Roma Rights Summer University 2002
"If you give a man fish, he will have food for one day. If you teach him to fish, he will have food for ever."
Lao Tze, Chinese philosopher
On July 7-14, 2002, in Budapest, Hungary, the European Roma Rights Center held its annual Roma Rights Summer University for Romani activists and students in Europe. The Summer University was attended by thirty-seven Romani participants who had the opportunity to learn about and discuss human rights problems of Roma in Europe as well as to debate issues pertaining to Romani politics and activism.
Goals of the Summer University
The main goal of the Summer University is to capacitate the community of young Romani activists/students from Europe. By "capacitate" we mean developing their skills and expanding their knowledge in the fields of human rights and Roma rights. We hope that these activities will enhance Romani activists' capability to promote Roma rights and to contribute to the advancement of the Romani communities in Europe, through the use of international and domestic human rights instruments. Objectives of the Summer University
- To provide information on international and domestic human rights mechanisms;
- To improve the basic skills needed to monitor and report on human rights violations against Roma, as well as to advocate Roma Rights at the international and domestic level;
- To discuss with participants basic human rights concepts as well as such concepts as ethnicity and racism;
- To strengthen the network of young Romani activists in Europe.
Profile of the Participants
The course was primarily intended for Roma who are:
- 20 to 33 years old;
- competent in English;
- enrolled in or have finished university (preferably in law, public administration, international relations, political science, sociology or media studies);
- committed to utilising their knowledge in the community;
- active in a Romani organisation or in other organisations related to Roma;
- motivated and interested to work in the field of human rights/Roma rights;
- preferably ERRC scholarship/internship recipients.
In order to achieve the goals of the Summer University, the ERRC devised a programme, which is outlined below. We felt that by dividing the course into three main operational components (Phases I–III), we could deliver a more substantial and dynamic training event for our participants.
Programme Preparation: In February 2002 a preparatory meeting was held in Budapest. The team comprised the following Romani activists: Ms Yveta Kenety (Czech Republic), Mr Orhan Tahir (Bulgaria), Mr Cristi Mihalache-Virgil (Romania), Ms Refika Mustafić (ERRC staff member), Ms Enisa Eminova (Macedonia), Ms Maria Metodieva (Bulgaria) and Ms Silvia Rigová (Slovakia). Together with ERRC staff members, these Romani activists constructed the programme of the Summer University 2002. The team also designed an application form enabling the ERRC to assess the applicants' ethnic background, motivation, expectation and their capacity to transmit the acquired knowledge to the community. Selection procedure: The ERRC received more than 200 valid applications. The selection was based on the participants' knowledge of English, their country of origin, and association with Romani organisations. The selection committee also considered whether the applicants were or had previously been ERRC scholarship/internship recipients.
Roma Rights Reader: The ERRC prepared a reader for Summer University participants including collected materials from the trainers and lecturers.
The program was structured into seven working days:
- During the first day, the participants were introduced to human rights/Roma rights concepts as well as to the historical causes, structures and consequences of racism. In addition to theoretical presentations, participants held discussions on the Romani movement and on the role played by young Roma in the movement.
- During the second day, workshops were held on human rights research, monitoring and advocacy.
- During the third day, participants discussed local activism and how they can work to challenge educational segregation at local level.
- During the fourth day, the participants were introduced to international legal instruments and mechanisms.
- The fifth day had several components. We started with international advocacy – participants worked in small groups and devised strategies for presenting Roma rights issues before international human rights bodies. Later, the participants had the opportunity to discuss the concept of the "Roma nation". Finally, we had a very short discussion on the status of Romani refugees.
- During the sixth day, the participants had the opportunity to learn about the European Union and some youth programmes. The participants were also introduced to project proposal writing techniques.
- The main topic during the seventh day was positive discrimination/affirmative action. Participants formulated arguments in favour of affirmative action targetting Roma in Europe. During the second part of the day, group leaders conducted a workshop which gave the participants an opportunity to devise a common strategy on how they would like to use the knowledge acquired in the course of the week.
- Methodology: We tried to vary the methods of instruction used during the course. We included plenary sessions alternating with working groups, workshops, role-playing, round table discussions, and discussion groups. The participants appreciated the skills-based workshops where they had the possibility to convert skills into practice.
The ERRC stimulated communication amongst young Roma during and after the Summer University. The participants established a network amongst themselves. Almost all of the participants have applied for an internship at the ERRC or an externship at an affiliate organisation. Some of the participants at the ERRC Summer University have also become involved in various ERRC projects. Plans are already afoot for next year's Summer University.
Participants during a lecture at the Summer University Photo: ERRC
- Angéla Kóczé is Director of the Human Rights Education Department of the European Roma Rights Center.