The door is open

Monika HorakovaMember, Czech Parliament
speaking at
Stories Exchange Project 2000: Workshop IEastWest InstitutePrague6 December 1999
I think that Roms are participating as much as they can right now. There are more than a hundred citizen associations, and two Romany political parties.
But there are two questions: how much support is there for Romany activities? how can Roms solve the problems which face them?
As for support from outside the Romany community, in 1997 government grants to Romany organizations totaled 630 000 crowns, while grants to Czech organizations working for Roms totaled 750, 000. This year, 1999, the comparison is even more interesting. Romany associations have received 4,300,000 but Czech pro-Rom associations have received 11,000,000: so Czechs working for Roms got nearly 7,000,000 more than Roms working for themselves.
Roms are committed, and they propose projects and programs, but they don’t really have a chance: they are not in the system, "not in the loop” as they say in the U.S.
Romany students in high schools and universities and graduates of schools and universities are not given the opportunities they deserve. That’s why I like the Stories Exchange Project: it is creating opportunities for young educated Roms.
Usually Roms with university degrees who have committed themselves to solving our problems have to work at a level which is not commensurate with their level of education. Many Roms who have graduated from universities are working as advisors in departmental offices or associations. They would be more effective in positions with greater discretionary power: jobs in which they would be asked to make decisions and solve problems.
For example, it is very strange that there is only one Rom, Zdenek Duna, on the Interdepartmental Commission for the Romani community. There should be more Roms in this office: it is shameful that there are not. We know people who could do these jobs, people who have all the necessary preparation. They would be serious candidates for such jobs, but they are not encouraged to apply.
We know what is behind this.
I hope that at least some of this can be changed by the Stories Exchange Project, which I find very interesting. Most of all I like the opportunities it will give Roms to share their experiences on the Internet, and to establish contact with communities all around the world.
We lack this here in the Czech Republic. It may have to do with the fact that most Roms do not speak foreign languages. But it is a problem for the whole country.
It is very important for us to have contact with other countries. It is important for us to exchange information with people outside the Czech Republic: information is the basis of everything.
If you have contact with foreigners, they can tell you about opportunities abroad for getting scholarships and studying outside the Czech Republic. I think they are likely to be more open than Czech employers and institutions.
Our biggest problem is a lack of information. At this point only a small circle of people get the relevant information. Very often we Roms find out about opportunities after they have passed: possibilities we had but didn’t know about.
I look forward to information circulating much faster and more efficiently in the Stories Exchange Project. It is really important that you who are participating in the project come from three cities: Ostrava, Brno, and Usti. It’s up to you to share information and pass it to other people.
You have a chance to get to a higher level of participation in this society: I think that there are more and more opportunities today.
Some of you are members of an association which I founded for young Roms who are students and graduates of universities throughout the Czech Republic. We would be happy to invite people who don’t know about this association to take part in our seminars on working in non-governmental organizations, on communication and the media, and on other topics chosen by the participants.
The door is open.
and speaking at the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs Prague 1 December 2000
We’ve brought together young Roma from the whole of the Czech Republic. I feel a power in this group, and I feel high potential for the future of the situation of Roma in the Czech Republic. Most of these people have completed their studies at university, and I feel that they are good examples not just for the other Roma but also for the majority.
It’s a mixed group, from seventeen years until twenty-seven, something like that. And the group is still enlarging, because other young people want to be part of it. The members include high school and university students and students of law, medicine and at the pedagogical faculties: many different areas.
When we started Czechs were surprised, and I think that people take it very positively that they can see educated Roma.

Leave a Reply