REYN Belgium

Roma Population

Around 30 000 nationals of different EU and non-EU member states who are living in Belgium (0.29% of the total population) are Roma. Most Roma live in the Flanders region and the Brussels Capital region. The cities of Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent and Sint-Niklaas have a substantial Roma population.

Flanders and Brussels are also home to 7 000 Travellers, 1 500  Belgian Manouches/Sinti and 750 Belgian Roms.

Main Goal

Improving accessibility of Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) services for young Roma and Traveller children (0-6 year) and families.

Building a strong inclusive professional learning community among Roma and non-Roma ECECE practitioners working with Roma and Travellers families.

Supporting exchange of expertise and professional development.

Developing strategies to increase the number of Roma and Traveller professionals and para-professionals (support staff) involved in the early years services.

Advocating for inclusive policies and practices, by identifying and signaling structural problems concerning accessibility of ECEC for Roma and Traveller  families.

Main Challenges

  • Lack of availability of residential sites.
  • The participation rates of Roma children to school remains highly problematic. The participation rates (subscription and attendance) of Roma children in preschool education and primary school education are significantly lower in comparison to their non-Roma peers. For Roma children and families who do attend pre- and primary school education, the experience of discrimination is very acute. Both foreign Roma children and children of Belgian Roma and Traveller background are over-represented in specialised education.
  • Difficulty in accessing the job market, social services and decent housing, everyday discrimination, and a distrust of government and of organisations.

Activities Carried Out

– Workshops/inspiring sessions (network activities) on social inclusion of Roma & Traveller families.

– Coaching trajectory: the purpose of the coaching was to increase professionals’ competence to promote respect for diversity, enhance skills, knowledge and attitudes of professionals to ensure Roma feel included, which stem from the DECET principles.

– A seminar on qualitative family support for Traveller families with young children on the non-residential trailer park sites in Flanders was organized.  During the seminar, local authorities, trailer park administrators and various local actors identified current problems, thresholds and solutions concerning ‘social services’ for each of the three non-residential trailer park sites currently in operation. The seminar resulted in common problem-awareness and a sense of urgency to guarantee the social rights of families with young children.

Ongoing Activities

  • Coaching trajectory for developing a local professional network of family support services for Travellers in non-residential trailer parks. The main goal is for the local family support network organisations to organize social support for the families and children of 0-6 years old who are living at the residential sites in an outreach and structural way.
  • Organizing a learning network  with ‘actors of change’ on enhancing the accessibility of ECD services for Roma and strengthening the capacities to work together with other organisation.
  • Setting up a public awareness campaign to attract more Roma in the workforce of child and family.