For the International Day of the Romani Language, November 5th

by Giorgos Tsitiridis, Program Officer of SolidarityNow in Northern Greece

“Once upon a time lived a wise Gypsy king, who loved books very much and owned many so that his citizens could educate themselves. He also had a donkey that he kept tied near the books to educate him as well.

One day, the heavens opened, and it rained so much that the rivers formed swept away everything! Among them, the wise king and the queen.

The donkey was left alone in the house, without food, and began gradually eating the books… And when they were finished, he too died.

Along with the donkey, all the Romani letters were lost…” (Gypsy myth of language)

The Romani language was affected by the languages ​​of all the European countries through which Roma passed.

November the 5th was established in 2015 by UNESCO as World Roma Language Day. In 2018, sixteen member states of the Council of Europe recognized the Romani language as a minority language under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.

This day is an opportunity to recall the wealth of languages ​​and idioms that offer people diverse ways of expression. The Roma, victims of multiple stigmatization and prejudices, in their effort not to be the target of racist attacks, in many cases renounce elements of their culture and avoid learning and speaking their language. Language, manners, and customs take the form of an oppressive factor, which emphasizes differences, especially in the new generation that needs acceptance, resulting in the language becoming weaker and lost over time.

It is a duty, in a multicultural society of equality and inclusion, to support the ability of Roma to understand one or more spoken idioms of the Romani language which could be the key and not the brake for the inclusion of Roma in education. After all, eliminating school dropouts and understanding the importance of education is one of the main pillars of the Council of Europe and the new National Strategy for Roma Integration 2021-2030.

SolidarityNow has invested in relationships of horizontal cooperation and trust with Roma communities. In this context, the organization implemented and still does education and training programs, Roma History and creative writing courses, creative employment programs for children and teenagers as well as counseling on parenthood, breastfeeding, nutrition, and feminine hygiene issues for Roma women and teenagers.

Education and the right to preserve the special linguistic and cultural characteristics of each person is a priority for SolidarityNow and a non-negotiable value. It is indeed admirable that after five centuries of persecution, displacement, slavery, torture, and the holocaust, the Roma around the world managed to maintain an oral language and develop different dialects according to their region of origin.