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ROMEA wins Czech Gypsy Spirit 2010 award

Prague, 11.12.2010 16:08, (ROMEA)

The Gypsy Spirit 2010 awards in the Czech Republic were announced on the occasion of International Human Rights Day at the Prague Crossroads cultural center. The ROMEA civic association won the award in the NGO category.

ROMEA is a non-governmental, non-profit, voluntary association of organizations and individuals who have come together to support the fight against racism, to develop human rights protections, and to assist the development of democracy and tolerance in society. ROMEA has been disseminating information about the Roma world to Roma and others for several years.

The Human Rights Section of the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic announced the awards as part of the government's 2010 Campaign against Racism. Auspices for this second year of the award were provided by Czech PM Petr Nečas, the chair of the Subcommittee on Human Rights at the European Parliament Heidi Hautala, former Czech President Václav Havel, and former Czech Human Rights and Minorities Minister Michael Kocáb.

"Gypsy Spirit is an appreciation of the immense efforts of countless groups and individuals seeking to develop an understanding between the majority society and the Roma," said Czeslaw Walek, head of the Human Rights Section. Czech PM Petr Nečas gave the opening remarks at the ceremony. "Every activity that contributes toward integrating the Roma minority and to appreciation of this work contributes to better co-existence in our society," the PM said, adding that the beauty and wealth of any society lies in its diversity.

In a video recording of her greeting, Heidi Hautala emphasized the importance of culture, education, and involvement in the life of the community as key to the overall integration of Roma into society. Former Czech PM Jan Fischer also sent a video greeting in which he said he was glad the first year of the Gypsy Spirit project and its tradition had been implemented by his government.

The Gypsy Spirit 2010 awards were won by:

1. Award for a non-governmental organization – For implementing a specific project aimed at the development and support of the Roma minority and achieving results

ROMEA, o. s.

ROMEA is a non-governmental, non-profit, voluntary association of organizations and individuals who have come together to support the fight against racism, to develop human rights protections, and to assist the development of democracy and tolerance in society. ROMEA has been disseminating information about the Roma world to Roma and others for several years.

2. Award for a company/firm - For supporting projects aimed at social assistance to and support of the Roma community or the creation of a heterogeneous environment

Czech Radio – the Roma broadcast O Roma vakeren and the web pages www.romove.cz

Czech Radio has been broadcasting Roma programming since 1992. The program "O Roma vakeren" ("Roma Speak") reports weekly on news from the life of Roma in the Czech Republic and abroad, including segments on Roma culture, history, language, traditions, Roma celebrities and contacts to organizations involved with Roma. In 1997, Czech Radio established the www.romove.cz website in four languages, probably the longest continually existing web page about Roma in the Czech Republic. The aim of these various projects is to support the Roma minority, to raise awareness about Roma among the general public, to improve the image of Roma in the media, and to contribute to good mutual co-existence between the Roma and the rest of society.

3. Award for extracurricular educational activities targeting Roma children and youth

Masarykova Elementary School, Valašské Meziříčí

The Masarykova Elementary School is one of six in Valašské Meziříčí. The school is located in Krásno, which means all of the school-aged Roma children from the surrounding housing estates are within its catchment area. For non-Roma parents, the high population of Roma at the school was initially an insurmountable barrier, and non-Roma parents used to transfer their children to other schools in town. The situation (which was reported on by the media) has since calmed down and life at the school has become normal. In terms of results, statewide reviews show the school continues to be successful, and Roma are instructed there together with everyone else thanks to a system developed by educators and management.

4. Individual awards – For long-term work contributing to improving the position of Roma

Karel Holomek

Mr Holomek is the chair of the Roma NGO Society of Roma in Moravia and a founding member of the Museum of Roma Culture. He was a Roma consultant on the accession of the Czech Republic to the European Union as part of the "EU Consultative Bodies". He is also a construction contractor who exclusively employs Roma, and Editor-in-Chief of the Roma biweekly newspaper Romano hangos. During the 1990s, Mr Holomek was a member of the Czech Government Human Rights Council, the Czech Government Council on National Minorities, and the Czech Government Council on the Roma Minority.

5. Action of the Year – For a contribution to saving a life or improving the quality of life of an individual

Projekt Ptáčata

This project was designed and directed by Kamila Zlatušková and produced and directed by Ladislav Cmíral. It was inspired by a petition through which the parents of non-Roma children refused to enroll their children into the same class as Roma children. The authors decided to film a 16-part documentary serial about children who have been marginalized by prejudice. The children were equipped with small video cameras and became the co-creators of this reportage about their lives which provides the majority society with the opportunity to see the world from a different perspective. The hope does exist that this long-term project might become a much-needed step forward on the road to a better, more colorful and more flexible image of minorities in the Czech Republic. This improved image could help break down the stereotypes (negative and positive) governing all of our perceptions. For more, see www.ptacata.cz.

Gwendolyn Albert, ROMEA, ROMEA, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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