Marry When You Are Ready workshop at Policy for Progress
The Home Office of Her Majesty Government hosted in partnership with the Council of Europe a high level conference “Policy for Progress: Ending FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) and Forced Marriage” in London on 15 and 16 November. Hot political atmosphere over Brexit notwithstanding¸ the Conference was opened by Sajid Javid¸ the new British Minister of Internal Affairs and closed by Victoria Atkins¸ Minister for Women. This represents a telling testimony of the commitment of the British Government to end FGM within this generation and to support the fight of civil society against forced marriage. Like FGM¸ forced marriage is an expression of gender violence¸ a violation of human rights and is intertwined with racial and sexist prejudice. The conference united a network of powerful women from around the globe: FGM survivors¸ activists¸ government officials¸ judiciary staff¸ experts of international agencies¸ youth leaders. Marry When You Are Ready project was the only voice from the Roma community. The workshop was therefore an important occasion to raise the attention to the specificity and the harshness of Roma women condition¸ in particular as regards the cultural prejudice and the strikingly low level of education. The voices raised at the conference resonated perfectly with the claims posited in the Red Notebook: the importance of education¸ the protagonism of women¸ the strength of networking¸ the need for collaboration with and between public institutions. The major investment claimed was for the community work¸ the activism of women at the grass roots level. This is where change can happen but this is also where women lack money and capacity¸ in terms of methods¸ data and social network. Exactly the same situation and the same claims that partners of the Marry When You Are Ready project have exposed. Roma women could therefore learn greatly through interactions with the part of the civil society committed to end gender violence¸ as this provides powerful examples of how the first generation of educated independent women defied stereotypes and exercised the duty of care for the benefit of their daughters and sisters. This is advancing the culture of gender equality for all and it is necessary that Roma women are not left behind. A dozen of participants to the workshop – UK Home Office Roma Team¸ government officials from the Netherlands¸ Greece and Switzerland¸ judiciary experts and university researchers – engaged in debating challenging issues: lack of opportunities¸ radical prejudice from the mainstream society¸ fear¸ lack of data¸ problematic relationships between the Roma communities and the state powers. Such social and political environment complicates greatly the dynamics between self-determination and progressive potential of teenagers and compliance to family traditions¸ often the only safety net available to girls and young women.
To learn more about what Roma need: Red Notebook of the Marry When You Are Ready Project. Practical and Policy Recommendations to Prevent and Counter Early Marriage in Roma Communities in Europe