Czech Republic: Romani college women learn how to compete in politics
Nine Romani women from all over the country who are attending college traveled to the Czech capital recently for political training. This was the third time that the Slovo 21 NGO has organized the event with financial support from the Heinrich Böll Foundation.
Participants in this most recent training first gathered last November for an introductory meeting. During their three days in Prague they learned from leading experts how to compete in the field of politics.
The project as a whole intends primarily to activate young Romani college women to become involved in public life and to support them in their personal development and defining their professional goals. Participants are motivated during the training to enter politics and to familiarize themselves with the main aspects of political activity at all levels - local, national, European and international.
"All of the girls are still at the beginning when it comes to political engagement or participating in public affairs. They're around 22, 23, so that's understandable. Nevertheless, I believe that most of them have real potential, but it naturally takes time. They need to refine their opinions and gain the courage to get into politics," project coordinator Martina Horváthová said.
This year's meeting focused on the international and supranational level of politics, including the topics of the European Union and European integration. Participants visited the Foreign Affairs Ministry, met with a UN representative, and received advice on image creation from renowned fashion expert Olo Křížová.
The most successful of the trainings previously took place in 2006. Three graduates of that training immediately ran as candidates in the municipal elections.
One of the trainees was ultimately elected to a town council. Another, Lucie Horváthová, was the leader of the Green Party candidate list in the Pardubice Region during the 2010 elections to the lower house.
"The whole campaign was an unbelievable experience. A Romani woman leading a 'non-Romani' candidate list surprised many people. There was a very positive response from society. I met interesting people and reached out to many people outside our voter base, which was important to me. As far as the debates went, they were demanding at first, but then you find out there's no need to be ashamed of yourself when you see how the other politicians discuss things. I remember something very nice that happened to me when I was participating in an online chat in the editorial offices of a regional newspaper in Pardubice. A woman who must have been 80 years old came to the office with a bouquet of flowers for me. She said she wanted to thank me in person and support my candidacy. I myself was surprised that I never encountered any negative or racist responses to my candidacy," Horváthová told news server Romea.cz.
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