Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Roma Identity: Contrasting Constructions

Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Roma Identity: Contrasting Constructions

Article excerpt

Abstract

The increasing settlement in Hamilton, Ontario of large numbers of Roma families from seeking refugee status has challenged local service providers in the health, social services, education, immigration, and justice sectors. The overall aim of the Roma Project was to promote deeper understanding of Roma peoples and their culture in order to inform more effective and culturally appropriate service delivery. Focus group and key informant interviews were used to gather information about the perceived needs of the Roma community from the perspective of community members and service providers from diverse sectors. The needs assessment process highlighted the contextualization of Roma identity as shaped by historical, social, cultural, and situational factors. The development of a contextually-rich identity yields more precise information, provides insight into experiences of marginalization and oppression, and challenges existing stereotypes and biases. This knowledge is critical to inform the development of policies and programs to better meet the needs of those most disadvantaged by social inequities.

Resume

La hausse de l'implantation a Hamilton en Ontario d'un grand hombre de families rom originaires de Hongrie et demandant le statut de refugies a pose une gageure aux servives locaux dans les domaines de la sante des services sociaux, de l'education, de l'immigration et de la justice. Le Projet Rom visait en general a promouvoir une meilleure comprehension des peuples rom et de leur culture afin d'informer les intervenants des divers services d'une maniere plus efficace et culturellement adaptee. Des entrevues avec un groupe de base et des informateurs clefs ont servi a se renseigner sur les besoins de la communaute rom, tels que percus par leurs membres et par les fournisseurs de service des divers secteurs. Le processus d'evaluation de ces besoins a mis en lumiere la contextualisation de l'identite room telle qu'elle a ete formee par des facteurs historiques, sociaux, culturels et conjoncturels. Une identite contextuellement riche offre une information plus precise, permet de mieux comprendre les experiences de marginalisation et d'oppression et met en question les stereotypes et prejuges existants. Ce savoir est critique pour servir le developpement de politiques et de programmes qui aillent mieux au devant des besoins de ceux qui sont le plus desavantages par les inequites sociales.

We have been erroneously defined by outsiders--now we must correctly define ourselves.

Ronald Lee

Roma Community Centre, Toronto

Since 1999, there has been increasing settlement in Hamilton of large numbers of Roma families from Hungary, seeking refugee status. Local agencies were concerned about the Roma population's perceived difficulties with the child-protection and youth and criminal justice systems and the ability of these systems to provide effective services to the Roma community. For example, more than 300 Roma families had been referred to the Catholic Children's Aid Society (CCAS) of Hamilton-Wentworth for child-protection reasons. Funding for the Roma Project was secured through the Community Mobilization Programme, Crime Prevention Reduction Strategy. The overall aim of the Roma Project was to assess the needs of the Roma community from their own perspective and from the viewpoint of the community agencies providing services to them. The goals of the research project were to identify individuals who might be able to speak for the Roma community or who might be developed as leaders of the Roma community, and to identify agencies which are mandated to provide services to meet the diverse needs of the Roma community. With the assistance of those with a vested interest in serving the Roma community, the project intended to identify more effective approaches or means of providing services to the Roma community from the perspective of the community and relevant service providers and to identify and plan specific programs or services that might benefit Roma children, families, and their community. …

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