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March 21, 2016

Roma Women's Groups Showcased in Czech NaNet

Roma Women's Groups Showcased in Czech NaNet

SEiSMiC has taken up an important discussion on discrimination against Roma women in the Czech Republic. The issue was introduced by Roma activist Emilie Horackova, founder and member of Bachtale, an association that supports Roma women. Emilie is also a member of the NGO Slovo 21, whose primary goals are to combat racism and xenophobia, preserve and protect human rights, and teach tolerance towards ethnic minorities — the Roma minority in particular.

The Bachtale Voluntary Association, located in Mimon in the Liberec region, strives to achieve its objectives through the active involvement of Roma women in society, and in particular by strengthening their self-esteem through the presentation of Roma culture in active cooperation with cities and municipalities. One of the association's projects was a photography workshop organised in collaboration with the local government. As workshop participants, Roma women were asked to take pictures of their home city and neighbourhood that reflected both positive and negative aspects, and to describe their impressions.

Bachtale also offers Roma women a variety of services, such as legal and social counselling. The association engages the Roma community in all aspects of its operations and management, and in these and other ways helps to promote an understanding of Roma culture in the Czech Republic.

Manushe is another organisation that supports Roma women. Established in 2000 as an initiative of Slovo 21, Manushe implemented the project Jileha ("With All Your Heart") to provide direct support to Roma women in their own municipalities. Several women’s groups have been set up through the project thanks to a grant provided by the Czech Government’s Gender Equality Unit, with additional funds provided by Norway Grants under the "Let’s Give (Wo)men a Chance" programme operated by the Open Society Fund Prague.

Women’s groups are currently operating in nine cities in the Czech Republic, meeting twice a month to assess the family and community positions of Roma women, to boost the self-esteem and self-respect of Roma women, to talk about women's rights, and to focus on health, education and socio-legal issues. Each group has organised at least one public event during the past year, whether hosting a sports day, holding a Catholic service with special blessings for Roma women, hosting public debates, making Christmas decorations, flying kites, exhibiting photos, or broadcasting a special programme on Czech radio. These and other activities were presented at a conference that took place in Prague at the end of November 2015, attended by representatives of nearly all the women's groups within the project.

According to a discussion held at the NaNet, it appears that the situation of Roma women in the Czech Republic is improving. There are, however, many problems remaining. The frequent reluctance of local authorities to support such community activities represents one of the biggest hurdles to clear, although examples of good practice can be helpful in overcoming such obstacles.

The Jileha project publication (in Czech) can be downloaded here.