June 14, 2011
For nearly two weeks between 27 May and 8 June, 80 high school students in five cities – Timișoara, Iași, Buzău, Cluj-Napoca, Bucharest – have accepted the invitation of Policy Center for Roma and Minorities and its partners to participate in a series of educational debates that took the forefront of current social issues such as discrimination, racism and negative cultural stereotypes.
The national caravan “Challenge discrimination” brought together a number of personalities from the Romanian public sphere, who tried to challenge young people to think critically and analyse these problems.
“I was glad to see that young people in schools are more tolerant and open-minded than most of their parents. Attitudes do not change from year to year, but I think that Romania is, mainly, on the right track.”said Dragos Bucurenci after the debate that took place in Buzău.
The same opinion was shared by journalist Liana Alexandru: “In Iași, the students who enrolled in the debate came with a real interest to the topic, so the discussion was lively and authentic. Participants did not have inhibitions and voiced their concerns with sincerity. I was glad they had the courage to share unpleasant experiences and to admit their preconceptions. And what’s perhaps most important, they showed a rare willingness to learn and to reinvent themselves in relation with representatives of the Roma community. At the end of the debate I left with the impression that they are more open than their parents, from whom they probably inherited most of the preconceptions. “
Students showed great interest in the subject and wanted to learn more information about the discrimination phenomenon in Romania and about Roma history and culture, in general. A student from Buzău believes that “the Roma are indeed a social problem that requires increased attention and involvement from the authorities and from the entire society.”
Most of the students declared at the end of the debates that they don’t consider themselves to be very informed regarding the subject of Roma and that the information they get comes mainly from the media.
Along with high school students and organizers the following moderators were involved in the debates: Georgeta Petrovici (journalist), Mugur Ciumăgeanu (psychologist) and Mircea Toma (journalist).
Policy Center for Roma and Minorities planned by involving young people in such events, to respond, on one hand, to the acute need of public debate about discrimination, racism and cultural negative stereotypes and on the other hand, to the need to include young people in public discussions and to give them the opportunity to express themselves.
The event is part of the REACT campaign, implemented in Romania and Italy for Policy Center for Roma and Minorities and supported by the European Commission.
REACT is a pilot awareness raising campaign that focuses on the active participation of Roma and non-Roma citizens in the civic life, which is being developed by three NGOs in Romania, Italy, Bulgaria and Albania under the umbrella of the European Roma Grassroots Organization (ERGO).
While the NGOs in Bulgaria and Albania are focused on direct interventions, Policy Center for Roma and Minorities is developing in Romania and Italy an awareness campaign designed to challenge the negative attitudes towards Roma through a visible approach. The main instruments used are films, documentaries, sports and education as a means of stimulating active participation.
Partners: Romanian Association for Debate, Oratory and Rhetoric (ARDOR), PATRIR (Peace, Action, Training and Research Institute of Romania) and the Cărturești Library.
Media partner: Zile și Nopți