Equality growth key to Roma success


I come from Bulgaria, a proud member State of the European Union since 2007.

The membership in the European family has enriched our civil and geopolitical development. People became more mobile, visited and worked in other European cities, which brought many opportunities including getting to know other diverse cultures and lifestyles.

Interactions with other nationalities accelerated the internalization of commonly accepted endeavors such as the pursuit of economic growth, political stability, and democratic development. All these concepts are not just broad ideologies but are meanings created by principles.

And while I can proudly say that my country is generally following a democratic development, it is difficult to agree whether the crucial principles of solidarity, respect to ethnic diversity and human rights have been acknowledged by the population and the political elite. For one of the most marginalized and discriminated communities in Bulgaria –Roma people- the high minded principles adopted by the State is still far away from regular practice.

There are many challenges that the Roma ethnic minority experiences in Bulgaria. Right now discrimination is at its highest peak and has been successfully endorsed by pseudo –patriotic political formations, preaching for racial purity and hate towards others. In a political environment where ethnic minorities are negatively compared to foreigners and refugees, Roma people must show resistance.

They try harder and harder to prove to the system and to the society that they are equal citizens, to prove that they are Bulgarians as well.

Evictions of Roma families from their dwellings and demolitions of their houses continue to be the main issue that does not provide adequate alternative against illegal houses but triggers deeper poverty and homelessness among the population. There are no signs of pragmatic solutions.

There are more problems that need to be addressed, but I think Roma should be the active side in the debate. So far, Roma activists have been the voice of Roma in Bulgaria. Although they fight for equal rights and treatment, a strong support from the Roma population is missing. I explain this with the absence of community networks and lack of active leadership capacity among Roma in Bulgaria.

That is why community development and empowerment is important for every social movement, political campaign and advocacy act. It is a pleasure for me to be an intern in Operation Black Vote. Your approach to community development and support for political engagement of young leaders in the UK is a system that I consider unique and inspiring.

I hope I will learn innovative tools for community empowerment and negotiation. This will help me to critically analyze the situation of minorities in the UK and to draw parallels with Roma in Bulgaria as well. I believe that the knowledge gained from OBV will better inform my advocacy plans for the Roma community in Bulgaria.

Dancho Yakimov