employers are not discriminating Roma, and that my and experiences of other Roma are delusional!?
EDUCATION WILL SAVE THE WORLD
As usual, what ever the topic is, people mostly talk about education when it comes to Roma, since obviously this is the easiest thing to talk about. You could not hear nothing really about economy and real problems there for Roma, let alone solutions, but the premise is that once Roma educate themselves, the employment problem will be solved. Makes you lough really. But its convenient to speak about the problem this way regarding Roma since they are largely indeed uneducated.
Very often its “their culture” which keeps them uneducated. Parents keeping their children out of school, who do not value education, who make their children work, the State usually brags about doing very much in this filed of education, so I tend to skip these parts. Having MA and having to go to sell socks on the streets with my uneducated mother who sacrificed her life buying this story about education as a magic bullet makes me cringe and too upset.
Also, seeing how Roma Education Fund now serves interests of German donors who give money for employment in industries demanding cheap labor also makes you think. They were not on the panel. Recently I saw they want Roma age 20 to 30 with high school to work in MCDonalds and to transfer bags at the airport. I guess its important to be educated for that also.
And of course, Roma exposed to unemployment as any other citizens on semiperifery turning into colonial sweat shop, and with additional burden of racism without employment opportunities do embrace these jobs.
Roma are lucky if they are educated enough to know English and can work in NCR, exploitative call center, since the salary if I recall was 400 eur for the work which means you do not see the light of the day and have no time to go to the toilet.But hay, 400eur!
The best option still for the educated Roma is to be an activist and earn your bread in some NGOs, meaning also most of the time going to these conferences, playing a role of an audience for the representatives reading numbers until the world ends. Or, better yet, speaking about your equally star dust efforts to improve the situation of Roma. While the situation of those poor Roma did not improve much, at least you end up spending your life in nice conference spaces eating proper meals. For 18 years you do not have to lift a single banner on these conferences. I would know. Still, its important to be polite, so you stay in these waters so that you prosper properly. I am still learning that. Well, for now, the best you can get is the occasional sarcasm of white men, moderators regarding presentations containing endless recitals of numbers.
Now to speak about child labor, there is absolutely no connection with poverty here strangely enough. As it seems no real cooperation with social services. Policies are based on informing children about their rights in schools. Surely, the Roma children affected are not in schools, but its good to improve already better off non Roma children, I guess. Also, urging Roma children to report their parents. How funny is that. Like women suffering domestic violence reporting partners without any other systemic support, and we talk about even more vulnerable Roma children! How funny funny stupid, not to say anything else is that. Also, informing people working in the State offices about this issue, which is probably important, but surely far from enough. There are no programs of prevention, not really. The only thing the State can do, if it ever does anything, is to take the child and put it in a foster home, and , of course, give money to the people who take care of a child. I guess its the same money for which parents probably sent their children to work, but poverty is another issue here.