European antiracism campaign uses positive images of Roma
Several days ago an original photographic exhibition brought a Europe-wide campaign of several months' duration to a close, a campaign fighting in fresh ways against stereotypes held by majority populations against Romani people. The antiracist media campaign, part of the Roma Matrix project, was created by six partners in five European countries.
The Czech partner was the Brno-based NGO IQ Roma servis, with its "We Are Working" ("My pracujeme") campaign. The Europe-wide campaign had "See the Person" as its main slogan and was supported by a series of more than 70 public photographic exhibitions all over Europe.
"Together with our other partners from 10 European countries we immediately agreed at the beginning of the project to attempt to create an antiracsit Romani campaign in an unusual way for us," explains Šárka Pólová, who coordinated the campaign in the Czech Republic. "The Romani people who participated right from the start in the planning meetings emphasized that it is necessary to begin presenting them differently than just through traditional images of Romani people dancing or singing, as those have already become cliché."
Pólová believes the constant depiction of a handful of extraordinary Romani figures tends to enhance majority-society convictions that such positive examples are merely exceptions to the rule. "Everyone agreed that this time we would focus on creating 'surprisingly positive' images of Romani people to break down and confront the negative opinions of Romani people we experience here, images that would even be shocking. We want our main campaign and the local ones to be amusing and fresh - not to prompt a feeling of guilt in others, but to offer the belief that it is possible to live together, to offer solutions," she said.
That is why, for example, a set of posters on display in the northern Italian city of Bologna is attempting to convince the majority population that even though there is no doubt that there are differences between people with different traditions, in everyday life we are all very similar. The Romani people are depicted along with testimonies about their everyday habits that are essentially identical to those of the rest of the Italian population; the posters urge others "not to look for differences where they don't exist".
The creative concept of the campaign in Hungary was based on video spots in which the main characters are wearing unusual masks and looking forward to being treated equally and normally in various life situations (at school, in a shop, at work). The video spots end with the actors removing their masks and revealing to the viewer that they are Romani.
The clips were designed to support the main message of the campaign, which is that there really should be no barriers to social inclusion of people irrespective of their ethnicity. As for the Bulgarian version of the campaign, it uses the strong slogan "We Are No Exception" to demonstrate that the positive examples of successful, working Romani people are not isolated cases, but that there are many such Romani people.
The idea for that campaign came directly from a group of health mediators who decided to combat the racist insults that they regularly are subjected to despite their undeniable professional abilities and qualifications. A series of billboards in the south Bulgarian city of Varna reminds the public that "We All Have Our Dreams".
The Romani children depicted on those billboards are dressed up in the uniforms of the professions they dream of becoming. In the Czech Republic, the campaign "We Are Working" focuses more closely on the negative prejudices and stereotypes that prevent Romani people from finding employment.
Through six public service announcements on television, special websites, radio spots and programs and a billboard and poster campaign, the Czech campaign presented the positive experiences of employers with their Romani employees and endeavored to demonstrate, to other employers and the general public, that employers do exist in the Czech Republic who are willing to publicly announce that they employ Romani people and that they have no concerns about accepting them. Six clients of IQ Roma servis found new jobs thanks to the job boards at www.mypracujeme.cz, where Romani job-seekers are able to directly post their profiles.
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