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Romani organizations launch campaign about the census that "features" Czech President Zeman

28.3.2021 8:02
On Monday, 22 March 2021, the RomanoNet organization launched a campaign on the 2021 Census in the Czech Republic. (PHOTO:  Romea.cz)
On Monday, 22 March 2021, the RomanoNet organization launched a campaign on the 2021 Census in the Czech Republic. (PHOTO: Romea.cz)

The RomanoNet umbrella organization of pro-Roma and Romani NGOs in the Czech Republic, in collaboration with other organizations, launched an online campaign ahead of the census in the Czech Republic to reach out to Romani people and encourage them to declare their Romani nationality and to list their mother tongue as Romanes. "We consider it important for Romani people to declare their natonality, because the data the census yields can influence how the inclusion of Romani people will be undertaken in the years to come in the Czech Republic," RomanoNet director Michal Miko told news server Romea.cz.

Through the campaign, RomanoNet is responding to the low level of information about the 2021 Census among Romani men and women and also refuting some of the myths about the census that Romani people are sharing with each other. "It is astounding how few Romani people know that they can declare Romani nationality or list two nationalities if they feel that they are both Czech and Romani. In part that is caused by a lack of comprehension of the difference between citizenship, which is officially established by the state, and nationality, where we are able to exercise our free will and express our solidarity with the culture and history of our ancestors," Miko said, adding that he is convinced that such decisions are also influenced by the fear flowing from the Romani minority's historical experience with different registrations of their community that were undertaken in the former Czechoslovakia and led to the genocide of the Roma, as well as by some Romani people making an effort to demonstrate their membership in Czech society fuelled by a desire to be accepted as equal members of that society.

"This entire campaign has been paid for by the organizations involved from their own resources, the state underestimated the need for an information campaign targeting Romani people and did not provide us one crown for it. We, representatives of Romani civil society, believe that for the better targeting of Romani inclusion it is necessary to know, for example, what this data will reveal about the number of Romani people actually living in the Czech Republic," said Nikola Taragoš, director of the Romodrom organization.

The campaign is built around videos where Romani men and women explain why they believe it is essential to declare Romani nationality on the census forms and to declare one's mother tongue as Romanes. The videos are available on the website www.amensamroma.cz and are being shared on social media.

Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the campaign is happening exclusively online. "The Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms guarantees ethnic minorities the right to self-determination, but the enjoyment of that right is associated with how many members of a minority live in the country. If we Roma do not declare our nationality, nobody will be able to consider us officially Roma, we will not have an opportunity to conserve and develop our culture and language," said the director of the Museum of Romani Culture, Jana Horváthová, in her video contribution to the campaign, adding that she herself will be declaring both Czech and Romani nationality during the 2021 Census.

Both famous Romani figures and "ordinary", unknown Romani men and women have explained their reasons for declaring Romani nationality in the videos that have gradually been released. "The video messages from Romani men and women will then be augmented by a video in which we explain the difference between citizenship and nationality and do our best to ameliorate concerns of the possible abuse of the information provided during the census," Miko described - that video is here:

The campaign also uses a video featuring a clip of Czech President Zeman who, in 2018, insulted Romani men and women because of the small number declaring their nationality. "We are taking his remarks as a positive motivation and we believe that his words will 'inspire' Romani people to declare their nationality," Miko said.

The campaign is also being augmented by a discussion program on ROMEA TV, by articles on news server Romea.cz, and by audio contributions on public broadcaster  Czech Radio's "O Roma vakeren" program about the 2021 Census. Myths about the census will also be refuted by another online television channel with Romani content, Tuke.TV.

The member organizations of RomanoNet are contributing to the campaign: ROMEA, o. p. s., Romodrom, o. p. s., Slovo 21, z. s., Vzájemné soužití, z. s., Romano jasnica, z. s., Kleja, z. s., Awen amenca, z. s., IQ Roma servis, z. s., Společně – Jekhetane, o. p. s., Khamoro, o. p. s., Otevřená společnost, o. p. s. Other organizations collaborating on the campaign are Ara Art, z. s. and Tuke.TV.

press release of the RomanoNet organization, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Kampaň, ROMEA, Romani people, sčítání 2021



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