Phiren Amenca

Statement by Phiren Amenca on the occasion of April 8 – International Roma Day 2020

Today, on April 8, in these hard days and months, we would like to use this occasion to celebrate our successes and the amazing work of our member and partner organizations in Europe, and to send our blessings to all Roma in the world.

The best and most empowering Roma youth projects and initiatives

As an international network, it is important for us to promote and support projects and initiatives which empower Roma youth all around Europe. Because of that, and to raise the visibility and recognition of Roma youth work, we launched a competition last November for the “most empowering Roma youth projects and initiatives”. We have received inspiring applications from 19 countries, by 33 NGOs and several informal groups supporting the integration of young Roma concerning employment, social services, education and training, encouraging and supporting young Roma to become active members of social and political life. Many projects took an intersectional approach working with the ones suffering multiple discrimination, others engaged with different forms of media and art in order to raise awareness about issues concerning Roma youth. In the last days we have introduced each applicant through our social media channels.

Because our award ceremony had to be postponed, we would like to use this day to announce the best five projects our jury have selected, while keeping the winner a secret until the ceremony can be held: One of the best five projects is the self-initiative of a 16-year-old Romani girl, Ani Kovacheva, from Bulgaria who teaches English to Roma kids in her neighborhood; while Amaro Drom organised training courses for young Romani women to become facilitators, and held federal Roma youth conferences in Germany within their project Dikhen amen! See us!. The project OpreRoma! Listen to be heard! of the Youth Agency for the Advocacy of Roma Culture (ARCA) a self-organisation of Roma young people in Ukraine, empowers Roma youth through workshops about their history and culture, advocacy and political participation; the first ever Roma LGBTQI+ Forum in Hungary organised by the Diverse Youth Network; and a complex project of Roma youth organization “Walk with us – Phiren Amenca” supporting young Roma to solve burning issues in six municipalities in Montenegro.

Today we celebrate them and all other organizations and NGOs, Roma and non-Roma which contribute their efforts for the inclusion of Roma youth and for equality in our societies!

Young European of the Year 2020 fights for the participation of Young Roma in Europe

Maria Atanasova, our nominee, was awarded as Young European of the Year 2020 for her efforts to increase the visibility and participation of young Roma people. At the age of 23, she is already a mentor supporting children and young people from the Roma community.

Every year, the Schwarzkopf Foundation Young Europe together with the European Youth Forum, awards the prize “Young European of the Year” to a young person who has shown a particularly strong commitment to a Europe of solidarity.

We would like to congratulate Maria once again and welcome the fact that mainstream organizations have recognized the work of a young Roma woman and are raising awareness about the importance of Roma youth participation in Europe.

Concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic

While celebrating, we cannot forget that still thousands of Roma are living under the same shameful conditions as centuries before and the situation is getting worse day by day with the spread of the Corona virus in Europe and in our countries.

The extremely fast spreading of the Coronavirus, making people sick and causing the death of many worldwide, lead to governments imposing restrictive measures. We want to make it clear that human life is the most important and irreplaceable, so we support every initiative that is to secure the life and health of people. At the same time, we would like to highlight that the COVID-19 is endangering Humanity as a whole, and to make any kind of distinction (either positive or negative discrimination) between human beings is unacceptable and unjustified. We reject any kind of acts and considerations that are selective based on ethnicity or other grounds, since this can divide societies.

During these dreadful times we cannot allow making a distinction between Roma and non-Roma, to discriminate people in need based on their nationality, ethnicity, race or religion is unacceptable . All people need to get protective equipment, detergents, and food assistance equally. It is also important to highlight that prevention and protecting the lives of citizens – especially those who are in a disadvantaged position due to the COVID-19 – is the duty of governments and state authorities. Generating tension for political advantage in such a severe situation is atrocious.

We believe in the important role young people and young Roma people in our communities and our countries play in continuing the fight for an inclusive, new Europe. We need unity and alliances more than ever, as our world is not going to be the same anymore!

We wish good health to all Roma and non-Roma people in Europe and we hope that today, in our homes, we can forget about the terrible situation for a day, and remember what we are proud of!