Another week has passed, and up to now everything is still going quite well. My agenda is filled with appointments and planned visits to several Roma communities in both Grosuplje and Novo Mesto. Last week I met with several persons who have been involved in Roma-related issues. These people had very different backgrounds: a priest, police men, social workers, etcetera. It is interesting to see how their opinions and experiences differ from each other and how these influence their discourse when talking about Roma.
In general, we can conclude that people who live closer to Roma communities have a stronger and more negative, opinion about them and often think in a stereotypical way. Also, people having bad experiences have a stereotypical way of thinking. Some, though, have a sincere desire to change the current attitude in Slovenia. As a professor already told me, Slovenes are not proud of the problems that are going on with the Roma in their country and some really want to solve these problems, but in order to change both the living conditions of the Roma and the attitude of the Slovenes, people should work together. Police men, social workers, Roma, activitsts, local Slovenes , NGOs and churches…all should be involved. If they would communicate and work together they would already be halfway the solution. But this commmunication is often lacking, and thus the cycle of marginalization seems to never end.
It was also last week that I visited a Roma community for the first time. This was a small community in Grosuplje, which lacks access to electricity, water and sanitation. I could “get in” the community, because one of my research assistants knew some of the girls that were living there. Due to the so-called snowball method (networking method) I could talk to multiple inhabitants of the community. Now I heard the other side of the story, and this was very interesting in many ways.
These people were not pessimistic, but they could only see their poverty, and did not know how they could do something to solve their problems with access to electricity, water and sanitation. The municipality was held responsible for change.
When I asked them what would change if they would have access to electricity and water, one of them replied: “What if we had electricity and water? We would be born again and we could start a new life!”
The Roma put themselves in a victim role, which to some extent is a logical step, when focusing on their living conditions. However, they are also themselves responsible for the situation they are in and how they handle this. Breaking the cycle of marginalization, poverty and discrimination might start at the municipality level; the Roma themselves will definitely have to act as active agents in the process of change.