Creation of the First Roma Self-Government Body in Ukraine
Today, on May 26, 2015, a historic event occurred in life of the Roma minority in Ukraine. That event will be the beginning of a new stage of the development of Roma in Ukraine. This happened in Mukachevo, in a small town in western Ukraine, but with the largest Roma settlement in our country.
Today, the initiative group sent to the City Hall an application for registration of Ukraine’s first Roma Self-Governance Body (RSGB).
Perhaps for many people this information may seem normal, but for Roma it is a new era, the beginning of a new history, where there is such a thing as the right to vote, right to education, work, self-improvement, social mobilization, civic responsibilities and obligations to society, democracy.
Half of the Roma camp (almost 5,000 people) want to start protecting themselves. The legal issues of the preparation of a RSGB are nothing compared to the bold step that made the part of the Roma settlement.
One of the Roma activists, Andrij Gorvat said “We are tired to be slaves; we are tired, that we cannot say a word. We want to make decisions by ourselves and take responsibility for their performance. We want to open the settlement to residents of Mukachevo for the reason that they can see that our children are the same as theirs. We want to change and we want to change people’s attitude to us.”
The development of the Roma Self-Governance Body will radically change the relationships between the Roma community and local authorities. Now they are infinitely far from ideal. Now, the mutual distrust and hostility are dominating. The situation will change when the delegated representatives of Roma community will engage in dialogue with the government on equal partnership level, offering to implement joint projects, not just begging for benefits or aid.
Of course, the development of RSGB in Mukachevo is at the beginning of a long road and passing it, it will face misunderstanding and they need to carefully calculate every move. But if we want to help the integration of the Roma population into society, we as community activists and authorities at all levels should make every effort for Roma self-government bodies to be established throughout Ukraine and for the Roma themselves to be engaged in solving of their problems.
PS: The centers of legal information and advice that provide free legal aid to Roma people working with the support of the “Roma of Ukraine“, International “Renaissance” Foundation. To learn more about the activities of a network of centers, foundations and principles of work visit the website www.legalspace.org under “Legal Empowerment of Roma communities.” The views in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the International “Renaissance” Foundation and other civil, religious and political organizations and individuals.