WHO WE ARE
This is our story
We started in October 2013 on the campaign to de-segregate schools in Ostrava in the Czech Republic. We were only three organizers and we achieved good results. Our team of local organizers also found that the most effective tool leading to the change of the existing education system is a group of legitimate and fully informed Roma parents who are not only able to defend their children's rights but jointly fight the discriminatory and segregation education system in Ostrava. This is the potential for a structural change in the current education system (along with advocacy at the legislative level).
In the following year, we adopted the current Leadership, Organization, and Action: Leading to Change" approach from Harvard Kennedy School, and in connection with local conditions in the socially excluded localities of Ostrava, we started building a stable group of local Roma leaders. Leadership building was conducted in a way that parent volunteers were able to run campaigns on enrollment to quality and non-segregated primary schools independently.
A group of 7 parents who participated voluntarily in the campaigns led the 2016 and 2017 enrollment campaign to a primary school and successfully enrolled hundreds of children. The steering committee of the Association was elected from the group of volunteers who were working with more than thousand parents (link to their website). The election was held in March 2017 in the presence of about two hundred Romani parents from the Ostrava localities.
This is a unique approach not only in Ostrava but also in Europe. Another evidence of the successful community organizing was the participation of more than 2000 people in the rally organized on the anniversary of the D. H. judgment, the participants were mostly Roma parents from all over the Czech Republic.
We found out that when these parents regularly meet with us and participate in campaign activities, there is an increase in the number of Roma children in quality primary schools, while parents also feel that they are a benefit to the community. There is a change in the stereotype of a Romani woman who only cooks, cleans and cares for children. Campaign participation brings not only the source of the information they need but also personal development and sense of importance and meaningfulness.
Our primary objectives are enrollments to quality and non-segregated primary schools and kindergartens and leadership capacities building in Romani communities. Our work does not end only with enrolments of Romani children into 1st class, but we also monitor their success in the school.
Of course, we also help our constituents (parents) who ask us to transfer their children from segregated to better primary school, as well as provide information on how to get a scholarship for Romani high school and college students.
We are also networking with national and international organizations through litigation and advocacy, and we are also members of the working expert groups for education at both national and international level.
Our colleague Magdalena Karvayova received the "Personality of the Year 2017" award, announced by the magazine Referendum. And Awen Amenca is widely perceived as a movement for better education for Romani children and its members are recognized experts on inclusive education.