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Identity, participation and citizenship of Roma youth: the challenge for youngsters and youth workers
Start date: Sep 1, 2015, End date: Aug 31, 2016 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Context/background Many youth organizations are struggling with the problem of empowering young Roma people. With that question to frameworks and insights these youth organizations also come to the Agency of Integration.Therefore we - youth organizations and the Agency of Integration - are looking for an answer to this question. More specifically the focus will be on concepts like identity, participation and citizenship. Which role do those concepts play in the empowerment of Roma youth in Flanders and Linköping (Sweden). From these questions The Agency of Integration and youth organizations want to look for inspiration from Sweden who has already built up considerable expertise in working with Roma youngsters. The empowerment of Roma youth Young Roma and their identity development is a first stumbling block. An identity crisis often translates into the attraction and repulsion towards the Roma community and their own society. As a result, these youngsters are very vulnerable and impressionable. Not only for young Roma, but many young people with a migration background, we note this phenomenon. Young Roma in Flanders participate little in structures and practices that allow them to gain experience. They do not find connection to regular leisure activities and they take little part in youth movements. Roma girls become a mother very young and Roma youngsters leave school without qualifications and often end up unqualified on the labor market. Because participation is a prerequisite to achieve active citizenship, many young Roma do not enter this phase. The fact that young Roma indicate that they have no idea what life they want to build, confirms this. Objectives The Flemish participants want to seek and exchange good practices, actions and projects to empower young Roma people. Central to this exchange is the role that concepts identity, participation and citizenship play in the empowerment of Roma youth. How does Sweden and more specific, the municipality of Linköping approach these concepts and how do they translate these concepts into their own youth activities/youth work? The project aims to give the participants new methods and insights that they can use in their everyday work with Roma youngsters. The project wants to see if there can be set up further collaborations between integration work and youth work. Participants(12) The Flemish participants are youth workers, mediators and two project coordinators of the Agency of Integration, Stijn De Reu and Rubby Jame. The participants are selected on their activities and knowledge about working with the target groups of Roma youth (in projects like 'Romabemiddelaars Vlaanderen', Roma 't Werkt', 'Flankerend onderwijsTemse en Sint-Niklaas', 'Forum Roma Waasland', ...). The group will have different educational backgrounds (social sciences, social studies...). The project coordinators, Stijn and Rubby, have close contacts with the participants due to their jobs. They know the strenghts and weaknesses of the participants work because they support these participants in their daily work with Roma youngsters. In Linköping two project coordinators, Marie Daun Eriksson and Björn Bertilsson, will guide us through the study visit. They have close contacts with Stijn and Rubby to draft the content and program of the study visit and to arrange the practicalities. Activities Study visit to the municipality of Linköping in Sweden to exchange about the empowerment of Roma youth (Roma Inclusion Strategy/policy, activities, projects) and the implementation on youth work. Data: 27 of October - 29 of October 2015 Methodology Meetings, round table discussions, dialogues, workshops and informal talks. Results/impact This project aims to improve the quality of youth workers and mediators. They can exchange on the empowerment of Roma youth with other yout workers and mediators. This exchange gives them new inspiration, insights and methodologies to frame the delicate theme within a broader context of identity development, independent participation and active citizenship. This in turn helps the participants to further empower Roma young people in vulnerable situations in defining their own future path. The participants also take the results into their own youth organizations so that the gained experience and knowlegde can be disseminated. Long term benefits The results will written down in a final report that will be disseminated at local, regional a national level to inspire youth policy, youth organizations and other relevant stakeholders. The results can be taken into other future collaborations between integration work and youth work and in project-applications with the host partner and other possible partners.
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