Oversight or a disregarded fact?
Most of the Roma people are not informed about the changes that are happening in our society, often don’t know that a certain law came into force, and are not interested in their obligations and responsibilities as citizens. They simply become isolated from the rest of the society. This is claimed by the non-governmental organizations which work on improving the rights of the Roma people on field in Roma societies. One of them is the National Roma Centrum (NRC) from Kumanovo which has been working in Roma neighborhoods in 16 cities throughout Macedonia for years.
The experience through this years showed that it is exactly the society that was creating and still creates stereotypes and prejudices about Roma people and the Roma community. Have we overseen the fact that this feeling is common? Why do Roma people want to be isolated from society and are not interested in the changes happening in it? Changes that have crucial meaning for them and their families, for example changes in the area of education, health, state benefit, housing…?! Well adapted in the Roma exclusion/ inclusion, say that the reason for this are several factors – the long-lasting distrust, prejudices, the degree of education of Roma people and the willingness to get to know the “other” person.
Professor Rubin Zemon from the State University in Ohrid thinks isolation of Roma people from the society (meaning any society, not only Macedonian) dates centuries ago because of the stereotypes and prejudices societies have towards Roma people.
– Roma people were and still are disappointed about their exclusion that lasts for centuries. Others look on Roma people with depreciation. They are being treated as a target group instead of as participants in the processes. These problems are not lasting only a decade. Only a few Roma people are included in our institutions. But again, they are not participating in the processes of decision making, commented Zemon.
He also points on another factor because of which Roma people, at least the ones in this country are advisedly staying aside from the events in the society.
– Roma people are also disappointed in their political representatives. The political subject among Roma people is very weak. Representatives are being considered as corrupted persons who are included in politics because of personal interests, instead of strive for better life-conditions for Roma people, adds Zemon.
According to him, the solution of the vicious cycle of distrust and isolation lies in greater involvement of Roma people in political and social courses.
Professor Zemon reckons that the ‘ice of distrust’ can be broken only if Roma people become included not as target groups but as decision-makers in social policies.
Charles Van Lith is a photographer from Belgium who is paying big attention on Roma people. He participated in the creating of the Belgian National Roma Council. Having that experience, Van Lith says that there are strong prejudices even among numerous Roma communities. That condition is due to the fact that Roma people do not know each other. But he also points on another issue:
-Roma people as well as others – Sinti, Manush, Jenish, are communities within a greater community which are often governed by different rules. I personally think that the less they are educated the more they become isolated in their own world, with a boring tendency to prefer to believe in speculations, rather than in the truth itself. I still remember a Sitni-Roma person, who I know, although well educated, criticized other Roma people in my city saying that ‘those’ people are creating bad reputation for him and his community. After some period of time, that same person had the opportunity to get to know the other Roma people better. As a result they are now closer and have better relations, points Van Lith.