Roma, Gypsy and Traveller civil society organisations: Exploring experiences and challenges in Europe today

Prof Martina Feilzer giving presentation at Roma, Gypsy and Traveller event

On the 28th and 29th September, delegates from civil society organisations attended our event at Bangor University, exploring Roma, Gypsy and Traveller experiences and challenges in Europe today. Over the course of two days, this event brought together civil society organisations, academics policymakers and community members.

We were very pleased to welcome two keynote speakers to the event, starting with Dr Adrian Marsh on day one: a researcher of Romani-Traveller origins specialising in Romani Studies, now working in Istanbul and leading the International Romani Studies Network.

We then had the pleasure of introducing several civil society organisations from the UK and across Europe, who were representing Romani people and highlighted the challenges they experience in a roundtable discussion. The participating civil society organisations included: Romodrom (Czech Republic), Community Renewal Trust (Scotland), Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Social Work Association (Wales), Travelling Ahead (Wales), St James Centre (England), and Slovo 21 (Czech Republic).

Delegates from each organisation discussed their vital work in ensuring that Roma, Gypsy, and Traveller communities are free from discrimination at all levels. Also present at the discussions were policymakers; tasked with supporting Gypsy, Traveller, Roma, Showmen and Boater (GTRSB) communities in Wales and taking on board the perceptions and experiences of those within the community.

Day two began with our second keynote speaker, Professor Margaret Greenfields, who introduced the GTRSBintoHE Pledge (Gypsy, Traveller, Roma, Showmen and Boaters into Higher Education) aimed at overcoming barriers that limit higher education participation within these communities. The pledge is a firm commitment by universities, colleges, and educational institutions to undertake steps to support members of the community into higher education, due to only 200 community members on average partaking in higher education across the UK (Greenfields, 2019; Mulcahy et al., 2017). Margaret is a professor in Social Policy at Anglia Ruskin University and has a long history of working collaboratively with Romani Gypsy, Traveller, Showmen and Boater communities at local, UK and international levels.

This was followed by a workshop session led by Dr Adrian Marsh, providing an interesting insight into ‘Romani research, Travellers’ Tales – an academic’s practical field guide to working with Gypsy, Roma, Traveller communities in contemporary social science, health and humanities research’.

This event was a fantastic opportunity to bring together civil society organisations who contributed to our research with academics, policymakers, and others and to reflect on the experiences and challenges to Roma, Gypsy and Traveller communities and the organisations that support them.

WISERD Co-director, Professor Martina Feilzer, based at Bangor University said:

This was a great opportunity to hear from civil society organisations supporting Roma, Gypsy and Traveller communities across Europe as well as academic voices. Enabling civil society organisations to come together, share ideas, and renew contact was great and the academic and practical insights and stories shared were inspiring and highly illuminating. We are extremely grateful for everyone’s time and input – it was an incredible two days.