Create motivated,
engaged citizenship
and positive
role models,
of 1

National Roma Girls Camp

Arete Youth Foundation is striving to develop a sustainable Roma community, where education is a priority for young Roma girls.
Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Published in: Education      

Transcripts - National Roma Girls Camp

  • 1. ABOUT DATA AFTERMATH INTERVIEWS TESTIMONIALS Create motivated, engaged citizenship and positive role models, Develop communication and leadership skills. Increase the percentage of Roma female students who pursue higher education. Strengthen inclusion of Roma women in the labor market. The National Roma Girls Camp (NRGC) helps too: VERA ANGELOVA ZVEZDELINA GEORGIEVA She is 19 years old and studies Finance, Ac- countancy and Control at the Sofia University of National World Economy. Ambitious and beautiful, Zvezdi is one of the 25 girls who became part of first NRGC journey. She is 21 years old, studies law at the New Bulgarian University and lives in Fakulteta, one of the biggest Roma neighborhoods in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. Vera shared the NRGC experience along with 25 girls from different parts of the country, this is her story. Jordanka Georgieva Lidiya Stefanova Ana Sashova Djulianana Boideva DONATE At this very moment, young Roma girls bear a tri- ple burden. First of all, they are subject to the stig- ma associated with being a part of a poor com- munity. Secondly, within their community, they are expected to follow the Roma traditions—es- pecially early marriages leading them to drop out of school. Finally, the lack of support from family and government makes young Roma women vul- nerable to many social factors, resulting in forgo- ing the pursuit for higher education. This spurs a self-perpetuating cycle of unequal opportunities, ethnic discrimination and stifled aspirations. Roma education gaps have an important gender dis- parity. Only 10% of Roma girls and 15% Roma boys graduate from high school. Evidence is emerging that among the Roma children, literacy rates are lower for Roma girls than boys. For ex- ample, the illiteracy rate in the southeastern European region is 32% for Roma women, compared with 22% for Roma men, and 5% and 2% respectively among women and men in the non-Roma community. In addition, in communities that face the same so- cio-economic conditions, the primary school enroll- ment rate for Roma girls is just 64%, compared to 96% for non-Roma girls. Three quarters of Roma women do not complete pri- mary education, compared with one fifth of women from majority communities. AYF is striving to develop a sustainable Roma community, where education is a priority for young Roma girls. Thanks to the help of our generous donors and the Trust for Social Achievement we organized the First National Roma Girls Camp (NRGC) in 2014. Our goal is to inspire and prepare young girls for the post high school pe- riod. By giving them the opportunity to engage with role models, including them in motivational workshops, and meeting like-minded peers, these girls are learning that there are more opportunities available to them. By implementing the first national Roma girls camp AYF creates a community of dedicated ambassadors for the modern Roma woman. We invited influential life coaches and gender issue experts in the country to meet with the girls. During the camp, all 25 girls re- ceived training in leadership and communication skills. They learned practical guidelines for goal setting and decision-making. They gained necessary tools to help those overcome cases of discrimination. The girls learned about the values of the Roma com- munity and the role of the Roma woman through women of different Romani subgroups who shared their own personal experiences. These meetings helped them enhance their self-esteem, fostering mo- tivation to pursue education and promoting a culture of responsibility within the community. While women in other Western cultures began to embrace the Fem- inist movement of the 1960’s, Roma women are just beginning of to understand this journey. The National Roma Girls Camp (NRGC) creates a network of ambitious young professionals and helps them achieve their goals through positive example and mentorship. We prepare them for the job market, where soft skills are extremely important. This new generation of the young modern Roma woman is the exact positive image our society needs. Your donation helps us reach as many girls as possible. Sometimes these young Roma wom- en feel alone in ghettos, where girls are expected to have family at 20 instead of going to university and pursuing their professional career. Thank you! I think I’m successful because I am one of those who break stereotypes. The National Roma Girls’ Camp made me realize that there are other girls out there who have a vision of the modern Roma woman just like me. The camp built my confidence that we, as a new generation of young and educated Roma can bring the change! Not some fake integration clichés, but real deeds that would lead to efficient change, accom- plished with hard work and education. To be a modern Roma woman is a double challenge, once because of gender and second because of ethnicity. People have high expectations and you always have to prove yourself while balancing career, fam- ily and identity. At the moment, there are few girls who chose this path. But I am a strong believer that the more good exam- ples we have, the more girls will follow. The difference between the ghetto and the university is the level of freedom. In the ghetto you live in a predicted life cycle where survival is the main priority. School is far behind the list. So while most non-Roma girls choose a college, Roma girls choose clothes for their newborn baby. Roma girls should have faith that outside the neighbor- hood there is a whole new and exciting life and I am here to experience it! I want to become a successful lawyer and deal with Roma integration issues. Non-Ro- ma should be more understanding because if they could stand in our shoes for a day, I do not know how they would feel. I am con- fident it will not be a pleasant experience. Last year people came to the neighborhood and tried to destroy our houses. Families are afraid for their future, bulldozers can come any time. This case actually was my motiva- tion to study law. If we have efficient lawyers on our side, we could make a difference. I realized that without education things for me would not happen the way I wanted. During my teenage years, I was ill- treated by my non- Roma peers. I did not believe that I can be someone else than Vera from the Ghetto, but look at me now. Before the NRG Camp I was anxious to meet women like me, ready to fight the stereotypes and live dif- ferently. After this empowering experience, I know my dreams can come true! Being a young Roma woman in Bulgaria is very hard. During my first year at university, I was scared that people would run away if I admitted my true origin. But it was the oth- er way around, now I have friends, we help each other and have fun together. In the ghetto people look at me as if I am an alien, but they do respect me. I am an example for the younger girls and I am excited that the number of university students from the neighborhood is increasing. This year we will have 4-5 future students. I was one of the first. My parents are thrilled for me, while I am happy to be a positive role model. In my NRGC experience I have learned about different Roma subcultures and values. I know now for sure, that you should never give up, because success is right around the corner wait- ing for you to reach it. The camp made me realize how important education is and gave me the passion I needed. I will always remember the stories about the everyday struggle some of the girls have with their parents for education. I’m motivated and inspired by the power and per- severance of the Roma woman! The camp was a colorful surprise for me. A gift each and every one of us saw in different colours. I noticed the mindfulness in the hearts of the Arete team. I found ambitious people united by a cause and con- cerned with the Roma community well-being. I have realized how im- portant for Roma women is to be a good mother, wife and home-maker, but in the same time to keep up with education and career. The camp was a new beginning for me. After the first National Roma Girl’s Camp I felt em- powered and ready to beat the chal- lenges ahead of me. The camp helped me realize that many other girls with our ethnic background are fighting for a better future. I was happy to meet so many smart and charming Roma girls. We should be proud no matter the obstacles! I have judged people harshly, but after the NRGC camp, I try to put myself in their shoes first. I finally have met peo- ple who actually care for our future. Thank you Arete for the great experience and support. It was an honor and pleasure to be a part of the first National Roma Girls Camp. I admire the Arete team for the willpower they invest in this kind of events. This is a huge step towards empow- ering Roma women and helping them achieve independence and success. The NRGC changed for good my perspective about the role of the modern Roma woman in our society. The camp taught me patience, responsibility and independence, but above all the team helped improve my com- munication skills.