Declare your ethnicity and your story will be a better one

By • on August 26, 2011

The Roma NGO Romani Criss, with the support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, launched on 17 August the information campaign “Declare your ethnicity and your story will be a better one”. The campaign is dedicated to Roma people and is part of a series of actions that Romani Criss intends to organize in order to encourage them to openly declare their ethnicity at the October 2011 Population and Housing Census. The campaign aims to support the organizers of the Population and Housing Census in October 2011 in obtaining accurate data about Romanian Roma. The results of the latest census conducted in 2002 indicated a population of 535,250 Roma people, which represents 2.5% of Romania’s population and makes them the second largest ethnic minority in numerical terms. However, Roma representatives and public authorities think that this is not the real number of Roma living in Romania. Their number is assumed to be 3-4 times higher than the official figure. For various reasons, including the fear of stigma and the memory of historical persecution, many Roma people refuse to declare their ethnic identity to the reviewer, argue the representatives of  Romani CRISS.

To understand the phenomenon, Romani CRISS conducted a qualitative research during March-April 2011, a method that used focus groups. Seven focus groups were selected in 5 localities: Babadag (Tulcea County), Botosani (Botosani county) Homorod (Brasov County), St. George (Covasna county) and Petrosani (Hunedoara county). This approach aimed, inter alia, at identifying possible actions that would lead to a more adequate reflection of Roma in the October 2011 census. Following this research, Romani CRISS has started an awareness campaign designed to encourage the Roma to declare their ethnicity in the census, which included a series of actions involving the production and broadcasting of a radio and a video spot, an online campaign and meetings in communities with Roma population. “The purpose of this campaign is to persuade Roma people to declare their true ethnic identity at the following census in the October 2011. Some Roma refuse to declare their ethnicity for fear that it will be mentioned on the identity card that they are Roma or Gypsies, which is untrue”, says the coordinator of the Romani Criss organization, Marian Mandache (photo below). “Among the advantages that come with declaring your ethnicity in the census is that in localities with a minority population of more than 20%, the members of the ethnic minority may use their mother language in relation to local authorities, in communities of more than 700 people they can get a health mediator. An indirect benefit is that when implementing strategies and projects such as NGOs, public authorities must have a real database to program the budgets according to the local needs”, says the program coordinator of Romani Criss, Oana Mihalache (photo below).

The event was attended and chaired by Mr. Paul Ymkers – Charge D’affaires, Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands, Dr. Francois M. Farah, Representative for Romania at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Dr. Stephen Truica, Director of Demographic and Census statistics from the National Institute of Statistics, Marian Matache and Oana Mihalache (photo), representatives of the Romani Criss organization.