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18 okt 2022
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Roma women are not used to openness and equality: We teach them to talk about themselves

Roma women are the driving force of communities – they spend most of their time with children, passing them their knowledge and skills, and at the same time taking care of the household. However, women from excluded communities often do not know relaxation and meetings with friends over a cup of coffee. They can be shy and rarely speak up. However, this is changing the experts from the civic association Vyrovnávanie šancí, who regularly work with women from excluded communities.

Joint meeting in the library in Prešov

Initially, the women’s groups functioned in such a way that experts from Vyrovnávanie šancí Edita Kovářová and Janka Urban personally visited each of our community centers. Later, however, they decided to change the operating system. Since August, individual social workers and leaders, chosen by the women in each of the community centers, have been meeting together with Janka and Edita in the library in Prešov. At the meetings, female experts engage in many activities together with women, such as reading. It is important that women feel good, open up and be able to say something about themselves. “Our effort is for women to be able to adapt individual texts to their own lives and to look for their role models in them. Our main goal is that they can talk and tell us how they feel and what they are going through,” said Edita.

During the September meeting, they read from the book called Rebelky, which contains various stories of important personalities. They also read the story of Beyoncé and talked about her difficult beginnings and the hard struggle that made her become a world-famous personality. The aim of this activity was to show women positive thinking and that if they want to achieve a goal, they have to go after it.

At the meetings of experts, leaders and social workers in Prešov, each woman has a book in her hand to follow the text while Edita or Janka reads the story. At the last meeting, their roles were changed and the women themselves read the story of Little Red Riding Hood. After reading, they retold the story using rag figures on their fingers. At the same time, they received books in each of the community centers, thanks to which the leaders will practice reading together with other women.  

Women represented the story through rag figures

Getting feedback is also an important part of the meetings in Prešov. Thanks to it, female experts have the opportunity to find out what activities women liked in our community centers and which ones interested them less. “Not only do we meet with them, but we also process it methodically and send it to them in writing so that they have some background in hand,” explained Edita. This “manual” can serve as a guide for the leader when explaining the activities to the women in the center.

Many activities include books, which will soon be delivered to the women’s homes, so that they have the opportunity to read the stories, for example, together with their children. These are primarily fairy tales, because they are the simplest and most understandable. They can also retell the content of the fairy tale to their children and thus enrich not only themselves, but also their descendants.

Children learn a lot from their mothers

Women are more active and open

Experts appreciate the change in women’s groups. “Now their activity is definitely greater, because when Janka and I went to the centers, the women were more or less passive. We did various activities with them and they all participated in, but not equally. But now the leader has to lead activities under the supervision of a community worker, so women should be more active, in my opinion, it also gives them more. They gain more self-confidence, as they pass on something they learned in Prešov to someone else,” said Edita.

According to Janka, the fact that they are all equal in the group also has a positive effect on women – any social or educational stratification does not exist there. Different women from the centers can come to joint meetings and try out a leadership role. However, when they come to Prešov, it is a commitment that they then have to do the given activity in the community center. 

Meetings are now much more stimulating for women. When Janka and Edita went to the centers, it was sometimes difficult to involve all the women equally in the activities. However, this changed after individual female leaders took over the leadership of the groups – women are now more active and much more involved. They know that they are part of a closed community in which they have nothing to fear or be ashamed of. They started to communicate more, especially about their feelings, which was not common until now. “I like that they talk mostly about themselves. We want them to express their thoughts and feelings as part of each activity, and thus they get to know themselves, and this is happening to them for the first time,” added Janka.

The project Gender equality for Roma communities, which was supported by Norwegian grants and the Slovak state budget, is implemented together with EsFem and Vyrovnávanie šancí.

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