Empowerment and commemoration: International Roma Day in Parliament (PK0334/04/08/2024)

Vienna (PK) – An already traditional event for the International Roma Day took place on Monday afternoon at the Parliament under the title “ROMNJAKraft.Sor Memory – Change – Awareness”. This year the important role of Roma women in the development of the ethnic group was highlighted. In particular, education and empowerment were highlighted as key factors to further strengthen the rights of Roma women. A second focus of the event was the commemoration of Borajmos, the genocide of European Roma/Romanja and Sindi/Sindese during the National Socialist era.

Sobotka: This event is a sign of solidarity with the ethnic group

In his opening remarks, National Council President Wolfgang Sobotka said that the Austrian parliament supports Austrian ethnic groups in many ways beyond the legal framework for ethnic group work. It strives to make them visible, to give them a voice, and to show signs of solidarity. Solidarity with Roma and Sinti:zze is expressed through today's event, which fortunately happens this year on April 8, the International Roma Day.

Sobotka recalled that the Roma community is the largest minority group in Europe. According to the President of the National Council, the challenges faced by this ethnic group can only be overcome through European unity. Although some things have already been achieved, many questions remain unanswered.

The festival emphasizes the strength of the Roma community, but also serves to commemorate and reminisce. Sobotka cites support for a memorial to Austrian Sint:isse and Rom:nja murdered during the Nazi era as one of the Austrian parliament's contributions to making the history of the ethnic group part of Austrian commemorative culture. The decision to make August 2 the commemoration day of Borajmos was also an important signal.

Rob: It's important to bring women's efforts to the fore

As Minister for Women's Affairs, she is particularly pleased to take the opportunity to highlight exemplary initiatives for the empowerment of Roma and Sintese people, Union Minister Susanne Raab said in her welcoming remarks. She can happily say that the work of ethnic groups in Austria as a whole has made a lot of progress in recent years. He is particularly proud that ORF has increased the proportion of programs in ethnic group languages ​​and succeeded in establishing media in Romani. But the work is far from over, Rob stressed. Equality and opportunity for self-determination is a concern of all members of the ethnic group, especially women.

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Horvath: Empowering women in ethnic groups should not be lip service

Manuela Horvath, a member of the Roma Minority Consultative Committee at the Federal Chancellery, gave her thoughts on the central theme of the event, the empowerment of women in the ethnic group. It was important to her not to be silent about empowering Roma women. In their view, the Ethnic Advisory Committee should also set a good example in its work. Horvath recalls three pioneers who laid important foundations for the recognition of Roma and Sindi as an autochthonous ethnic group in Austria. Horvath names painter and writer Seija Stojka, Linz Sindhi activist Rosa Gitta Martl, and Susanne Paranyai, an early activist for the rights of the Burgenland Roma.

Access to education as a prerequisite for empowerment

A panel discussion on “Transformation and Awareness” presented best practical examples from the life of the Roma. Education is key to success in life, but it was clear from the talks that children of this race face many barriers in particular. It also became clear that the prejudices of the majority of society were still a significant factor. The main point of discussion is that there should be a fundamental change in the education system.

Csilla Höfler reported on the experiences of Caritas Steiermark's EMRO project, which primarily supports children's schooling. The importance of a holistic approach involving the whole family has been shown time and time again.

Žaklina Radosavljević, head of Vivaro-Viva Romnja, emphasized the importance of the limited level of privilege for Roma women and especially immigrant women. The specialty of the association's work is that it offers its workshops with Romani and parallel childcare. It helps provide information to women who, for linguistic and social reasons, are often isolated within their own group and have no network to fall back on. By building trust, taboo topics such as sexual violence or forced marriage can also be tackled.

Tina Friedrich confirmed the importance of language in building trust and helping people talk about their problems from her experiences working in Caritas Graz's Roma projects. It should not be overlooked that the ethnic group is very disjointed. Racism is still a problem in majority society.

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Alysea Nardai, young Roma activist and trainee primary school teacher from Oberwart, confirmed in her own experience that the recent past of racism towards Roma children can still be enjoyed by the school system. A consequence is that the minority language is not passed on to the next generation. In his view, it is important that kindergarten exposes Roma culture in a positive way. As a representative of the ethnic group, she sees a special task here.

TERLA: Creating a digital memory landscape

Historian Herbert Predl spoke on “Memory: Remembering Borajmos using the example of Terla Burgenland”. He is an employee of ERINNERN:AT, a teaching and learning program on National Socialism and the OeAD Holocaust, the Austrian Institute for Education and Internationalization. The Roma and Sindhi genocide is the main topic of ERINNERN:AT this year.

Borajmos means “eating” in Romani and describes the genocide of Roma and Sindi during the Nazi era. The DERLA project is an Austrian-wide “digital memory landscape” for location-based and media-supported learning in a digital space and platform. This interdisciplinary documentation and communication project, which continues to expand, offers critical studies of National Socialism. Memories of places and victims of Nazi terror are documented. Four central components of the project include an interactive map of memory, an archive of names, trails of memory as digital tours, and educational work in schools to create awareness of history, Bredl says.

So far, 242 memorials – including memorials and plaques – have been erected in Burgenland. 28 of these characters are dedicated to the Roma and Sindhi genocide. For decades they were not recognized as victims of National Socialism, Bredl says. Most of the monuments were realized only in the last ten years. A good deal of discussion is currently going on in many communities about erecting memorials that are still missing. In 1937, there were approximately 8,447 Roma and Romnja in Burgenland, of whom only 500 survived the following war years.

Panel discussion with representatives of ÖVP, SPÖ, Greens and NEOS

This was followed by a panel discussion with moderator Barbara Karlich, with representatives from all parliamentary committees. The FPÖ representative had to cancel his participation in the event for health reasons.

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Nikolas Berlaković (ÖVP) said that the Roma and Sindi genocide was dealt with too late or not at all. It is important to deal with the past and look to the future. You should never stop working or get tired. Creating awareness and changing mindsets is important. A task force is currently working on the implementation of a national monument for Roma and Sindi in Vienna, Berlaković said.

Harald Troch (SPÖ) reminded us that genocide was terrible suffering and the destruction of a culture. In the decades after World War II, the Roma faced many forms of discrimination, from which children were particularly vulnerable. Hence learning is central to common schools, where the languages ​​of the ethnic groups play an important role. Languages ​​of ethnic groups should not only be taught as a second language but also used in other subjects. Troch demanded that the music of the ethnic groups be reflected in the mainstream school system as well.

Education alone cannot fight racism. But Eva Blimlinger (Greens) said that education helps ensure that there are people on the other side who can defend themselves against racism. He also spoke in favor of strengthening the rights of minority groups and, in this sense, called for “clear co-determination rights” not only for minority consultative committees to listen. He hopes that will happen in the next legislative term, Blimlinger said. In addition, the next Board of Trustees of the National Fund should proceed with the construction of the above-mentioned monument. It will be built on Schmerlingplatz in Vienna, and Blimlinger said there is an agreement on this.

The question of whether all ethnic groups should be given “more power” should be discussed, Michael Bernhardt (NEOS) insisted, suggesting for example the establishment of an ethnic group committee in parliament. Bernhardt said that representatives of ethnic groups should have the power to make their own decisions, and new structures in the education system aimed at promoting ethnic groups.

Oberwaart's Leon Berger Band provided the accompaniment to the festive event with Roma music. (End) Bee/Socks

Note: Note: Photographs of this event can be found on the Parliament web portal.

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