International Roma Day: Lifting Neglected Voices

Note: This post has been updated to includes photos from Neglected Voices: The Global Roma Diaspora

April 8th marks International Roma Day, a day we celebrate Romani people across the world. Romani people, who have origins in North India, have made distinct and important contributions to Europe and the Americas in many fields, including literature, arts, crafts, music, science, and sports. International Roma Day is also a time to increase awareness of the rarely discussed plight of the Roma.

The approximately 15 million Romani people throughout the world continue to be subject to rampant and deliberate structural racism, as well as discrimination and violence. This persistent discrimination has led to the denial of basic human rights, including education, for the Roma. A recent Harvard FXB and Center for Interactive Pedagogy in Belgrade (CIP Center) study in Serbia found that of the 1 percent of Romani adolescents who enroll in college, nearly 6 out of 10 experienced discrimination at some point in their educational career. One in five respondents said that, at times, discrimination was a frequent or near daily occurrence.

Built on a long history of state-sponsored injustices, modern day anti-Roma sentiments, indifference, lack of political will, and often biased policies and measures have exacerbated gaps between the Roma and their peers. According to the 2016 European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey (EU-MIDIS), 80 percent of Roma live with an income below the respective national at-risk-of-poverty threshold.

Harvard FXB is committed to increasing awareness of and addressing the marginalization of the Roma. Harvard FXB, in partnership with the Romani Studies Program of the Central European University, is sponsoring two events in recognition of International Roma Day. The first event, “Neglected Voices: The Global Roma Diaspora,” will convene scholars and activists for a two-day conference to discuss the global span of the Romani diaspora and the disparate manifestations of inclusion or exclusion of Roma across the world. The event, held on April 5th and April 6th also aims to mobilize solidarity and cooperation between Romani activists across continents.

The second event, “Decolonizing Feminism: Transnational Solidarity for Gender and Racial Equity,” will be held on April 8th. This panel discussion will center the issue of global solidarities among women of color. Patricia Hill Collins, a celebrated social theorist and author of “Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment” will participate in a conversation with African American, Dalit, Palestinian, and Romani feminist scholars and activists.

These events are part of a concerted program of research and engagement with Romani issues centered at Harvard FXB. This year, Harvard FXB, in partnership with Voice of Roma, has launched an exploratory study on the social and economic conditions of the Romani people in the United States, with a special focus on their experiences with stigma and discrimination.

In the next few years, the program aims for: an expansion of data on Roma in the Americas; a comparative exploration of theories of stigma and discrimination as they apply to Romani populations in the Americas and in Europe; and an inquiry into the nature of the Romani diaspora. These efforts are paramount to deconstruct structural racism that has led to negative outcomes for Romani people and advance social equity.

For more information on the Roma, view our “Roma At A Glance” fact sheet.

Update: Photos from Neglected Voices: The Global Roma Diaspora