When it comes to policies, strategies, and programs that support the inclusion of the most vulnerable and marginalized children, we cannot fail to consider the early childhood development (ECD) professionals with the same cultural and ethnic backgrounds as the children with whom they work.
Loli is a Roma girl from Europe. Her story begins with a red ribbon placed on her wrist on the day she is born as a sign of deeply ingrained cultural values. We can quickly realize the importance of her early years spent in preschool. It is there she is encouraged to develop. Loli has a teacher she can relate to. She is not afraid to speak the Romani language because there is somebody who can understand her mother tongue and her family culture, values, and beliefs. Moreover, Loli’s teacher understands the difficulties that Loli faces as a Roma child, the prejudices held against her by other children, and even professionals who don’t speak the same language and who don’t share the same culture, values, and beliefs.
Stories of diversity
Loli’s story is different than most. Many Roma children around Europe don’t have the same opportunities and conditions as Loli had. That’s why the Romani Early Years Network (REYN) is joining forces at the national and international level to raise awareness about the importance of diversity in the early childhood workforce and advocate for more Roma professionals in the early childhood development field.
With 12 advocacy stories, we share the successes of Roma ECD professionals who are supporting Roma children and families in their countries – celebrating the example they are setting for future generations.
These inspiring stories highlight Roma ECD professionals’ different pathways to become who they are today, following Roma standing with dignity and pride, ready to shape Europe’s future, and rewrite the current narrative.
REYN aims to contribute to creating more inclusive and equitable societies by advocating for increasing diversity in the ECD workforce, strengthening professionalism, and giving more recognition to the Roma ECD professionals for their invaluable work. In the quest to shape a better future for the new generations, there is a dire need to work closely with Roma professionals. Positive role models, such as Roma ECD professionals, break negative stereotypes in society in general, and for the children, they do that from the early years. They demonstrate that, with the right support and a nurtured belief in oneself, it is possible to break the vicious circle that has entrapped the Roma minority in Europe for centuries.
Dreaming to Grow
In Loli’s story, and in the stories of the 11 Roma ECD professionals that REYN will launch later week, the encouragement and commitment of the adults around them played a crucial role in their success. So, how can we challenge the current paradigm and build a better society through engagement together? How can we #DreamToGrow?
Recognize each child’s unique potential, encouraging their dreams, and helping them blossom.
Ensure equity for Roma students in access to all levels of education and entering early childhood professions.
Yield inclusive work environments that embrace diversity and create opportunities for professionals to grow and make their voices heard.
Nurture professionalism and a sense of belonging among all Roma early childhood professionals valuing their contribution to the field.
Watch this space for the 12 stories coming later this week.
Image: (c) ISSA / J. McConnico