With the European Commission looking to encourage better inclusion of Roma communities, ESN was asked to develop and oversee several outreach activities for a pan-European campaign entitled ‘For Roma, with Roma’. The activities united municipalities from across the EU while also raising public awareness of the prejudices that Roma citizens face on a daily basis.
Activities in the early stage of the contract involved developing and organising a Europe-wide drawing competition in EU schools to show that children support an inclusive society and to encourage teachers and parents to challenge any prejudices towards Roma people.
ESN worked closely with the Commission to devise the competition’s rules and themes. Entry was open to any schoolchildren between 7 and 10 years old in the EU, although Bulgaria, Czechia, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia were identified as priorities.
ESN contacted schools in these countries directly using our network of community managers. To further promote the competition, maximise participation and encourage voting, ESN coordinated an email campaign and used Facebook advertising to direct traffic towards a web page which it designed for the Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers. A finalist was chosen from each of the countries taking part and the public could vote online for their favourite. In total, over 2 170 children participated in the competition – including 779 Roma children – which culminated with an awards ceremony in Athens attended by the press.
In parallel, ESN led the organisation of two network exchange events on the topic. The first took place in Bucharest, Romania, while the second was held a year later in Brussels. The events developed and sustained 10 twinning programmes for local and regional authorities which were active in integrating Roma communities in different countries. Each exchange event was designed to be highly practical, focusing on mutual learning and sharing good practice.
A final conference showcased these efforts and drew lessons from the communication campaign. ESN successfully organised this high-level event, which took place in the Crowne Plaza Brussels ballroom and was supported by interpreters for five EU languages. Speakers from the European Commission joined EU municipalities, Roma representatives and NGOs during the programme. Roma representatives from 10 countries presented their country’s activities as part of an exhibition which also displayed the 28 drawings which had been selected as finalists for the children’s competition.