Community Livelihood Projects and the Rom

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

While Europe may not be the Philippines and we may not have those advertising tarpaulins available for making bags and such like as are being used by Trashe Bolsas (we shall be hearing lots more about that project in due course in the pages of this journal and others of Tatchipen Media), for instance, many Rom do scavenge on the rubbish tips, mostly and especially in Eastern Europe.

Nowhere, however, do there seem to be any recycling community livelihood projects – or other community livelihood projects – by Rom for Rom in existence. It would appear, as far as most of the Roma, at least, are concerned self-help and work is not on the agenda and both would appear to be dirty words in their vocabulary. They rather like to have women and children beg and steal on the streets and worse even, it would appear; e.g. have little boys and girls “sold” for sordid activities. This is no imagination for we have encountered those acts now even in the West.

The Gypsy Union and especially the Romani Institute are currently studying feasibilities as to what could be suggested by way of such projects to the greater community and one that could loosely be termed to be one is the recently launched and founded organization “IRMA”, the International Romani Media Association. This organization is for all Romani writers and journalists who may find it difficult to get accredited by and for professional bodies as they do not make their primary income from their writing or journalistic/media activities. While IRMA does not provide work nor promise and guarantee work for members, and therefore, probably, could not be seen as a community livelihood project per se it is also not claimed to be one. All the International Romani Media Association – IRMA – does is try to become a recognized professional body of journalists, other writers and other media personnel of Romani origin, and is intended as a definite self-help project, in the same way as is the RFA, the Romani Foresters' Association.

We have to help ourselves and do things and provide things for ourselves and this must include community livelihood projects and co-ops.

We cannot and must not just sit back and hope that someone will come along and do this and that for us like I have seen it with the Rom in the countries of Eastern Europe and yes, predominately amongst Roma, where the men sit about all day long, mostly, with a few exceptions, play cards, drink coffee and whatever else, and the women and children are our begging, choring and/or scavenging on the rubbish tips and such. They even did not get up and repair a leaky roof or a tumbledown wall, or whatever such on their own dwellings. Their excuse was that the authorities had to do that for them or they were waiting for this or that charity to come and do it. Or like those where the entire neighborhood around their houses was strewn with garbage and litter which they simply threw out of the windows and off the balconies of their apartments and they demanded that the municipality came to collect this rubbish, while they never thought that they would have to pay for the service.

When it comes to “job creation” the story also is always the same: we want this or that NGO – like Open Society Institute, as example here for many – to some and do this or that for us, and the same with community centers, etc. Why do we need to have some Gadje organization do it for us?

The problem would appear that the majority of Rom, especially the mushes, do not even want to do any work, and particular not, it would appear, with their hands. Yes, I do know that there are exceptions, but...

Am I the only one who is getting fed up with the mentality of the great majority of our Romanies – and I do include all of our People here now, including Sinti, Cale, Romanichals, Manush, the lot – of wanting things done for them and ideally for nothing. When are ours going to get their finger out of the orifice where they seem to have parked it and actually do things for themselves, Rom for Rom, by Rom for Rom and not done for us by the Gadje who then want to keep control over what we do.

Also for other reasons we must do things for ourselves, and we must work for ourselves, to bring in a living for ourselves and our families. Community Livelihood Projects, set us as co-operatives by Rom for Rom can be a help there in areas where there is no other means of earning a livelihood. We must get away from the slave mentality of dependency on handouts. That dependency can also be found amongst Romanies in countries other than those of Eastern Europe even, unfortunately.

Time for a change, a major change, methinks. There have always been those groups that earned a more or less honest living with their own hands and then, it would appear, there have always been those amongst the Romani, who appear to be in the majority in the countries of the former Com-Bloc, who rather send their women and chavies to mong and chor rather than themselves doing an honest day's work.

We all know the excuse they will throw about amongst them the favorite and much recycled one about Rom not (being allowed to) work for employers and also that Rom are not allowed to employ other Rom and all such, for lack of a better word, garbage. Therefore, they probably also would not be able to do any work in such “Community Livelihood Projects” even if they fell out of the sky with all the ideas and all that. They might be working (for a Rom) despite the fact that most should really be working for themselves and their families in a co-operative.

The dependency culture of the Romani People, that of the great majority, has to be put a stop to. It is, as I already said, not just present in the countries of the former Com-Bloc – though it seems to be rather deep seated there and I know that some would like to put it down to the fact that the Roma were slaves until the late 19th century in countries such as Romania – but it can also be found in other countries with a well-developed welfare system, such as Germany, the UK, and others. While it is no less better in countries such as the USA where such state welfare is not, necessarily, as easily available. Too many just sit there and expect things to happen. Life does not work like that and scam jobs too have no future. They should never ever have had a past either. I was taught by my Elders to give high quality and value for many service so that we would be welcomed back again and again in those villages and neighborhoods. Scamming does no one any good, least of all the one who perpetrates such scams.

Dosta penauas again, mandi djins... just to add a “let's get up and do it”...

© M Smith (Veshengro) & Tatchipen Media, April 2008