September 2020 blog - We’re in this together: why our collective struggle as women must include the most marginalised
By Vivienne Hayes MBE, CEO of the Women's Resource Centre
'I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.' - Audre Lorde
We are 50 years since the Women’s Liberation Movement of the 1960s, and yet the need for collective work to protect all women’s human rights is as important now as it has ever been. The original Movement was a response to institutional sexism, and has expanded into a human rights campaign to protect women from exploitation, inequality, and sexism in all aspects of life.
Women’s organisations played a key role in passing Government legislation such as the Abortion Act 1967, the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985, and making rape in marriage illegal in 1991. But the struggles and achievements of the women whose work in the Women’s Voluntary and Community Sector (WVCS) contributed to the advancing of women’s rights has gone largely undocumented.
Now, we must face our continued struggle as women collectively, and that includes a focus on the concerns of the poorest and most marginalised women in our communities. During the coronavirus pandemic, for example, the women’s sector has been vital in bringing issues faced by women into the public eye, and into the awareness of politicians.
Victims of violence against women and girls, and the problems lockdown causes for women like loss of income or childcare for single mothers, have been gaining news coverage since lockdown began in March 2020. And yet, it has taken months of work and conversations to get the Government to take the women’s sector, which provides vital resources to support the poorest and most disadvantaged women in our society, into account for funding.
The new, points-based Immigration Bill will exclude essential key workers, who we know now more than ever that we depend on as a country as well as within our communities, by way of minimum salary criteria. Key workers have risked their lives during the pandemic, and it’s become clear that the UK Government still consider ‘unskilled’ work to be of lesser importance, despite being regarded as ‘essential’ and ‘key’ and paying it lip service through tokenistic applause and advertising campaigns.
Even without a global pandemic, there are still many groups of women who are overlooked, and who rely on the women’s sector for outreach and support. Our charities and organisations provide life-saving support for some of the most-ignored women in our communities, including Traveller women, migrant women, and women living in destitution.
If we are to progress as a sector, as women, and as a society who looks out for and supports everyone, we must work together collaboratively, and in solidarity, as a collective.
This pandemic and ensuing crisis has woken up many people to the real and frankly appalling discrimination and inequality across society, and we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work together to achieve real and substantive change. If not now, when?
By Mark Collins – Howe & Co. Solicitors
Over the past few years I have represented a number of members of the Irish Traveller community in claims for racial discrimination when those clients have been refused service at pubs, restaurants or even when just walking into a shop. Below are some very simple examples of the type of discrimination that I see regularly, and still persist today. This discrimination is wrong and any person or company that continues to allow such discrimination should be challenged at every opportunity.
The Traveller community has rights. The main source of those rights comes from the Equality Act 2010. This Act gives recognised groups of people certain rights to be treated the same as anyone else. The Traveller community is a recognised group. Under the Act if you can show that the service you receive is less favourable than another person as a result of your race then you have the right to complain about that treatment and seek compensation and an apology from the person or company that discriminated against you. I am not going to go into the specific law, or try to explain the intricacies of the Act in this short article. All I would ask you to consider is that if you are treated in a less favourable manner to someone else as a result of your race then you should challenge that behaviour by using the Act, and bring your claim to the attention of the courts.
Examples of Race Discrimination
A Traveller family attend a local public house, and the father goes to the bar to order drinks for the family. At the bar he waits patiently to be served, but appears to be ignored. He therefore asks for service. The barman/lady approaches him and advises him that he will not be served. He innocently asks why, and is simply told that the pub does not serve Travellers, and that he will not be served. He has never been to that pub before and he calmly argues that he has never been to the pub before, but this does not change the barman/lady’s and he is told he will not be served, and therefore is forced to leave.
A Traveller couple decide to celebrate their wedding anniversary and attend a local pub/restaurant. They have not booked a table. They enter the pub/restaurant and enquire if a table is free. They can see the table area has many tables free. The restaurant manager advises that there are no tables free. However as they stand there asking polite questions another couple also arrive and do not have a booking and are immediately shown to a table. The Traveller couple question this, and are told that they are not allowed in the restaurant area, but if they would like to go the bar and eat, and pay up front then they are welcome to stay. Otherwise there are no tables for them. Whilst being told this another group of people arrive without a booking and again are seated. Again the Traveller couple question this but are told the only way they will be served is if they sit at the bar, and pay up front.
A Traveller lady walks into a large supermarket to shop for the week. As she moves around the store filling her basket she notices a man following her without a trolley. Every time she moves aisle, or picks something up the man follows her. She goes to the man to confront him, and he advises he is a store security person and is under orders to follow Travellers who come into the store. The lady Traveller feels very upset by this and decides to leave the store.
Each of these three examples is from cases I have dealt with in the last two years. There are more examples I could give. Each of these examples simply shows the extent of the racial discrimination that Travellers face even in today’s modern, supposedly, tolerant society.
What evidence do I need to bring a case?
Many of my clients ask me what evidence is needed to bring a claim for racial discrimination. The answer to that question is quite simple these days. Nearly everyone has a smart phone with either a video facility or an audio record facility on it.
If you are treated in a less favourable manner than other consumers then you should video or record the manner of that difference or refusal of service. Many of my clients do indeed record the refusal of service. My advice to you is to stay calm and simply ask the person serving you or dealing with the situation why you are being refused service. I completely understand that this is an emotive situation but the calmer you appear then the better the evidence. What I need to see is the refusal of service because of your race, or a good enough discussion which makes plain that the reason for the refusal is because of your race. Please try to remain calm, although I understand and so do the courts, that these situations can be emotional events for those being discriminated against. If the person refusing you service or treating you in a less favourable manner uses words to the effect that you are being treated in a different manner because you are a Traveller then record that. I would advise you not to then enter into an argument about the rights and wrongs of the discrimination. You have the evidence of the discrimination and that should be enough to prove your case.
What else do you need to know?
Another important point I must STRESS is that the amount of time you have to make a claim under the law is very short. You have only 6 months from the date of the discrimination to issue a Claim Form in the County Court otherwise your claim is out of time and you cannot continue to then make your claim. It is therefore vital that once you have the evidence of the discrimination that you contact a specialist solicitor in discrimination work to make the proper claim. The quicker you do this the better your case as your solicitor can send out letter seeking the collection of any other CCTV footage of the refusal that the potential defendant may have. It also gives time to the solicitor to try and negotiate a settlement rather than ending up in court.
And finally …
Please remember that you have rights under the law, and that you should challenge any person or company that treats you unfairly or less favourably because of your race.
I hope my short article has given you some examples and advice about your rights, and if I can assist or give further advice then Howe and Co solicitors will be able to assist you.
You can also contact the Equality and Social Justice Unit at the Traveller Movement for free and confidential advice. Call 0207 607 2002. Or visit: https://travellermovement.org.uk/advocacy-support/equality-social-justice-unit
Date: 05 June 2020
It's June and the start of another Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month. On Monday in a heartening display of solidarity, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan tweeted his support for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. What followed his tweet was a slew of racist comments and disparaging remarks from members of the public, many expressing their disdain at the Mayor for showing his support.
While anti-Traveller rhetoric is nothing new, it does seem like these past few months has been one disheartening incident after another, which makes us wonder: is 2020 an open season on Gypsy, Roma and Irish Traveller communities? This comes at a time when Black people are, rightfully so, discussing the appalling racism they are experiencing daily with the murder and policing of Black people, as well as the structural racism which is resulting in the overrepresentation of covid-19 related deaths. It is important that we challenge racism and discrimination in all of its forms. Groups like Operation Black Vote, and Black Lives Matter are challenging these toxic, racist narratives, and it’s important that we do the same.
Gypsy, Roma Traveller (GRT) history month was established in Britain in 2008 as a way of raising awareness of GRT communities and their contributions to society, and to offset negative stereotyping and prejudices. Since schools don't teach anything about Gypsies and Travellers, the majority of people get their information from the media, which is 99% negative. While organisations like the Traveller Movement develop resources and attempt to offset negative narratives, GRT communities continue to experience extreme levels of social exclusion, discrimination and demonisation.
Political leaders are often the cause of racism against Gypsy and Traveller communities. In fact, the Mayor is an outlier and instead leads by example by showing his support for GRT communities, as many in politics cannot be relied upon to do the same. Quite often it is the lazy, discriminatory or racist throwaway comments by an MP our councilor that leads to the avalanche of racist bile against GRT communities. In fact, racist hate speech by politicians is so frequent that last year the Traveller Movement launched a new campaign with charity, Rene Cassin asking politicians to cut out hate speech in politics altogether. It is astounding that we need a campaign at all, as politicians should lead by example and set a tone that is respectful, inclusive and free from discrimination, however this has not been the case.
While a history month is no panacea to overturn hundreds of years of discrimination, clearly it is one way of highlighting positive contributions and fight back against anti-Traveller rhetoric. And it's needed now more than ever. In the last few months GRT communities have been hit hard, first by the Home Office consultation to criminalise trespass, then by Covid-19 and then in April by Channel 4 with the airing of Dispatches – the Truth about Traveller Crime. Although harmful media portrayals of Gypsies and Travellers is nothing new, programmes like these often stoke underlying tensions and give permission to the general public to unleash vile comments such as those calling for mass sterilization of Gypsies and Travellers, or for Travellers to be guinea pigs for a coronavirus vaccine. This appalling narrative is sadly nothing new, but it is dangerous and requires a serious response.
What can be done?
Public authorities can learn more about their Public Sector Equality Duty, and seek out unconscious bias training. Supporters can show their solidarity online by re-tweeting positive messages and by using the hashtag #GRTsolidarity
Racist tweets can be reported on social media platforms, and we can call out others who are openly racist. Encourage your peers to do the same, and support positive platforms like GRT organisations on social media.
More Gypsies and Travellers can register to vote and hold their polticians to account. To learn more, take a look at our Operation Traveller Vote page.
You can write to your MP using one of our templates asking them to endorse anti-racism campaigns like Operation Report Hate. You can also ask politicians and councillors to sign the Cut It Out pledge to call out racist rhetoric in parliament, or online and show their support with all BME communities.
Or, like Mayor of London Sadiq Khan politicians can show true leadership and allocate resources, thus elevating the community and showing respect and tolerance for all. This is worth applauding.
Education policy officer, Chelsea McDonagh said the following:
Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month is an opportunity celebrate on the histories of our peoples and their contributions to this country, which are often not spoken about, particularly within our schools and classrooms. It is an opportunity to challenge the negative discourse surrounding Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people and encourage a more balanced and nuanced understanding and discourse. At a time when covid-19 is hitting all communities hard, it is imperative that we stand together to challenge anti-Traveller rhetoric.
Tel: 0207 607 2002
To learn more about Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History month visit Traveller Movement website: https://travellermovement.org.uk/campaigns/gypsy-roma-and-traveller-history-month
By Brian Cathcart, professor of journalism at Kingston University London and a founder of Hacked Off
‘Surely they aren’t allowed to do that?’ I have often heard people say those words in response to racist and discriminatory articles in the national press. They assume that there must be some form of regulation which, if it does not prevent such articles appearing, at least ensures that those who publish them face consequences.
Unfortunately they are wrong. Newspapers and journalists are, in reality, free to express racist and discriminatory views, even where those views are likely to cause harm to vulnerable minorities. There is nothing to stop them.
This is because Britain does not have press regulation. It is true that most papers belong to a complaints body called the Independent Press Standards Organisation, or IPSO, which claims to enforce a code of practice. But IPSO is a sham, and nowhere is its failure more obvious than on discrimination.
If you complain to IPSO when, say, the Sun or the Telegraph publishes something (in print or online) that you consider flagrantly discriminatory, there is virtually no chance, no matter how good your case, that the paper or the writer will be reprimanded in any way. In fact the overwhelming likelihood is that your complaint won’t even be considered. A parliamentary select committee looked into this in 2018 and found that over a period of one year IPSO received 8,148 complaints from the public about discrimination, of which it upheld just one.
How is this possible? Bear in mind that IPSO was set up by the press, for the press, with the interests of the press at its heart. It was designed to ensure the industry itself, and no one else, would pass judgement on its own actions.
In doing this the press acted in open defiance of the findings of the Leveson Inquiry eight years ago, which declared that ‘self-regulation’ of the IPSO kind didn’t work and proposed a new formula for independent regulation that would protect the public from abuses while preventing state interference.
Though the press took some care to ensure that IPSO looked new and different, it simply does not deliver. Clause 12 of its code of practice declares boldly that the press ‘must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s race, colour, religions, sex, gender identity’ etc, but buried in the handbook that accompanies the code is the explanation that this ‘does not cover generalised remarks about groups or categories of people’.
What this means is that the press may publish what it likes about Travellers in general and IPSO will do nothing. Even if a columnist openly stoked the emotions behind hate crime by uttering the most prejudicial opinions without a hint of evidence, so long as no individual was targeted IPSO would automatically reject all complaints.
And where an individual is identified IPSO usually requires him or her to step forward in person and challenge the paper. Others may not complain: the onus is on David to regulate Goliath.
All of this is bad enough – a decent regulator would not put up such barriers – but even in the rare cases where a complaint gets as far as to be considered by IPSO the newspaper always gets the benefit of the doubt. For in IPSO’s eyes the ‘freedom of the press’ routinely overrides any freedom from discriminatory treatment that ordinary citizens might expect. A case in point was the abuse of ITN presenter Fatima Manji by the Sun in 2016: IPSO bent over backwards to find in favour of the newspaper.
In all of its six years’ existence, in fact, IPSO has only ever upheld one discrimination complaint, brought by a transgender woman. And what was the consequence? Five months after the breach the paper had to publish a short summary of IPSO’s ruling – which it did at the bottom of an inside page, with no headline, so very few readers would notice it. It was a mockery of regulation.
The tragic truth, therefore, is that the press are indeed allowed to discriminate against Travellers, because their complaints body is a sham. The data don’t lie: complaining to IPSO about discrimination is very simply a waste of time. If you see something wrong, tell Hacked Off instead.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Traveller Movement.
By Chrissie Brown - Nutrition and Dietetic student at Kings College London, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Student Lead for KCLWP and advisory board member to the Traveller Movement.
My name is Chrissie, I’m just starting my final year at university as a mature student, and I thought it was a good time to look back at my ‘final years’ at school too…
I enjoyed primary school, there were a couple of other Gypsy families that went to the school, although not in my year, but they left when I was in about year 4. By the time I got to year 6 I started to feel different, I felt like I was treated different. I wasn’t allowed to do a higher paper on my SATs, my head teacher said he didn’t think I was capable. The only difference I could see between me and the kids he did think was capable was where I had come from. My learning was the same as theirs, I was just as bright. I think that was when I started to lose interest in school, and lose trust in teachers. They were meant to be there to push me, I felt they just wanted to push me out.
Fast forward to my final year at high school.
High school was always in the background for me, I was more interested in working at weekends and in the evenings, in any job I could find. I started my own babysitting ‘business’ when I was 13 and had worked in every village pub and café by the time I was 15. My dad used to call me his little grafter (he still does sometimes). My parents said I could leave school early, but I had friends that I wanted to keep. My final year passed in a blur, I didn’t really have any teachers I spoke to, or who cared about what I did or didn’t do with my time. To say I was relieved to finish is an understatement. I never felt like I could be myself, or even who myself was.
I left school in 2007, not feeling that excited about education. I had always wanted to be out earning money. After almost ten years working in different jobs, from restaurants and bars to builders’ firms, I decided that I wanted to do a job that helped people. I didn’t even know what job I wanted. I started just googling things I enjoyed, which was mostly nutrition and healthy eating and found a job that matched it. Dietitian. I needed a degree for it, and that meant getting the equivalent of A levels, luckily colleges offer access courses, which give people that don’t have a levels (and GCSEs as well) the chance to get on the education ladder.
I’m now about to go into the final year of my degree. What’s changed from my final year of high school? Quite frankly a lot. Going into my GCSE’s I was angry at a lot of people, I didn’t trust my teachers, I didn’t think GCSE’s would get me anywhere. My last year at school I wanted out. Now, I want in! I’m sad that uni is coming to an end, I feel like I am only just starting to know what my brain is capable of. And I tell you it is a lot more than that primary school teacher thought back in the day!
Don’t get me wrong I can’t wait to be a dietitian and help people eat the right food for them, but I’m already thinking about a part-time masters to do alongside working. I’ve worked all the way through university, and I don’t think I will ever stop being a grafter, but that doesn’t mean I can’t use my brain too.
Coronavirus in prisons: Traveller Movement supports proposed legal action by The Howard League and the Prison Reform Trust
Last Friday, our colleagues at The Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prison Reform Trust took an unprecedented step and sent a formal letter before claim to the Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland. We know this action would not have been taken lightly.
First, we want to thank these organisations for continuing to raise the important issue of how the Coronavirus pandemic is impacting the prison population, affecting staff, inmates, all of their families, friends and loved ones.
Despite commitments made by the MoJ, earlier in April, progress to reduce the overcrowded prison population has been too slow and, for this reason, we add our voice to the growing concerns.
Second, as highlighted in the blog in the April edition of our newsletter, Spotlight, unless more action is taken to reduce the prison population across all estates, especially among those who are most vulnerable to Coronavirus, the consequences will be dire.
Yvonne MacNamara, CEO of the Traveller Movement: We know Coronavirus is having a disproportionate impact on people from BAME groups; we know people from BAME groups, including people from the GRT ethnic groups are over represented in the prison population. We do not want to see these negative trends replicated within custodial settings. We are urging the MoJ to address these issues, before it’s too late.
Patricia Stapleton, policy manager
Notes to Editor
* The Traveller Movement (TM) is a national community development policy and voice charity who campaign against discrimination, promote inclusion, participation and community engagement for the Irish Traveller and Gypsy communities in Britain. TM is proud to work in partnership with the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities together with service providers and policy makers across the UK to better promote social inclusion and community cohesion.
By the staff at the office of the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman
The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) is appointed by and reports directly to the Secretary of State for Justice. The current PPO is Sue McAllister, who has held the post since 2018.
The PPO carries out independent investigations into deaths and complaints in custody, and has two main duties:
- to investigate complaints made by prisoners, young people in detention (prisons and secure training centres), offenders under probation supervision and immigration detainees, and
- to investigate deaths of prisoners, young people in detention, approved premises’ residents and immigration detainees due to any cause, including any apparent suicides and natural causes.
The purpose of these investigations is to understand what happened, to correct injustices and to identify learning for the organisations whose actions we oversee so that the PPO makes a significant contribution to safer, fairer custody and offender supervision.
We know that Gypsies and Travellers are disproportionately represented in the prison population, but data on prisoners’ ethnicity is still poorly recorded. Because of this, at the PPO we struggle to identify complaints from prisoners from Gypsy or Traveller backgrounds. In 2015, we published a Learning Lessons Bulletin on Deaths of Travellers in Prison (https://s3-eu-west-2.amazonaws.com/ppo-prod-storage-1g9rkhjhkjmgw/uploads/2015/01/PPO_LLB_FII7_Final.pdf). In it, we acknowledged that only a relatively small percentage of the PPO’s fatal incident investigations established that the prisoner was from a Gypsy or Traveller background. However, we identified six lessons for HMPPS from our investigations into deaths of Gypsy or Traveller prisoners, including recognising the increased risk of suicide for prisoners from these backgrounds, ensuring that family ties are maintained and ensuring that Travellers are represented in both prisoner and staff equality groups.
In January 2020, as part of our commitment to making the PPO staff group more representative, the PPO recruited two colleagues through the Going Forward Into Employment scheme (a collaboration between Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Justice to encourage the employment of ex-offenders into the Civil Service). One of them, recently released from HMP East Sutton Park, reflected on her friendships with prisoners from Traveller backgrounds:
While in prison serving a five-year sentence, I came across many prisoners from a Traveller background. I saw first-hand how they were discriminated against and pre-judged because of their ethnicity. Some had not had a conventional education and could not read and write well, which made it harder for them to stand up for themselves. While I was in prison I helped a lot of people who had not learned to read and write, among them Travellers, to complete written applications (the process to follow if you need or want something in prison). Without help, they could also not raise complaints – and they received no help from staff to do this. They would never have thought of taking a complaint to the PPO.
When I moved to an open prison, I shared a room with a Traveller prisoner. She was kind, gentle and generous with her time and patience. By the time they arrived at an open prison, most prisoners had received some education and could now read and write. Many took and passed exams which led to work opportunities, which developed their confidence enormously and broadened their horizons post-prison.
At the PPO, we know we have work to do ourselves to strengthen our processes for identifying complaints from prisoners from Traveller backgrounds. And we recognise also our role in holding the services in our remit to account for both the initial recording of ethnicity in the prisoner population, and for improving the outcomes for those from Traveller backgrounds.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Traveller Movement.
My name is Kaitlyn Christina Handleigh. I’m a 14 year old Traveller girl living in London and attending a public school (also in London). Over the Summer I will be doing work experience with the Traveller Movement. However this is not my first time being involved in an event with them; I went along with many people that work with the Traveller movement (one of which being my aunt) to parliament on International Women’s Day 2018 for the Women’s Empowerment Network. This day really opened my eyes to see how badly Travellers are treated, whether that be by the police, social services, employers or even the general population.
From my experience in a public school I have first-hand experiences of discrimination against Travellers. A lot of the time it is silly comments like “If you are a Traveller why do you not live in a caravan”, “Pikey just means Traveller doesn’t it?” or “you Pikey” and though these comments are perceived to be ‘harmless’ or ‘just a joke’ they are still hateful comments. I have never, during my time in school, been severely bullied, however I have often questioned my culture because of what people say and how people’s opinions change when they find out I am a Traveller. Teachers have said comments about it, also students and friends have because they disregard Travellers as an ethnicity and count there comments as a joke and not-racist which couldn’t be further from the truth.
Being a Traveller GIRL in school confuses them as they are taught from a young age by uneducated (about Travellers) parents that Travellers are lazy and will leave school to get married and have loads of children. I get questioned all the time about why I’m still in school or even to the point where when I was picking my GCSE subjects I had multiple people ask me “What’s the point? Aren’t you going to leave soon anyway?” Its comments like this that cause Travellers to drop out and then carry on the stereotype. In my time at school I have never let a comment like this slip; I have always argued back or corrected them but it makes no difference.
So, why have I decided to stay in school?
Although I have been raised as a Traveller and will live my life as a Traveller I see no reason why that should interfere with my education. I want to prove that a Traveller girl can earn an education and prove against this stereotype of being ‘lazy’. I would love to see schools teach more about the good things that the Traveller community do rather than the bad, and also for schools to educate children on the difference between Gypsy, Roma and Travellers and their histories, as I feel that this would help people to understand their lifestyle rather than judge and post hateful comments.
I think the Traveller Movement are doing an amazing job in raising awareness of the inequality of Gypsy, Roma and Travellers.
Thank you for reading. Kaitlyn Handleigh
Who's telling the truth? Traveller Movement’s response to Channel 4’s ‘Dispatches: The Truth about Traveller Crime’
Date: 17th April 2020
On Thursday the 16th April we watched in utter dismay Channel 4’s ‘Dispatches: The Truth about Traveller Crime’. The programme was highly critical of Gypsy and Traveller communities and made a number of sensationalist statements that only fuel and reinforces stereotypical racist tropes about Gypsy and Traveller people.
As an organisation that works to promote the rights and social inclusion of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, we are deeply disturbed at the divisive and racist rhetoric used in the programme’s narrative to malign an entire community. The truth certainly was not on Channel 4’s agenda last night.
A number of claims in relation to criminal activity in the Traveller community were made by the programme, but the broadcast failed to properly evidence those spurious claims. Instead, the programme relied on weak and unsubstantiated data to falsely imply a cause-and-effect relationship between Traveller site locations and crime rates. Further, when the Traveller Movement requested the raw data on which the programme relied, Channel 4 refused to share it. It also failed to consult with the experts or organisations working with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) communities to add balance. The National Police Chiefs’ Council were not consulted and called the broadcast an “appalling” and “sensationalised” programme and stated “there is no evidence that links higher crime levels to Traveller sites nor do we have ‘no go’ sites”.
Let’s just replace the word ‘Traveller’ with any other ethnic minority to reveal just how racist this programme is.
The programme and its producers have demonstrated a complete disregard for impartial and accurate reporting and instead have resorted to the tired damaging stereotypical trope that “Travellers equals crime”.
Chair of the Traveller Movement, Pauline Anderson OBE: I am absolutely appalled at the misuse of my interview in this sensationalist TV show. At a time of national crisis when broadcasters should be bringing people together, they are instead sowing division and leaving my community vulnerable to hate crime and abuse. It’s an absolute disgrace to journalism. We expect more from Channel 4.
Founder of the Gypsy, Roma Traveller Police Association, Jim Davies: Show some sensationalized footage of crimes you’d find on deprived housing estates up and down the country, add in some statistics that would crumble under the slightest scrutiny, get unsubstantiated comments from a police officer who isn’t brave enough to show his face, and completely ignore the Gypsy Roma Traveller Police Association. I have no idea what the point of that programme was, but it wasn’t to tell the truth.
Advisory Committee of the Traveller Movement member, Professor Colin Clark: What was most disappointing about the programme, aside from the blatant anti-Traveller and anti-Irish agenda that was evident, was the skewed data and flawed methodology used to support the assertion that there is a demonstrated link between the geography of Traveller sites and spikes in local crime rates. It needs to be made clear that correlation does not equal causation and the producers were guilty of this on several occasions. It would be very helpful to see the raw data and methodology used by the production team for this programme so that the interpretation and analysis that was broadcast on air can be independently and objectively interrogated.
The Gypsy Roma Traveller Police Association: Having watched Dispatches last night, the Gypsy Roma Traveller Police Association believe that the programme was racist, unbalanced and extremely offensive to the Gypsy and Traveller Community. We were disgraced by the content of it and have already seen an increase in the prejudice our community faces as a result. The Association would like to ask NPCC lead for GRT communities to support a national review into the service provision by police to GRT communities. This review should focus on identifying and eliminating internal systematic institutional racism and bias. The need for this is not only evidenced by the Traveller Movement report into relationships between GRT and Police but also the fact a uniformed police officer on national television felt it was acceptable and safe to be openly racist. His remarks show a complete lack of understanding of the complexities that exist in community policing and indeed policing today. No officer should fail to understand their role is to protect and serve all communities of this country. This is already having a profound impact on our own GRT officers and staff, and more importantly the community as a whole.
Yvonne MacNamara, CEO
T: 07961 432 074
Patricia Stapleton, policy manager
Notes to Editor
* The Traveller Movement (TM) is a national community development policy and voice charity who campaign against discrimination, promote inclusion, participation and community engagement for the Irish Traveller and Gypsy communities in Britain. TM is proud to work in partnership with the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities together with service providers and policy makers across the UK to better promote social inclusion and community cohesion.
*View report: Policing by consent: Understanding and improving relations between Gypsies, Roma, Irish Travellers and the police’:
By Lois Brookes-Jones, member of the GRT Women's Empowerment Network
I think it's important to note in this blog that I am a person of privilege. I am someone who lives in a house, doesn't speak Romanes, and is poshrat (half Romany). My experiences are in this in-between world of discrimination and prestige. I was told throughout my life to hide who I am, that half of my world puts me in danger. I'm also a very intersectional and diverse person. I'm Jewish, Romany, gay, working class, and a woman. The phrase "being in the closet" has never felt like it only applies to being a lesbian, it also applies to my identity as a Romany person.
I knew that we were different to other families but was never explicitly told why. Why my mother never completed education, why all of our family lived under one roof, why my cousins who visited lived on sites and referred to our home as a "mansion". My nan would tie my hair in ribbons and talk about the scrap metal yard and horses they used to own. It was when I was eleven that the term "pikey" was tossed at me on the playground, because of what someone's mother had said to their child about my family. It was then, as I told my mother what I had been called, that I was ascribed the label of "Romany".
Again, this comes with massive elements of privilege. So many GRT (Gypsy Roma Traveller) children and people living on sites or who are not poshrat experience racism and exclusion from the moment they are born into the world. My navigation of identity from that point was being told to hide myself as much as possible. I was consistently berated about not telling anyone at school, even my friends, and it manifested into internalised shame about myself and my identity.
My secondary school eventually found out, and suddenly me and my sisters' patchy attendance which had been that way since we attended school was under review by teachers, heads of year, and attendance officers who came into school and put the pressure of fines on my family. We were almost put into the hands of social services due to how counsellors interpreted my family experience in sessions where I wasn't aware of my Rights or of how gorja people in authority exploit us due to their own inherent prejudice.
But this isn't just a negative story about how I was failed as a child by the school system, but one of finding empowerment and growth. My Mother now has the confidence to speak out against antigypsyism, posing in photos with me wearing a "Proud Gypsy" shirt, proud of me for getting involved in GRT activism and representing our stories of injustice. My Auntie has wrote for Travellers Times and continues to draft more articles to submit in the future. She even released an excerpt on her childhood experiences as a Romany woman for GATEHerts which I submitted for their GRT History month campaign posts.
Although my story isn't typical, and has privileges, discrimination, and empowerment. It's a journey which I am proud of. I am proud to be Romany, poshrat, and be a walking representation of intersectionality. Being unapologetically Romany, gay, Jewish, working class, and a woman.
Hi, my name is Suzie and I am an adviser at Family Rights Group. We are the charity that works with parents in England and Wales whose children are in need, at risk or are in the care system and with members of the wider family who are raising children unable to remain at home.
I’m writing this advice blog to answer some of your questions about children’s services (social services) involvement with families who are experiencing or have experienced domestic violence.
Before I answer the questions which were sent, let me explain what domestic violence is and why it’s harmful to children:
Domestic violence can involve physical or sexual abuse, rape, emotional abuse and isolation, coercion, threats, intimidation, economic abuse, financial control, forced marriage and honour-based violence. It can happen online as well as offline. People who experience domestic violence may have a range of responses to it - fear, anxiety, isolation, depression, drug or alcohol misuse – and too often they feel blamed.
In this blog I refer to survivors of domestic violence as "the mother" or "she" and the abuser or perpetrator as "the father" or "he". I’ve used this language because it reflects the situation in the majority of cases. However, Family Rights Group does recognise that men can also be survivors of domestic violence and that domestic violence can occur in same sex couples.
These questions were drafted with input from the Traveller Movement.
Research shows that witnessing domestic violence can be very harmful for children and this is specifically included in the legal definition of significant harm.
And now to answer the specific questions which were sent in.
- What can I do if I am contacted by a social worker?
- The social worker is talking about ‘child in need’, ‘child protection’ and ‘significant harm’. What does this all mean?
- What could happen when a social worker contacts me?
- I feel worried about talking with, and working with, the social worker.
- What exactly will happen during the assessment?
- What about after the assessment is finished?
- Could my children be removed from me?
- What happens if I return to my violent partner against the advice given by my social worker?
- I am scared to contact the police or the social worker as I don't want the situation to be held against me.
- My partner has told me the children will be taken from me if I report the violence.
- Going to social services would be a shameful thing for me to do. People in the community will think I’m a bad mother.
- I'm worried because I live on a site and I don't want everyone knowing my business. What can I do?
- I live with my in-laws and they listen in to my phone conversations. Even my childer repeat things I say on the phone. Can we agree a ‘safe’ word or phrase if I’m not on my own?
- I don’t read and write and I get mixed up with my letters. I don’t know who’s writing to me. I need help from others to explain things to me. I depend on other people’s help.
- I have no money of my own and I have seven childer. I can’t even afford the bus fare. I can’t leave! I’m not allowed to save. My husband doesn’t give me anything. How will I get to a shelter or to a meeting with a social worker or domestic violence worker?
Further Help and Information
I have answered all the questions which were sent and I hope the answers are helpful. If you’d like to know more, you can:-
- call our advice line, 0808 801 0366
- check out our discussion boards
- go to our website whether there is domestic violence FAQs for mums; FAQs on domestic violence for dads and a leaflet we have produced called Information for mothers involved with Children’s Services because of domestic violence.
Over the next few weeks, approximately 3,000 inmates will be released early. It will apply to those who have been assessed as low risk, are non-violent, not a sex offender, not a security risk and, are within two months of their release date. They will be subject to electronic monitoring (tag).
We add our voice to our colleagues in the Criminal Justice System (CJS), who have called for effective measures to support everyone been released early by making sure they have safe and stable accommodation and can access Universal Credit.
The MoJ announcement can be read in full here:
CEO of the Traveller Movement Yvonne MacNamara said: We welcome these new measures and we recognise this will be a big task for the CJS to safely manage, however, we believe it is necessary in these unprecedented times as it will help protect the safety of inmates, staff and reduce pressure on the NHS. We also hope that, despite the challenging circumstances, we are gradually beginning to establish more creative, safe and sustainable methods for alternatives to custody, which in the long run can only be a good thing, including for groups who are currently over represented in the youth and adult prison estates. Finally, we send our sincere condolences to everyone affected by the sad deaths of Bovil Peter and Patrick Beckford, the two members of prison staff at HMP Pentonville who both displayed symptoms of Covid19.
Patricia Stapleton, policy manager
T: 020 7607 2002
Notes to Editor
* The Traveller Movement (TM) is a national community development policy and voice charity who campaign against discrimination, promote inclusion, participation and community engagement for the Irish Traveller and Gypsy communities in Britain. TM is proud to work in partnership with the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities together with service providers and policy makers across the UK to better promote social inclusion and community cohesion. www.travellermovement.org.uk
By the Traveller Movement
As human beings, the fundamentals of healthy relationships are fairly standard. We want to be respected, we want to be listened to and we want to be valued. That applies in our professional and personal lives.
For generations despite legislation, race discrimination remains prevalent around the world, in places that are supposed to be civilised societies. It’s a major problem in our criminal justice system (CJS).
When a child is bullied, we support them and, the bully is held accountable.
The perpetrator is made to feel ashamed. They are told they should change their behaviour.
The perpetrators of race discrimination are often left unchallenged by the people who should be holding them accountable. This offers them a form of protection. People who complain about race discrimination are told they have a chip on their shoulder or, they’re overly sensitive. This is victim blaming.
Skin colour or cultural heritage isn’t something individuals choose. It’s part of their core, what makes them who they are, something to be proud of. No one should have the right to diminish them for that. This seems pretty uncivil to me.
It’s not right that people should have to hide their true identities for fear of being discriminated against and subjected to hate crime. However, every day in many of our prisons, and in open society, that is exactly what Irish Travellers are doing.
Equality and diversity is sometimes referred to as just a ‘tick box’ exercise.
That can be true. But Roma people in our CJS don’t even have the box to tick. They have the option of categorising themselves as ‘White other’. If you’re not counted, your needs can’t be properly considered; your experiences cannot be listened to.
Genuine commitment to promoting equality and challenging discrimination means we don’t pick and choose what group we give our support to. A racist person isn’t a little bit racist. The harmful impact is the same, irrespective of who it’s directed towards.
People continued to ignore, diminish, disrespect and undervalue. Then, we arrived at the point where, it took the brutal murder of a black man, at the hands of the police, for people to acknowledge that racism is still a major problem, particularly in our CJS.
If the traumatic events leading to the death of George Floyd were not recorded, by a civilian passer-by, and circulated around the world, it would have gone unnoticed to all but those closest to him; the perpetrators would have gone home after a day’s work and continued in their jobs. Unchallenged, unaccountable, protected.
Prisons are closed environments. And there is minimal chance that acts of discriminatory behaviour and excessive use of force will be filmed and circulated around the world, like it was with George Floyd. Yet we know it has been happening for a long time.
A recent report by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) looked at these unacceptable patterns of behaviour in three UK prisons. The Government's response can be viewed here.
There’s another thing that can happen if the school bully is left unchallenged. Their victim can somehow, someway find a way to overcome them. The victim can become the victor.
In order to do this, people have to uncover their ears, un-blinker their eyes, and un-mute their voices, to challenge, to support and protect, but you have to be in it for the long-game.
The revolution has been televised. But only for some. As a self-proclaimed civilised society, we should not be comfortable with that.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Traveller Movement.
By Claire Kent - Head Teacher of Mount C of E Primary School, Newark, Nottinghamshire.
I am fortunate enough to have worked at our school for 20 years, with the last three serving in my current role as Head Teacher. Mount C of E Primary is a special place to be and touches the hearts of all who visit. We serve a diverse community which is unusual for a Market Town Centre Primary. 36% of our pupils are from the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) community, mainly English Traveller families. 30% of our pupils are classed as having English as an Additional Language (EAL), and are mainly from Eastern Europe and the remainder of our pupils are from a mixed catchment from across the town.
For decades, our school has welcomed children from GRT communities and it remains a school of choice for many Traveller families. So, why do so many Traveller families choose our school above other schools available across town?
Being a Church of England school develops an ethos of respect and appreciation, giving us increased opportunities to celebrate our wonderful diverse community. All of our children are catered for as individuals and their needs are provided for, with a greater emphasis on emotional well-being. We are committed to breaking down barriers and welcoming all children and families, regardless of race, culture or background. This ethos is embedded within our curriculum and part of our daily practice. Within our lessons, references are made to the lives of all communities. On a basic level an example of this would be during the homes topic in Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), children are given opportunities to explore a range of homes such as boats, houses, trailers, flats, chalets and bungalows. Another example would be exploring how different communities celebrate the Christian festivals.
We ensure that our staff are aware of the beliefs and ways of the various cultures within our school. This means that we speak regularly with our families and work hard to establish strong positive and trusting relationships. This is essential if we are to work in partnership to ensure every child reaches their potential. The TARGET model (Traveller and Roma Gypsy Education Tool (Wilkin et al., 2009)) is a useful reflection tool when considering how to build such relationships;
One afternoon a week, the same TA takes groups of Traveller and non-Traveller children down onto the site. Families agree to host their own child and some of their classmates within their trailer or chalet. This is extremely popular with all concerned and supports our work on tackling prejudices and misconceptions about the GRT community. The majority of our Traveller families live on a site within town. This site is visited by myself and a Teaching Assistant (TA) each week to ensure that parents feel that we are approachable. A TA visits once a week to carry out stay and play sessions in trailers and chalets of families with pre-school children. This TA is also within our EYFS unit so that she is a familiar face when the youngsters first start school. During these afternoons, she also supports parents to complete forms or read letters.
On our Governing Body we have a Traveller Dad. He is a valued member of the Board and speaks positively about the provision within school. He has spoken to OFSTED during inspections and advises other Governors on the cultural features of his community.
I regularly visit families in their homes to support attendance. I often collect children or drop children back home after school. This is particularly the case if one of the family members is ill and the mother is unable to bring the other children as the father is working. Our families value education and welcome support to ensure their children access the provision available.
There have been many policies and guidelines published within the subject of improving learning outcomes for GRT pupils;
- DFE (2003): Aiming High: Raising the Achievement of Gypsy Traveller Pupils: A Guide to Good Practice.
- Wilkin, A., Derrington, C., White, R., Martin, K., Foster, B., Kinder, K., & Rutt, S. (2010). Improving the outcomes for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils: final report (Ref: DFE-RR043)
- The Traveller Movement (2019). A Good Practice Guide for improving outcomes for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Children in education.
I am extremely proud that we were included within the most recent publication, written by The Traveller Movement. As one of only four schools included for demonstrating good practice, why is it that our families have so much trust within our school?
Recently, I spoke with a couple of mothers as they dropped off their children on the playground. They told me that one of the reasons our school is so popular within the Travelling community is because we treat each child as an individual, have respect for their culture and treat all families with equal care and compassion.
Each morning and each afternoon, I am on the playground to informally chat with families, addressing any issues or worries face-to-face. This open door philosophy is mirrored throughout every classroom and appointments are very seldom needed because our parents are encouraged to approach staff at the beginning or end of the day.
Building links with our communities is a priority within our school. We regularly host events where parents are welcomed into school in a non-threatening, non-academic manner. These events include;
- Family dining events – parents stay for lunch with their children and take part in activities in classrooms and on the playground over lunchtime.
- Church services – celebrating Christian festivals within our local church.
- Learning without limits workshops – each half term parents are invited to work alongside their children on practical projects.
- Celebration Assembly – each Friday parents are invited to attend an assembly in which children receive reward certificates, prizes and share their out of school achievements.
At Mount C of E Primary School, we recognise that parents’ own experiences of schooling and/or possible restricted literacy skills can act as a barrier or feed anxiety. With this in mind, school events are text out to parents in addition to being included in the newsletters. Staff also discretely speak with parents so that they are aware and reminded of events to avoid missing out. To reduce anxiety and build strong relationships, parents are encouraged to phone school to receive updates as to how their children are doing. Texts and phone calls home celebrate achievements both academic and pastoral. Parents are supported with the admissions process into school and transfer to Secondary, should they decide to do so.
We continue to work in partnership with our fabulous community and see diversity as a celebration at the heart of our everyday ethos. I would ask any practitioner to look back at the TARGET model and consider the quality of their provision in terms of embedding the following within their daily practice;
- Safety and Trust
- Access and Inclusion
- High expectations
Our absolute dream would be that schools across the country adopt our inclusive approach to ensure that all families and pupils feel valued and welcomed within their local school. None of this is rocket science…just meet the individual needs of each child and be respectful of other cultures and beliefs.
Open letter to the Department for Education: Don’t further marginalise Gypsy and Irish Traveller school pupils
The Traveller Movement, ACERT and others have written to Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson asking that Gypsy, Roma and Irish Traveller school pupils receive targeted support during the Covid-19 pandemic. Signed by leading academics, race equality organisations and others, the letter reiterates sector wide concerns that GRT pupils will be further marginalised in their education due to digital exclusion and low grade predictions.
Dear Right Hon. Gavin Williamson MP,
RE: Covid-19 and Gypsy, Roma and Irish Traveller school children
We are writing to raise our concerns that children from Gypsy, Roma and Irish Traveller backgrounds will be especially disadvantaged in their educational attainment during the Covid-19 pandemic. We are concerned at the lack of national policy pertaining to the educational needs of certain vulnerable groups, and we consider that without specific guidance these groups will further slip through the cracks.
Whilst schools have remained open for vulnerable children and the children of key workers, and rightly so, we fear that children from recognised disadvantaged backgrounds, such as Gypsies, Roma and Irish Travellers (GRT), will completely miss out on their education in these few short months. This will put them further behind their peers, and could lead to many simply not returning to education, particularly those in Key Stages 3 and 4. We therefore urge the Department to implement a strategy aimed at ensuring GRT pupils have access to suitable materials, but also to mobile data and, where required, to laptops and digital solutions which will their enable their learning to continue throughout this period.
The specific issues
We are concerned that the Department’s current guidance to schools does not explicitly reference those with limited or no digital access. Additionally, due to a lack of clear national policy, home education provision and resources seem to vary from school to school. We are aware that most schools rely on online learning platforms for parents to access work for children to do at home. However, this will present a challenge for many GRT children who face digital exclusion and who may not have access to a laptop or broadband at home. They might also have the additional disadvantage of having parents with language barriers, literacy issues and/or poor access to educational resources.
Specifically these issues include:
- Literacy, attainment, exclusions and outcomes - GRT pupils are already disadvantaged in their educational attainment. They have the highest rates of school exclusion, the poorest attainment and are the least likely to leave school with formal qualifications. They should be considered for extra tuition or support at this time.
- Grade predictions - this will have a negative impact on GRT as teachers already have low expectations of these pupils. This will affect their final grades, which are likely to be under-predicted. Additionally, many children are not likely to return to school, as they will have missed significant time off from formal education.
- Caring duties - many families may be more vulnerable to the virus because of financial insecurity and impracticability of isolation. Children may take caring roles if adults fall ill. This will also affect their ability to learn.
- Digital exclusion - this affects many families. GRT parents, whose own educational experiences may have been inadequate, will find it difficult to support their children learning at home (particularly without online access).
Actions that need to be taken:
- As recommended by the IPPR, the Department for Education (DfE) should work with schools and telecommunications technology providers to get broadband installed and devices loaned or donated to those children without them.
- Where this isn’t possible, schools should be posting out resource packs that include some basic guidance for parents. Where available, teachers and schools should work with Traveller Education Support Services, and other Ethnic Minority & Traveller Achievement Services (EMTAS) to ensure GRT pupils are not forgotten.
- Ensure children on free school meals still have access to their meals and/or the new voucher scheme. This includes infant children with universal access but whom the voucher scheme excludes.
- Make schools aware that the predicted grading system will be biased against GRT, other nomadic groups such as New Travellers, Circus families, Showmen, Boaters etc. and BME pupils from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Establish guidance on how to overcome these biases.
It is crucial that the government ensure that the educational gaps Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children already face are not widened further by the response to the pandemic. We urge you to take this letter and its recommendations seriously.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Pauline Anderson OBE, Chair of the Traveller Movement
Lisa Smith, Chair of the Advisory Council for the Education of Romany and other Travellers (ACERT)
Helen Jones, CEO, Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange
Andy Gregg, Chief Executive, Race on the Agenda
Sarah Mann, Director, Friends, Families and Travellers
Mihai Bica, Roma Support Group
Professor Margaret Greenfields
Atiha Chaudry, Chair, Greater Manchester BAME Network CIC
Professor Kalwant Bhopal, Director, Centre for Research in Race & Education, University of Birmingham
Dr. Martin Myers, Assistant Professor in Education, University of Nottingham
Dr Zubaida Haque, Deputy Director, The Runnymede Trust
Zahra Bei, Co-Founder, No More Exclusions
Debby Kennett, CEO, London Gypsies and Travellers
Paul Sayers, Education Champion, Luton Roma Trust
Win Lawlor, Strategic Policy and Partnerships Manager, Irish Community Care
Jacqui Barbet-Shields, voluntary advocate
Marc Willers QC
Aurora Todisco, Finance and Information Officer, Healthwatch Tower Hamlets
Jake Ferguson, Chief Executive Officer, Hackney CVS
Fiona Dwyer, CEO, Solace Women’s Aid
Mia Hasenson-Gross, Executive Director, Rene Cassin
Yvonne Field, CEO, The Ubele Initiative
Dr Wanda Wyporska, FRSA, Executive Director, The Equality Trust
Sherrie Smith Consultant
Gypsies and Travellers Essex
Lord Simon Woolley, Director, Operation Black Vote
Professor Colin Clark, University of the West of Scotland
Christine Browne, GRT Lead, Widening Participation, King’s College London
Felicity Dowling, Left Unity
Mrs Kerry Maines
Revd Rob Ryan, St. Barnabas Little Ilford
Brian Dalton, CEO, Irish in Britain
Gurpreet Virdee, Women and Girls Network
Edmund O Akeju, West London Equality Centre
Edward Milner (Sante Refugee Mental Heath Access Project)
Nigel Turner OBE, Chair, Redbridge Equalities and Community Council
Sarifa Patel, co-Chair, Disability rep Forum Newham
Aidan White, Founder, Ethical Journalism Network
Lukasz Konieczka, Executive Director, Mosaic LGBT Youth Centre
Islamic Human Rights Commission
IROKO Theatre Company
London Irish Feminist Network
By Christina Kerrigan, Community Development and Partnerships officer with the Traveller Movement
The constant talk of death by suicide is beyond shocking in the Traveller community. Hearing more and more, that people have ended their lives because of the shame they felt over their sexuality has been a real eye opener for me. People have had to suppress who they really are because of fear that not only could this truth shame or cause harm to them as individuals, but that they fear the wider repercussions for their family, from those in the community who do not accept it.
There are many Travellers who do not believe that homosexuality is a natural occurrence, instead they think that the devil has got into these individuals. Some of these individuals are being dragged across the country to healing people and Holy wells in an attempt to ‘cure’ them. Others are turning to faith groups to justify their prejudice, and we have worked with young, vulnerable people who have been further damaged by this.
"Religion often plays a big part in Traveller lives, from sexuality to gender roles. The expectation in some families, is that the man will have a dominant role and the woman should be pure, respectable and have no sexual relationships before marriage".
You would hope that when a woman does get married and choose to share her life with this man, that they will be happy and he will love and cherish her, sadly this is not always the case. Who and where do these women turn to when they are married and suffering domestic abuse? When they are being controlled, hurt and humiliated? When they are suffering mental health issues at a young age but are afraid to speak to a doctor? Afraid because they are told your children will be taken by social services if they hear you are in a violent relationship or are not coping as a Mother.
I believe some Travellers get married too young. Too young to know if this is what you want for the rest of your life. Too young, naive and sometimes uneducated to understand the responsibilities and pressures that will come. Sadly, some families do not believe in divorce and believe it’s a mortal sin. As the old saying goes ‘you made your bed now lay in it’. It’s sad because as a Traveller woman in this situation it seems in your mind so much easier to take your own life than to leave your husband.
“When you leave him, you can lose your community, your respect and your name, and that is what you lose when you can leave. A lot of time leaving is impossible and the thought of social services being involved in your family makes you a failure as a mother”.
Suicide rates are through the roof and many of these are no doubt influenced by experiences of shaming. Whether it is because of a person’s sexuality, or if it is a young girl who “got a name for herself” and ends her own life, all because of the shame they are made to feel by their own people. This is not to say that people cannot have their own beliefs and values, it is that it is damaging to impose these beliefs and values on others. We all have a limit and when that limit is breached, we hurt. This limit can manifest itself in self-medication, whether through alcohol, prescription or illegal drugs and at worst self-harm and suicide. Is this really where we want to be going? Have enough of our people not already died before their time? Has shaming not already done enough harm?
“The shaming that goes on in our community, which results in the suicides of many, is our biggest shame”.
It is no longer enough for us to cry and share rants of rage on Facebook when we find our young people hanging at the end of a rope or slipping away from us on an overdose of drugs. Instead we must stop and think about how we are contributing to this cycle of shame. How we may inadvertently be handing these people the rope to take their own lives. Shaming needs to stop!
By Abi Angus – former education and advocacy officer with the Traveller Movement
My favourite memories of running the education advocacy project at Traveller Movement are of time spent out-and-about with families, doing home visits and attending school meetings. One of my all-time favourite days on the project was a visit that included lunch in a family’s home, spending time discussing their case and then exploring the local countryside with children who lived on the site. Working alongside families who were so happy to share parts of their life (and food!) with me was such a privilege and made a job - that I already loved - even better.
The education project began as a part-time university placement, providing support, advice and representation to families around any issues linked to education. Although I hadn’t worked with GTR communities before, I was keen to work on a project that helped young people access the support they needed in order to stay in school and access high-quality education. We designed a project to fill the gaps left by cuts to Traveller Education Services, which we primarily expected to support families in challenging the high number of school exclusions given to GTR pupils.
However, as word started to spread about the service we were running, families started to get in touch for a huge range of different reasons. Education statistics show that GTR children are more likely to be excluded from school than other pupils are, and that they are less likely to achieve good results at GCSE. However, they do not show the many barriers families face in trying to find a school that will support and understand their children. I believe that when done well, education gives young people the opportunity to be part of a community and to gain skills and qualifications that allow choices in the future. This wasn’t happening for the families who were getting in touch to ask for support.
At the root of most cases was discrimination – whether it was a child excluded for lashing out after the school failed to tackle racist bullying, a parent concerned about their child attending a school where they would be the only student from a GTR background or a family treated in stereotypical ways by teachers who sometimes had shockingly low expectations.
Alongside casework, we looked at how we could tackle underlying racist attitudes in schools. We designed training for teachers, which aimed to dispel misconceptions held about GTR communities while supporting schools to be both aware, and welcoming, of GTR cultures. I remember talking to a teacher about school absences; they had not understood why a family was planning to take a full week away from school for a funeral and hadn’t had a conversation with the parents about why this long was required. By supporting the family to share some of their culture with the school and talk about how the lives of loved ones are traditionally celebrated, the school gained a better understanding of their families and conflict was avoided.
When teachers started to see how important this was, relationships between families and schools improved and students had more positive educational experiences. Unfortunately, schools are under huge pressure to meet the demands of accountability measures that focus on attainment. This can result in in less priority being given to this kind of training, and can stand in the way of tailoring support to small groups of students.
These days, I can be found training as a researcher with the youth and education think-and-action-tank, LKMco. After years working on the ground with families, I wanted to find a way to use the experiences and stories I’d heard to try and impact on education policy. While the work of education advocates is important, without changes to policy this work is just fighting fires. I wanted to look at the role I could play in making sure these fires don’t start in the first place! Research informed by real people’s lived experiences, that looks to understand the barriers faced by marginalised communities is vital in making sure that policy benefits all groups, not just the majority – I’m so excited to be at LKMco where I can play a part in producing this kind of work!
The Traveller Movement welcomes yesterday’s announcement, by the Justice Secretary, to temporarily release from prison low risk pregnant women and mother’s in Mother and Baby Units.
The MoJ has stated, the women will be released once they have been risk assessed and found suitable accommodation. The government statement can be found here:
It is the first important step, in the right direction, to start reducing our overcrowded prison population and rightly protecting those in our prisons who are most vulnerable.
We hope this bold move, will set a precedent for the CJS to more routinely consider alternatives to custody, for other vulnerable groups currently in prisons.
This should include Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) people, who have shorter life expectancy, are massively over represented in the prison population and, within the prison population, have higher rates of self harm and suicide.
CEO of the Traveller Movement Yvonne MacNamara said: It is more important now, than ever, that we start to look at effective alternatives to custody. If we can successfully introduce such measures in a time of crisis, we must surely continue once this pandemic has passed. Anything less would be a backward step.
Patricia Stapleton, policy manager
Notes to Editor
The Traveller Movement (TM) is a national community development policy and voice charity who campaign against discrimination, promote inclusion, participation and community engagement for the Irish Traveller and Gypsy communities in Britain. TM is proud to work in partnership with the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities together with service providers and policy makers across the UK to better promote social inclusion and community cohesion.
May 2020 blog - Media representations of Gypsy, Roma and Irish Traveller women – depicting stereotypes rather than role models
By Patricia Stapleton, Policy Manager with the Traveller Movement
This blog was first published in December 2019 by the Women's Resource Centre to mark 16 days of action against Gender-based violence.
There is no denying the positive impact of the CEDAW convention in eliminating discrimination against women globally. Article 5 of the Convention encourages State Parties to work towards the elimination of stereotypes and instructs states to:
“modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women"
However, as a civil society organisation that works with a group of ethnic minority women routinely discriminated against in the British media, one has to ask – is the UK doing enough to address stereotypical images and depictions of Gypsy, Roma and Irish Traveller women?
In its concluding observations CEDAW commended the UK, and the the Committee for Advertising Practice (CAP) for banning ads which depict harmful gender stereotypes from June 2019. This is a positive step forward, as research shows that depictions of men and women in stereotypical gender roles or characteristics have the potential to cause harm. CAP has also published guidance for advertisers on scenarios that are likely to be problematic, and following a review found harmful stereotypes can restrict the choices, aspirations and opportunities of children, young people and adults, and can be reinforced by advertising. However, when it comes to Gypsies, Roma or Irish Travellers no other medium is more responsible for perpetuating harmful stereotypes than the British media.
Gypsies, Roma and Travellers experience high levels of racism and discrimination in their everyday lives, and have the worst outcomes across all social indicators. Additionally they face challenges in almost every aspect of their lives, such as accessing healthcare, housing, and face discrimination in education and employment. In fact, racism against Gypsies and Travellers is so entrenched that in 2004 Sir Trevor Philips referred to it as “the last respectable form of racism”.
The media frequently portray Traveller women as being oppressed, having low aspirations, being wedding-obsessed, and having little interest in life beyond their familial duties. Gypsy, Roma and Traveller women are rarely portrayed as inspirational, well-educated, driven or entrepreneurial. Depictions of Travellers on shows such as My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, or the more recent The Town the Gypsies Took Over do so much damage through the perpetuation of harmful stereotypes that it is difficult for the general public to see beyond those stereotypes. Even the title of the show envisages a kind of invasion. Gypsies, Roma and Travellers are frequently spoken of in dehumanising terms as being an invasion, or as one politician recently described Travellers as ‘like a disease’. This language dehumanises Gypsies, Roma and Travellers and invokes the language used in Nazi era Germany.
The role of the broadcasting regulator, Ofcom is to ensure programmes are balanced and represent all ethnic groups respectfully. Ofcom also has a legislative duty to advance equality of opportunity between men and women, and for people of different racial groups, among others. However the majority of complaints submitted to Ofcom in relation to shows like My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding are rarely upheld. While these shows portray Traveller men as violent and aggressive, and Traveller women as wedding-obsessed and passive, these depictions are never considered stereotypical, merely representational of a community that few people have knowledge of or engage with.
In reality, the vast majority of activists to advance Gypsy, Roma and Traveller rights are women and they come from a diverse range of backgrounds. Many are prominent activists, educationalists, lawyers, or aspiring politicians. For example, it is rare to see women from the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Women’s Empowerment Network garnering the same amount of media attention as the women on shows like My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding. Among these inspirational women is the first UK-qualitied Roma lawyer; a documentary filmmaker; a social worker and several prominent VAWG activists. Why aren’t these women getting their own shows? Why aren’t we seeing them portrayed in the media carrying out their activism? Simply because it doesn’t sell as many papers, or garner as many viewers as a show that depicts Traveller men as violent and workshy, or Traveller women as wedding-obsessed.
In its concluding observations, the CEDAW Committee said it:
“remains concerned about the persistence of gender stereotypes affecting the educational and career choices of women and girls”
As an organisation that works daily to provide counter narratives to harmful stereotypes, we think there is much more Ofcom and the British government can do to create more positive representations of Gypsy, Roma and Travellers in print media and on television.
The CEDAW convention have asked the UK government to do more to eliminate harmful stereotypes and promote positive and diverse portrayals of gender, including in schools and through public campaigns. We would also urge the UK government to do more to eliminate stereotypes in mainstream media, including in television programming and through the regulator Ofcom. Otherwise how can Traveller girls find suitable role models if they are only represented in shows like My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding? These girls deserve better and should be allowed to reach for the stars just like everyone else.
We were happy and honoured to be invited to do a presentation on our campaign #OperationReportHate at the 7th International Roma and Traveller Women’s Conference. It was a three day conference organised under the Finnish Presidency of the Committee of the Ministers of the Council of Europe and took place on 25-27 March 2019 at the Hanaholmen Swedish-Finnish Cultural Centre in Espoo, Finland. This year’s theme was ‘Roma and Traveller women’s access to justice and rights’, a very important subject for Traveller Movement’s work.
There were Roma women from all over Europe attending and it was interesting and heart-breaking to hear their stories and the injustices and discrimination they face in their countries. I find the Roma and Travellers around Europe to have some similarities to Irish Travellers. The conference was very interesting; however I found that a lot of the key objectives, policies and outcomes they are aiming for have already been implemented in the UK. Also, not many others seem to use social media as much as we do, and I think our presentation about #OperationReportHate gave them a lot of good ideas!
The Traveller Movement was the only organisation invited to represent the UK, and there was an Irish organisation Pavee Point invited to represent Ireland. It was lovely to meet Tessa Collins, Senior Community Development Worker from Pavee Point. I attended the same workshop as Tessa, it was about Pogroms and evictions motivated by anti-Gypsyism and anti-Nomadism and their effects on Roma and Traveller women and communities. Tessa gave a very good and powerful presentation on housing, evictions and racially motivated hate crime in Ireland. We look forward to working with Tessa and the Pavee Point in the future on many different areas.
My colleague Jenni attended workshop 3 which was about preventing and combatting violence against Roma and Traveller women and domestic violence, and protecting their reproductive rights. The women in the group told heart-breaking stories about forced sterilisation of Roma women in Eastern Europe and about a program that helps Roma women who have suffered domestic abuse. Our CEO Yvonne attended workshop 1 which was about Forced removal of Roma and Traveller children from their parents; she talked about our research into GRT children in care. It seems that the situation in other countries is much worse than what it is in the UK.
I was disappointed to hear that some of the attendees from other countries really had no idea about Travellers and I heard it said several times that “Irish Travellers all come in big groups of caravans and travel around the UK”. That seemed to be about as much as they knew about our ethnicity. In fact, only a very small percentage of Travellers are nomads and in camps/sites, and it is thought that up to 80% actually live in bricks and mortar. Even if we live in houses, we still deal with the same injustices and discrimination, something I find myself repeatedly saying nowadays. I also heard someone say how Irish Travellers have only recently been recognised as an ethnic minority by law in the UK when in fact Irish Travellers got their Ethnic status in the year 2000.
Overall this was a lovely trip and I got to meet some lovely people. I really enjoyed speaking to the Finnish Roma women and thought they all looked amazing in their traditional dresses! The view from our hotel was beautiful and I had some lovely walks around the area and by the sea, which I really enjoyed. I took about thousand pictures and selfies for my Instagram and Facebook! My colleague Jenni and I also enjoyed the luxuries of the sauna and swimming pool, and we got a very nice welcome and lovely meals each day. The salty butter and bread was so nice I could not stop eating it. This trip was an amazing experience for me and I hope there will be some future projects with the Council of Europe’s Roma and Travellers team that I will be able to take part in.
Community Development and Partnerships Officer
The Traveller Movement
New research by the Traveller Movement shows young Travellers experience high levels of racist bullying in school
New research by the Traveller Movement shows that Gypsy and Traveller pupils experience very high levels of racist bullying in school which in turn is hampering their educational attainment, leading many to leave school early without any formal qualifications.
This research was kindly sponsored by the Greater London Authority’s Citizen Led Engagement Programme.
Read the full report here: https://travellermovement.org.uk/phocadownload/TTM%20Barriers%20in%20education_web.pdf
Watch an animated video here
April 2020 blog - Saving lives: Improving data collection of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers in the Criminal Justice System
By the Traveller Movement
The Coronavirus crisis means most of us are in some form of lockdown. It spotlights how we look after our most vulnerable. Some have compared our nationwide restrictions to being in prison. Many will be familiar with the often-quoted statistic: Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) people make up 0.1% of the general population but, comprise 5% of the prison population.[i]
Those of us involved in supporting GRT people, in the Criminal Justice System (CJS) know that this statistic is probably an under estimate. Many GRT people are reluctant to declare their ethnicity due to a well-founded fear of discrimination. Some of us have witnessed this discrimination first hand within some parts of the CJS, and we have challenged it. We will continue to do so. As time passes compelling statistics are starting to emerge evidencing the disproportionate impact of Coronavirus on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people. There are calls for an inquiry into this, once the crisis is over. Like other communal environments, such as care homes, opportunities for Coronavirus to spread through personal and social contact in prisons are extremely high.
Two weeks ago the Ministry of Justice encouragingly announced plans to roll out a temporary early release scheme for some low risk inmates. Despite this commitment, progress remains slow. On 14 April, the CEO of HMPPS, Jo Farrar confirmed 13 inmates and 3 prison staff members had died of Coronavirus; 203 inmates and 49 staff have tested positive.
There are growing demands to also release those who are most vulnerable, due to poor health. One of our biggest challenges is we do not truly know how many GRT people are in prison.
We do know that GRT people generally:
- Experience poorer physical and mental health, compared to the general population. They have a shorter life expectancy.
- For many GRT people, due to problems registering permanently with a GP, access to prison healthcare is often the first, in a long time where they have relatively easy access to healthcare. Reduction to 'normal’ prison healthcare means minor conditions risk being left untreated and might worsen, leaving them more vulnerable to Coronavirus.
- GRT people in prison, rely heavily on peer support, often for cultural reasons. Although not exclusive to these ethnic groups, of particular concern are Irish Traveller men, who have higher prevalence of suicide and self-harm. Restricted regimes and social distancing will have a major detrimental impact on mental health and, potentially increase suicide attempts and incidents of self -harm among this high-risk group. [ii]
- Inmates who sadly self-harm or attempt suicide during this time are at critical risk. Staff has a duty of care towards them. Social distancing cannot be observed if administering life-saving treatment. There might also be delays to getting outside help from ambulance services.[iii]
- Roma people, who do not speak or read English well, and rely on friends to interpret and translate risk being unable to access and/or understand important health information. This will also apply to people who have low literacy levels.
This is a crisis on the horizon for GRT people. Through our Criminal Justice work we will continue to campaign to improve data collection and monitoring across the CJS. The Lammy Review, (2017) made a recommendation to address this for GRT people; it introduced the principle of ‘explain or reform’[iv]. In reality we cannot accurately measure and evaluate the impact of Coronavirus on GRT people in prison, compared to other BAME groups, because there is no accurate data. Under these circumstances, with lives at risk, this is unacceptable; It’s time to ‘explain or reform’.
And, for anyone, on the ‘outside,’ who compares our lockdown to being in prison – remember you have the keys to your own door.
 January 2015; Improving the health of Gypsies and Travellers: The Traveller Movement
[ii] June 2018, Policing by Consent: Understanding and improving relations between Gypsies, Roma, Travellers and the Police: The Traveller Movement
[iii] March 2019, Traveller Movement Policy briefing: Addressing mental health and suicide among Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities in England
[iv] The Lammy Review: Final Report (2017)
By Cris McCurley – Partner with Ben Hoare Bell solicitors
After a significant period of consultation, the Home Office have published the Domestic Abuse bill and report. The 100s of front line domestic abuse experts who contributed to the consultation can well be forgiven for thinking that either their response got lost in the post, or that they have wasted their time: Disappointingly, there is very little said about urgent funding needed for services , and a lot about increasing Police powers and emphasis on the criminalisation of Domestic Abuse. Concerns that this emphasis could deter women from reporting abuse for fear of losing their children, or criminalising their children’s father appear to have gone unheard.
There are good things about the bill, such as the proposed creation of a DA Commissioner responsible for the oversight of services. There is a commitment to ending cross examination of a victim by an abuser in family cases, which has been lobbied for, for years, which is welcomed.
Overwhelmingly, though, whilst the bill has some good ideas, it is silent in the main as to how they will be funded. The UK is in the middle of the worst crisis in the Family Justice system in living memory. Austerity measures leading to cuts to every part of the system (including legal aid, court closures, Police numbers, local authority funding) plus an unprecedented rise in the numbers of children being taken into care mean that the system is failing victims of abuse at every point.
The Police don’t have the resources to use the powers that they already have to assist victims of abuse and their children: They are not using the powers that they already have, and with no extra funding committed, it is unlikely that they will ever use the enhanced powers described in the act, even if they were asked to.
The Bill was discussed at the UN Convention to eliminate Discrimination against women (CEDAW) last month when the UK Government were called to account for how they are protecting victims of abuse: the Bill was described by the Commissioners as ‘more aspirational than achievable’, with concern being repeatedly raised about the impact of austerity hitting women the hardest, and women such as GRT and BME women the hardest, due in part to the erosion of specialist services. The Government was urged to stop facilitating tax avoidance schemes for the very rich. If they did this it was argued, there would be more than enough funding available to meet all the needs of the women, children and services.
At present, approximately 65% of women who need a refuge space for themselves and their children are being turned away. Refuges are closing. Specialist services are being replaced by generic ones who don’t meet the needs of many women, including GRT, BME and disabled women. The funding that the Government has so far committed to putting back into the system was described by CEDAW as negligible and nowhere near sufficient to make the bill credible.
The CEDAW commissioners in their findings, reported on 8.3.19, urged the Government to ensure that GRT women are able to access health care, and also stated that there must be a review about the impact of Austerity and Brexit on the women of the UK.
The Domestic Abuse Bill is now in its committee stages and an advisory panel is being established to take further input from interested parties, so everyone with an idea of what services are needed, the funding required, and how the bill can be improved upon have the opportunity, now, to do so.
A link to the draft Domestic Abuse Bill can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-publishes-landmark-domestic-abuse-bill
Further reading from Cris McCurley can be found here: https://www.lag.org.uk/?id=206010
 It also expresses concern that women may be disproportionately affected by the negative economic impact of Brexit and the loss of funding from the European Union for specialized programmes and service for women and girls
The Traveller Movement and Brixton Reel are proud to present a special preview screening on 7th March of a very rare film made about the UK Gypsy and Traveller communities called ‘Never Going To Beat You’. It is on the powerful issue of domestic violence within the community, but this violence is a global phenomenon, with international reports stating it is experienced by between 20 to 50 percent of women in each country around the globe. In each culture the violence may be different but the devastating long-term effect on women’s mental and physical health is similar.
The film ‘Never Going To Beat You’ is based on true life experiences and tells the story of 17 year old Moira La Bas, who is about to sit her ‘A’ Levels when she meets Patrick, an older divorcee at a St Patrick’s Day dance. He woos her and wins her over, but Moira’s mother Evie foresees disaster and tries to rally the community to save her daughter. The feature has some gripping performances by new actors and women from the community itself.
The executive producers of the film are The Traveller Movement which is a national charity and campaigning organisation of Travellers and non-Travellers working together to build bridges to bring together the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, service providers and policy makers.
Yvonne MacNamara of The Traveller Movement says:
“An important area of our work is empowering Gypsy, Roma and Traveller women. ‘Never Going To Beat You’ was born from the idea of addressing the difficult issue of domestic abuse by using community theatre as a tool to open up discussion. Fortunately, our paths crossed with the late playwright Jennie Buckman (Giants Theatre), who with the help of eighteen Gypsy and Traveller women wrote the original play on which this film is based”.
Director and Producer: Michael Buckman (Crispy Biscuit Films)
‘Never Going To Beat You’ (15) will be previewed on 7th March, 2.00pm at Cinema Lumiere, Institut Francais, 17 Queensberry Place, London SW7 2DT. Tickets are free but must be pre-booked on Eventbrite https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/never-going-to-beat-you-film-premiere-tickets-93107379679
For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org
By Hannah Swirsky, Campaigns Coordinator for the Centenary Action Group.
In this challenging political climate only 34% of our MPs and 35% of local councillors in England are women.
People who identify as ethnic minority, disabled or LGBT+, especially women within these groups, are less likely to participate in, and be represented at all levels of politics and public life.
The political gender gap means that politics is missing out on the talent of women in all their diversity and that laws and policies governing our lives do not always reflect the needs of the entire population.
This is why Helen Pankhurst, great-granddaughter of suffragette Emmeline, set up the Centenary Action Group (CAG), a coalition of women’s rights organisations, activists and politicians working to improve women’s political participation at all levels of politics.
Why do we need more women in Parliament?
More women in parliament would mean more understanding of the very real issues many women in the country face today. It is no coincidence that women still face issues in the workplace such as pregnancy discrimination, sexual harassment and unequal pay, and are known to be hardest hit by public sector cuts.
Given that 51% of population is female, the question should really be - why aren’t there more women in politics?
Women who participate in politics and public life face both online and offline abuse, which disproportionality affects women with intersecting identities. Online abuse prevents women and girls from accessing relevant information, expressing their opinions and participating in public debates.
The situation is particularly concerning with regards to the Gypsy, Traveller and Roma communities as the widespread online abuse facing Gypsy, Traveller and Roma people often goes unchallenged.
Voices of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Women
CAG’s mission is to eradicate the barriers that prevent a diverse range of women from taking part in the decisions that affect their lives.
In England and Wales, Gypsies and Irish Travellers make up 0.1% of the total population. However, there are no Parliamentarians or Councillors, either male or female, who identify as Gypsy, Roma or Traveller.
Without representation, the needs of the community go unmet and their voices unheard.
Indeed, a report by the Women and Equalities Committee last year concluded that there had been a persistent failure by national and local policy makers to tackle long standing inequalities facing Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities in any sustained way.
Such persistent inequalities have had fatal consequences as studies have found Gypsy and Traveller communities to have a lower life expectancy (over 10% less) than the general population.
According to the National Traveller Women’s Forum:
“gender roles are clearly divided in the Traveller with distinct divisions between experiences, expectations, decision-making authority and the sense of value associated with each sex. In the main, and undoubtedly with exceptions, men are the dominant grouping, with more access to power, control decision-making authority. However, this is a changing dynamic and the increased number of Traveller women in voluntary work, paid employment and education is having a positive effect on the choices and experiences of Traveller women.”
This changing dynamic is highlighted by Traveller Movement, which notes that Gypsy & Traveller women often take on leadership roles and act as spokespersons for their communities. Advocating for educational rights of Traveller children and campaigning on laws related to domestic abuse are two recent examples of this.
As with any community, particularly those that experience marginalisation, it is vital that women are involved in decision-making and their perspectives considered.
At CAG, we want to harness the voices of these women and empower them to get more involved in politics and community activism.
Equal Power – Sign Up Now
Equal Power is a ground-breaking campaign to transform women’s representation, and get more women elected as MPs and councillors across England, as well as leading change in their local communities.
This three-year project is led by The Fawcett Society in partnership with Centenary Action Group, Citizens UK, Glitch UK, 50:50 Parliament, Muslim Women’s Network and The Parliament Project. Our Equal Power campaign is running in Greater Manchester, London and Birmingham and the West Midlands.
Together, we offer extensive training on standing for election and active citizenship, as well as peer support circles and digital resilience to tackle online abuse. We are also campaigning to tear down the barriers that stop women from standing for election.
Targeted ‘overcoming barriers’ sessions are run by Muslim Women’s Network UK, and will help BAME women, who can face multiple forms of discrimination, stand for election.
You can sign up to free half day workshops in London, Manchester and the West Midlands here.
By Sophie Francis-Cansfield, Campaigns and Public Affairs Officer, Women’s Aid Federation of England
Almost two years after it was included in the Queen’s speech, the Government have published their draft Domestic Abuse Bill. During a parliament where Brexit dominates, it’s great to have a piece of legislation, and accompanying package of non-legislative measures, that has the potential to change the national response to tackling domestic abuse.
There are some key proposals of note in the Bill, such as defining domestic abuse in law for the first time. The Bill includes a guarantee of secure lifetime tenancies for survivors who are forced to flee, will establish a Domestic Abuse Commissioner, and enable certain offences committed by British citizens anywhere in the world to be prosecuted in UK courts.
It’s also clear that the Government have listened to our survivor ambassadors, like Claire Throssell, and Women’s Aid’s Child First campaign and introduced a ban on perpetrators cross-examining their victims in the family courts. For the survivors we work with, this is a huge win.
However we know that as it stands, the Bill fails to offer vital protections and support to all survivors.
In the Bill consultation response it’s stated that concerns have been heard about particularly marginalised groups, including black and minority ethnic (BME) women, LGBT women and disabled women. There are certain measures that hint to this, such as the proposed Domestic Abuse Commissioner being required to have a specific focus on the needs of survivors from minority or marginalised group. However there is no mention of older women or the Gypsy, Roma, Traveller Community, which has been a priority for us and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Domestic Violence and Abuse which Women’s Aid supports.
These small tokens do not indicate that concerns have been heard. We are clear that the draft Domestic Abuse Bill must ensure all survivors have full and equal access to the specialist support they need, have access to a welfare safety net and have the ability to move on with their lives.
And we do have the opportunity to secure this.
The Bill is still in a draft format and will go through ‘pre-legislative scrutiny’ – which just means the Bill will be examined in detail by a joint committee made up of members of both the Commons and Lords. We can ask the committee members to push key areas that the Bill currently lacks, and this will be supported by the evidence that invited charities and organisations will give to the committee. Even once the Bill has been introduced into Parliament, which is likely to be towards the end of 2019, we can work with MPs on tabling amendments to improve the Bill for all survivors.
So the draft Domestic Abuse Bill is a welcome start, but it’s the wider opportunity that the legislation brings and the further chances to shape the final product that gives hope to ensuring that all survivors will be put at the heart.
We’re delighted to announce that we have been awarded £93,134 in funding from Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales to help us make a positive impact on policy and practice in the criminal justice system.
Our project is aiming to
- address the disproportionality of Gypsy and Traveller youth and adults in the criminal justice system;
- lobby for consistent and routine data collection and ethnic monitoring across entire criminal justice system;
- produce high quality research and insights to inform change and best practice and to lobby government for the full implementation of the recommendations made in the Lammy review.
Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales has awarded funding to our charity for up to 3 years and 16 other specialist charities and partnerships as part of its new 2020 Criminal Justice National Programme.
The criminal justice system is currently under extreme pressure, facing staff shortages, dangerous levels of overcrowding, assaults and self-harm at record levels, the part-privatisation of probation having comprehensively failed and high rates of reoffending.
Small specialist charities like ours have had huge success in raising awareness of GRT issues in prison and targeting key players and influencers. Yet, despite this expertise and track record, the Traveller Movement and other specialist charities are still not properly involved in how prisons and the probation service are funded and organised. At the start of this new Government and Parliament there is a clear need and chance to make changes to reform and improve the system.
The Foundation’s programme is supporting the specialist voluntary sector to gather evidence, speak up and use their expertise and understanding to help influence policy and practice across the new probation and wider criminal justice system. Charities funded through the programme are seeking to:
- make the case for better alternatives to prison, by intervening earlier to prevent crime and reduce the number of people going to prison;
- improve how groups disproportionately affected by the criminal justice system are treated, such as BAME prisoners, young people and women;
- Improve how the prison and probation service work, in particular by ensuring that specialist and small charities are properly involved and funded.
Notes to Editor
About Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales
Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales partners with small and local charities who help people overcome complex social issues. In 2019, the Foundation awarded 344 grants to charities worth £21,402,088.04.
Through long-term funding, developmental support and influencing policy and practice, the Foundation helps those charities make life-changing impact. The Foundation is an independent charitable trust funded by the profits of Lloyds Banking Group as part of their commitment to Helping Britain Prosper.
For more information visit www.lloydsbankfoundation.org.uk
About the Traveller Movement
The Traveller Movement (TM) is a London based leading national policy and campaigning charity. We are committed to the fulfilment of human rights for all ethnic Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) communities. The charity comprises GRT people and members of the settled community working together in partnership to address the needs in relation to discrimination, exclusion and marginalisation.
For more information visit https://travellermovement.org.uk/
By Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, CEO of Women's Budget Group
Last year I was asked to attend the Traveller Movement Conference to talk about how economic policies impacts women from the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community.
Whilst preparing my presentation I found that there is a serious lack of data available about Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.
We had a look at the original data sets for the Family Resources Survey to see what data they held on Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people. We found this note:
Sample sizes for 'Gypsy, Traveller or Irish Traveller' are small, so for Northern Ireland, 'Irish Traveller' is included in 'Other ethnic group'. For England, Wales and Scotland Gypsy or Irish Traveller is included in white.
There was no mention of Roma people at all.
And this survey isn’t the only one where there are gaps. The Race Disparity Audit, which gathers all the data government holds about race and ethnicity in one place, includes 130 data sets. Of these, only 27 include classifications for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people and the majority of these (21) were in education.
And this matters, because data is what policy makers listen to.
We know that Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community are economically disadvantaged and face heavy discrimination we don’t need data to tell us this, but data can help us to understand the specific ways that policies impact the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community.
If there are no numbers then the experience of whole groups of people becomes invisible.
At the Women’s Budget Group data is central to the work we do in analysing who gains and who loses from economic policy and what impact this has on equality.
For the last 30 year we have been analysing the impact of UK government economic policy on women and men and making proposals for alternative policies. We are probably best known for our analysis of the budget every year. We also work to persuade governments, both in the UK and internationally to carry out their own analysis of the gender impact of their budgets and other economic policies and are part of an international network of organisations working on what is called gender responsive budgeting.
Last year we launched our Commission on a Gender-Equal Economy. The commission aims to develop a suite of alternative economic policies to promote gender equality in the UK.
Data will play an important role in the Commission in helping to understand how inequalities based on gender intersect with other forms of inequality based on race, disability, income, age and so on.
It will help to highlight how policies impact different groups of women and in what way, particularly poor women, BME women and disabled women face intersecting disadvantages across their life course.
The Commission on a Gender-Equal Economy has spent the last year travelling across the four nations of the UK, hearing from women’s and equalities organisations, and calling for evidence on four areas: paid and unpaid work, social security and taxation, public services, and the enabling environment required for a gender-equal economy. This is helping us to understand how the economic system is broken and how policies are currently interacting with one another in ways that creates further inequality.
WBG’s vision of a gender-equal economy goes beyond measures to tackle specific inequalities, such as increasing the number of women in senior positions in companies, or eliminating the gender pay gap, but instead envisions a fundamentally reshaped economy which achieves a just society that is gender-equal across the board by putting the care and well-being of people and planet at its centre.
This includes looking at the experiences of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community and understanding what policies have impacted them, to what extent and how. Where there is a lack of data, we need to fill the gaps with voices from within the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community as well as from people who are working closely with these communities.
We are keen to hear about alternative policies that you wish the Commission to consider that can help to achieve gender equality.
For more information on the Commission, click here
You can also contact us to find out more about the work of the Commission.
You can also follow the work of the Commission on Twitter #WBGCommission
First, we must resist - then we can remember
By Brigitta Balogh and Colin Clark
We must remember and honour the Roma Holocaust of World War 2 and the memories of those we lost. But in remembering the past, we cannot lose sight of the contemporary racisms and genocide that our communities face today.
Acts of collective and individual commemoration define who we are, our shared humanity, our very souls. This month, we have witnessed a number of events across Europe that sought to bring to public attention the atrocities that occurred on August 2, 1944 at the ‘Gypsy camp’ at Auschwitz-Birkenau. We must remember those who lost their precious lives. Dekh He Na Bister - look and don’t forget – is much more than just a slogan, it is a call to resist as well as remember.
Indeed, Roma Holocaust Memorial Day acts as a powerful and emotive reminder as to what happened on August 2, 1944. On that day, at Auschwitz-Birkenau, between 3,000 and 4,000 Roma and Sinti women, children and men were sent to their deaths in the gas chambers. It was a devastating fate for the families, their only ‘crime’ being who they were, sharing an ethnic identity, labelled by the Nazi regime as “Zigeuner". It was a racialised genocide and the legacy of this lives on.
A repeated phrase earlier this month, whether at institutional and national events or circulated via social media, was “To avoid repeating the horrors of the past, Europe needs to remember the Roma Genocide.” But, the problem is that this is simply not enough. And, worse still, the ‘remembering’ can sometimes be employed as a mask or a distraction to the awful realities of what Roma communities are facing today. That is, if we look back too much we do not see what is right in front of us. The immediate and ‘the here and now’ is also vital to bear witness to, to take action to confront and challenge.
And what do we see in front of us? We hear about the murderous pogroms of Roma in Ukraine by far-right groups. We witness populist Government Ministers in Italy talking about the need for ‘lists’ of Roma families residing in that country. We note France actively deporting Roma back to their country of origins, totally at odds with notions of European Union free movement. We read about the attacks on Roma in Bulgaria and the racism endured by families who simply want to work and live in safety. We hear reports of the constant evictions of roadside sites in the UK and the very real fears of Roma communities dreading the consequences of Brexit. Indeed, the risks of Brexit are many, including derailing the integration processes for Roma already living in the UK. The list is endless.
The overall picture across Europe just now for Roma, Sinti, Gypsy and Traveller communities is precarious, uncertain and life-threatening. It is not an exaggeration to say that the social, economic and political conditions we live under just now are reminiscent of the time prior to the rise of fascism and Nazism in Europe. Why are European Union bodies, and other international organisations, so keen to ‘remember’ the past but also reluctant to initiate action today? Who will the ‘new’ fascists come for first?
To be sure, as guardians of various EU Treaties, the European Commission is responsible for ensuring that community law is correctly applied across member states. But the Commission is somewhat hesitant to use its authority – only threatening France on two occasions with infringement proceedings but no action was ultimately taken. Likewise, infringement proceedings against Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic was taken and it gave us some hope that generations of injustice suffered in enforced segregated education would be broken. However, the years go by and the status quo in education remains. Similarly, Italy has breached EU anti-discrimination and race equality legislation for years, but the European Commission states it has not seen ‘enough’ evidence of discrimination against the Roma in that state to launch legal action. What will it take to provoke action? Another Genocide?
The Roma Holocaust Memorial Day is, importantly, a time for remembrance, reflection and respect. This should never change. It is a highly symbolic day for our collective memories that was fought for and needs to be protected. We cannot forget the past. But we would argue that this powerful day should not be used, co-opted or appropriated by institutions and public bodies that then turn ‘a blind eye’ to what we can all see occurring today, right in front of our very eyes. This hypocrisy cannot be allowed to endure.
Perhaps, alongside the examples and practices of historical remembrance, we should be witnessing high profile calls to action to combat contemporary acts of racism and fascism. This is especially true for institutions such as the Council of Europe and the European Commission who are at the heart of the European project and whose member states, such as those mentioned earlier, routinely flout laws designed to promote citizenship, human rights and freedom of movement. This institutionalised myopia is as disingenuous as it is dangerous. It cannot go unchallenged.
Today, it is evident that the idea of a common ‘Union’, something that binds Europe together in order to meet some of its shared political challenges, has not faced greater challenges since the post-War period. Populist, right-wing forces are actively destabilising notions of solidarity and a common humanity. Their ‘fake news’ agenda and simplistic solutions are gathering support. If it is not Roma who are being targeted as ‘scapegoats’, then it is Muslims. If it is not Muslims, it is migrants and refugees. It is important that when looking back and remembering we do not lose sight of what we can see in front of us. And for organisations charged with fighting for equality and justice, double-standards will not be tolerated when it comes to the present or the past.
In closing, we would argue that across Europe we now see a ‘Roma industry’ dominating proceedings and this is an industry often built on the misfortunes of Roma, Sinti and Traveller communities across Europe. The industry has comfortably nurtured itself on systematic issues or Roma exclusion and discrimination for decades now. The reality is that as communities we still face primary issues in our everyday lives such as access to education, employment, healthcare and housing. These issues of access, take-up and delivery of core social policy issues have been long recognised but there are no practical solutions currently out there to effectively tackle them. We need community-led leadership because we can only empower ourselves as outside interests have already proved beyond much doubt that gadzhe institutions cannot empower us.
Professor Colin Clark currently teaches Sociology and Social Policy at the University of the West of Scotland (UWS). Brigitta Balogh is a Bar Professional Training Course student at City of Law.
Leading Gypsy, Roma and Traveller activists tell a packed Traveller Movement conference the time for change is now!
On Thursday the 21 of November leading Gypsy, Roma and Traveller professionals and activists told a packed Traveller Movement conference that the time for radical change is now. Drawing on the findings of the Women and Equalities committee inquiry, prominent Gypsies, Roma and Travellers called on the government to stand up and provide much needed investment to tackle the chronic inequalities that have plagued their communities for decades.
Taking the recently announced national strategy as a starting point, this year’s Traveller Movement conference asked delegates what they thought should be included in the strategy to tackle inequalities experienced by Gypsies, Roma and Travellers (GRT) in the UK.
Prominent members of the GRT community led the discussions and came up with solutions for the new strategy. Speakers included the founder of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Police Association, Jim Davies; education activist and campaigner, Chelsea McDonagh; the first Roma lawyer to qualify in the UK, Denisa Gannon; and women’s advocate and violence against women expert, Christina Kerrigan. Some of the recommendations included funding for a national education framework; training for frontline workers; tailored mental health support services; and site provision for nomadic Travellers. There was loud applause in response to the suggested scrapping of the Home Office consultation to criminalise unauthorised stopping.
Leading race equality experts also attended the conference and put forward recommendations of their own. The key note address was delivered by Operation Black Vote founder and director, Lord Simon Woolley CBE. As the Traveller Movement conference fell before a general election, it was wonderful to have Lord Woolley speak about the importance of voter registration. Marginalised communities are frequently used by politicians as political footballs. Lord Woolley encouraged community members to use their votes and hold their politicians to account.
Yvonne MacNamara, CEO of the Traveller Movements said: the message from Gypsies, Roma and Travellers is loud and clear: we want change; we want resources; we want support; we want the government to stop criminalising our communities. The time for change is now!
For more information contact Patricia Stapleton at The Traveller Movement on 020 7607 2002 or on email@example.com
Notes for Editors
* The Traveller Movement (TM) is a national community development policy and voice charity who campaign against discrimination, promote inclusion, participation and community engagement for the Irish Traveller and Gypsy communities in Britain. TM is proud to work in partnership with the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities together with service providers and policy makers across the UK to better promote social inclusion and community cohesion.
*Full conference report to be published in early January 2020. Sign up to Traveller Movement newsletter for latest updates https://travellermovement.org.uk/
By Chelsea McDonagh, education policy & campaigns officer with the Traveller Movement
The history of Gypsies and Travellers in this country is one of fractured pieces and half told stories. It’s of a people who have been continuously displaced throughout history, people who have never been allowed to hold the pen and write their own stories. Stories which existed around campfires, and later in trailers and living rooms as television screens glowed and smart phones chimed in the background. Stories that have never made it into the history books.
Each family will have their own stories and heroes, mine was that of Jackdaw Joyce. My nanny’s voice would brim with pride as she told the story of her Father, a world war two veteran who was awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal for his courage in capturing a machine gun post and its crew during the Salerno Beach Landings. He wasn’t the only Traveller to fight in the war, indeed many Gypsies and Travellers fought gallantly and received medals for their bravery. They are people whose names and stories are often never known nor told by those on the outside. Neither are the stories of the men (and women) who worked first as Navvies on the Railways and later building the motorways that ferry people up and down this country.
“History is always written by the winners. When two cultures clash, the loser is obliterated, and the winner writes the history books—books which glorify their own cause and disparage the conquered foe” – Dan Brown
Schools are often seen as the training grounds which not only prepare young people for the world, but teach students about their histories. In teaching them about these stories, we hope that they will not make the same mistakes as the generations that have gone before them, and that they feel pride in their people. We hope that the stories will enlighten a generation. For Gypsy and Traveller students, they never hear the stories of their people within those pages or in those classrooms, and nor do Non Traveller students.
When these stories and histories are never told, Gypsies and Travellers will only exist in the public domain like that of a lost and misunderstood people. Ireland’s introduction of the Traveller Culture and History in Education Bill is a great opportunity to bring together that of a Nation divided. Whilst not being relegated to a single month but being included throughout the curriculum will (hopefully) ensure that meaningful efforts are made, rather than tokenistic gestures.
The British Government should be introducing a similar bill which could go some way in bringing together the fractured pieces and relationships between communities in this country. It will allow Gypsy and Traveller children the opportunity to positively reaffirm their identity and be confident that teachers and schools will actively challenge the negative discourse surrounding them. Our forthcoming research in partnership with ACERT reiterates this need, with Traveller children themselves calling for their history to be included in the curriculum. Not only would this create a greater sense of belonging but it would allow the opportunity for these students to envision themselves as the next generation of soldiers, builders, teachers and doctors. Envision themselves as Gypsy and Traveller people who not only belong in society, but who are accepted.
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Do you want to learn research skills and take part in designing and filming a video about the difficulties London Gypsy, Roma and Traveller young people face in education?
Are you 18 – 25 years old? (Or 15 – 17 in which case you will need an adult escort)
- Take part in 3 training sessions in Holloway and at City Hall, and receive £20 voucher from every session you take part in, plus travel costs
- Learn research skills such as designing a questionnaire and interviewing
- Conduct 3 – 5 interviews, and receive £20 voucher for each completed interview!
- Help to design a video with a professional film company
- Act in a video (voluntary)
This project is funded by the Mayor of London as a part of their Citizen Led Engagement program.
The project will document what are the barriers London’s Gypsy, Roma and Traveller young people have in relation to education. We will teach you the skills you need to produce the project you want.
The first meeting will take place Wednesday 19th June 10.30am – 2.30pm at Traveller Movement offices, 356 Holloway Road, N7 6PA.
If you are interested, please contact Christina by Friday 7th June
Phone: 020 7607 2002 Mobile: 079 08433413
By Christina Kerrigan and Chelsea McDonagh
We both remember when we first learned about the suffragette movement at the age of thirteen and fourteen. We didn’t really get it and in all honesty it’s taken another ten years for us to really understand the significance. Women were imprisoned, went on hunger strike, and one died whilst fighting for the right for middle class women and women who owned property, to vote. Middle class women and women who owned property. This wouldn’t have included many, or indeed any Traveller women.
It was the realisation and understanding that the majority wouldn’t always stand up for the rights of Travellers. The realisation that if we didn’t stand up for ourselves and demand to be heard, that’d we’d continue to be failed by the system and those who uphold it. There’s a wonderful quote by the former Irish President Mary Robinson, which highlighted the role that Women played in her election in 1990:
“I was elected by the women of Ireland, who instead of rocking the cradle, rocked the system” Mary Robinson
This quote draws attention to the role that women have to play in changing the system. The role that Traveller women have to play in changing things. Throughout history women have often been at the forefront of change, not only for their families and communities but for their countries.
Through our work at the Traveller Movement we have gone from having very little knowledge or interest in politics, having internalised the idea that politics wasn’t for people like us, to becoming invested in, and key promoters of #OperationTravellerVote. Growing up neither of us remember our families ever talking about politics, or even voting in elections. The topic seemed so boring because we didn’t understand how it worked or how it affected our community. Since then we have attended numerous events in parliament, and have played leading roles in advocating for educational rights of Traveller children, to making recommendations on the Draft Domestic Abuse Bill, through participation in the ‘Women on the Law in the Making’ campaign.
Community empowerment started much closer to home. It started with reluctant conversations over the dinner table our family members who didn’t see the relevance or point, to Facebook posts and WhatsApp messages. We have spoken to our families and explained the importance of why their vote matters, and how we, as Travellers, have a right to have our voices heard. It’s only been a few months but we’ve had siblings, cousins, aunts and grandparents registering to vote and keenly awaiting their day at the polls.
But these conversations do not and will not end at the polls. It is about empowering Travellers to engage with politics and to develop political literacy – Christina’s mother, who lives in Ireland, shows a keen interest in not only Brexit but in the general affairs of our current government. She sees how the histories of the two countries are intertwined, and how politics affects our lives.
There’s growing change and many Travellers are beginning to see the necessity of voting and having our voices heard. For far too long, like many other working class and BME people, we have found ourselves falling victim to successive government policies which only serve to further marginalise us and push people further into poverty. #OperationTravellerVote is about more than this election, and in many ways it’s about more than a single party. It is a movement. It’s about mobilising Traveller votes and we hope it ends with Travellers taking up their seats in parliament.
Christina Kerrigan is the Community Development & Partnerships officer with the Traveller Movement
Chelsea McDonagh is the Education Policy & Campaigns officer with the Traveller Movement
This article first appeared in Each Other in December 2019
By Tina McInerney, women’s officer at the Traveller Movement
It’s been a busy and exciting time for the Traveller Movement team this month after one of our projects hit new, dizzying heights! It’s also very timely for us to share this exciting news and part of our contribution to the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, which is an international campaign to challenge violence against women and girls. The campaign runs every year from 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day.
TM have a long-standing partnership agreement with Solace Women’s Aid, a leading domestic abuse charity based in London. As part of that project we decided to do something different to capacity build and raise awareness about domestic violence. We decided to write a play and run a drama project. The play was co-written and produced by ourselves at the Traveller Movement involving eighteen women and the wonderful Jennie Buckman, director of the Giant’s Theatre Company.
The storyline is about a woman called Moira, who fell in love with and married a man who turned out to be a violent, domestic abuser. The play documents her life from when she met him: from the good, to the bad, to the ugly. It threads together aspects of all the women’s lives or experiences of loved ones and friends. Some of the women supported by two professional actors performed the play to a packed house twice at the Blue Elephant Theatre London 2016. The reviews were fantastic and it generated a lot of interest.
“An important, poignant piece of theatre. It brought me to tears. This script telling stories from the community, is incredibly powerful.”
Domestic abuse happens in all communities, and like in many communities, domestic violence is a taboo topic for many Travellers. At the Traveller Movement, we wanted to bring it to light so that no Gypsy, Roma or Traveller woman felt ashamed if they experienced domestic violence.
The play is particularly close to my heart as it was co-written by myself and other Traveller women. The storyline is made up of real life events that happened to Traveller survivors involved in the project. It was terrifying reliving what happened to me but it made it so easy to act out as I knew what was going to happen next. Living past memories by acting them out was draining and took a toll on all of us involved.
However, the outcomes of it was so positive that it was worth it. One woman who got involved was a long suffering victim of extreme domestic violence and gained the courage to leave her violent husband and divorce him, despite being from a highly traditional Traveller family who would rather that she had stayed with her husband because of the importance of marriage.
Obviously, domestic violence affects women in all walks of life not just Gypsy, Roma and Irish Traveller women, but I felt it was important to bring up this individual experience of it. That way if anyone, anywhere was experiencing something similar, they might see this and get the courage to speak out and get out… Before it’s too late.
I’ve been part of this project from the beginning and as the Traveller Movement’s women’s officer, and an Irish Traveller I am passionate about making a difference in this area. It’s so, so important that people suffering from domestic abuse are aware that they are not alone.
The play back in 2016 was so well received that people were recommending that we do road shows. With the majority of the cast not being professional actors and having other life commitments, this just wasn’t going to happen. But we still had a dream to get the message out. So, we worked hard to secure some seed funding in order to make that dream a reality and turn the play into a film instead.
The shooting of the film has been the most exciting bit so far. We partnered with Jennie Buckman who wrote and directed the film. Jennie is an amazing woman and the director of Giant’s Theatre. She was head of acting at Rada and gave us some inspiring acting lessons beforehand. She has also written for theatre, TV and BBC radio shows. We also partnered with Crispy Biscuit run by the brilliant Michael Buckman, who was very generous with his time and most of the filming crew volunteered their time to help out this important cause. Crispy Biscuit have also worked with huge names in the past – shooting adverts for Nissan, Oral B, Master Card, Disney and Dunlop to name but a few. Both of these organisations are creatively brilliant and we cannot thank them enough for their time, support and skill! They are also very dear friends to the Traveller Movement.
The highlight of filming was that everyone felt like one big happy family and Michael was so supportive, making sure the cast were all ok along the way. I had a few bad flashbacks – I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn’t going to get hurt, but it didn’t stop me shivering and shaking and I think everyone could see this. But with the lovely kindness and support from everyone I sailed through. I honestly couldn’t fault a single person.
During this time of the UN’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, it is important to take time to reflect on all the different ways that women from all walks of life are affected by violence. It’s about getting Her Story out in the open.
The film will be released early next year! Watch this space.
By Chelsea McDonagh, Education Policy & Campaigns officer with the Traveller Movement
“Yes I am being serious. If a child says the teacher is being racist, back the teacher. Whatever the child says, back the teacher. If you don’t, you are letting the child down and allowing them to play you for a fool.”
You wouldn’t be wrong if you thought that sort of commentary was assigned to the history books, especially when the person saying it is the Head teacher of a secondary school. To assume the position that children are innately deceitful, and that teachers are free from biases and will always do the right thing, is inherently flawed. There are many cases where teachers have been the perpetrators of racist or discriminatory behaviour and attitudes towards pupils. In the Traveller Movements own research in partnership with the Advisory Council for the Education of Romany and other Travellers (ACERT) it was found that 67% of Gypsy and Traveller students experienced behaviour that can be described as bullying from teachers, and that is often a factor in early school leaving. This is damning, especially when we consider that Head teachers play an integral role in creating the culture and ethos of a school, which then dictates the tone and behaviour of an entire school.
This sort of commentary is in line with the meritocratic discourse which tells us that if we just worked hard enough, if our (Gypsy & Traveller) parents just settled down, and if we deserved it, that we’d be just as successful. As an Irish Traveller female currently reading for a Master’s in Education at King’s College London, and the current Education Policy and Campaigns Officer at Traveller Movement, I’m often told that I must have got where I am because I worked hard and overcame the obstacles that were placed in front of me. But that is only partly true. The ethos and tone set by my secondary school Head teacher (and teachers) meant that I knew issues of bullying or discriminatory commentary based on my ethnicity would be tackled. I was made to feel confident that these issues could be raised and would be dealt with. I was empowered. This empowerment came not only from my teachers, but from my parents. Parents who knew what discriminatory bullying from teachers felt like having experienced it themselves growing up. My parents didn’t stay long in school and their stories are marred by these experiences, experiences that they did not want repeated for us. So they equipped us not only with coping strategies but the confidence to speak up and to speak out.
If schools are to be the training grounds where young people are equipped with the knowledge and skills for their adult life, then we must equip students, especially those from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds to be able to recognise and call out racist and discriminatory behaviour. And to know that their calls will be listened to and acted upon. That they will not be silenced. When these young people are silenced, they group up to become adults who will continue to face issues of racism and structural racism, yet not be equipped with the tools, nor the confidence to tackle it. To not equip students is to do them a disservice and ultimately for schools to fail in their role of preparing young people for adult life. They shouldn’t be preparing students to just deal with it, they should be preparing students to tackle it, and to do so they need to acknowledge that the people and institutions who hold this power, are not always free of individual biases and structural inequalities.
September blog - Gypsy Traveller Training: Are we blaming ourselves for our own position of disadvantage? by Jim Davies
Gypsy Traveller Training: Are we blaming ourselves for our own position of disadvantage?
By Jim Davies
My eye has been caught recently by a number of advertisements offering Gypsy Traveller Training. It has got me thinking about the subject as a whole. It’s a subject I have past experience in, having worked on and delivered many GRT awareness training sessions for the GRT Police Association and like everyone else involved in this area, my motivation came from a desire to make a difference. Bring about a change that would help end the inequality faced by Gypsies and Travellers. But since that time, I have changed my mind and have come to regard GRT Training as a hindrance to real change, a flawed approach and here’s why.
A quick search of google shows a plethora of GRT training courses. Training days, events and even online courses offered by Gypsy Traveller NGO’s and Gypsy Traveller run organisations. All different in their own way but all essentially offering the same thing. An opportunity to learn about Gypsy Traveller culture and history and to be able to identify and overcome obstacles to working with Gypsies and Travellers. To enhance good practice in the delegates own particular field and therefore improve service provision to Gypsies and Travellers.
This all sounds admirable and reasonable doesn’t it?
Few would dispute that as a minority ethnic group, Gypsies and Travellers are pretty much at the bottom of the league tables. Across all indicators used to measure social disadvantage, whether it’s Health, Education, Employment, Prison population, you name it, we finish pretty much bottom in all categories. We suffer enormous inequality across the board. This is well documented. There is no shortage of evidence. So, if this is the case then, what’s wrong with trying to improve the service provision of the Police, the Health Service, Education Authorities and the like?
Clearly, it’s essential that we work to try and address these issues, but the problem is, Gypsy Traveller Training days might be doing exactly the opposite. It’s my belief it helps prolong the inequality we face rather than reduce it.
What do I mean? Well, let’s look at why we suffer such inequality. Is it our own fault? Is there something intrinsically wrong with us or our culture which means we are just not as good as other ethnicities. Of course not! Then the problem must lie with the system itself. With the institutions and with the service providers. And we all know this. We’ve all been on the receiving end of it in one form or another. It’s not even about individual bigotry and prejudice, although this is how it sometimes manifests. The inequality and discrimination we face daily is the result of entrenched institutional and systemic discrimination.
There are many definitions of systemic discrimination but essentially it is policies, organisational practices and patterns of behaviour that have become part of the structure of that organisation and which create a situation of disadvantage for the ethnic group in question. It needn’t be intentional and very often it isn’t, but that’s irrelevant if you are suffering because of it.
To change service provision for the better then, requires institutions to take a long hard look at themselves and to be brutally honest about their own shortcomings in terms of inequality. This is a very hard thing to do. Much systemic racism, by its very nature has been in place for years. Unnoticed, unquestioned, accepted practice. To start to pick an organisation apart and to admit that perhaps for years you’ve been acting in a discriminatory and or racist manner, that you’ve caused suffering and hurt, is a hard thing to do.
As Albert Memmi is quoted as saying in Eduardo Bonilla Silvas book “Racism without Racists “ ……No one or almost no one wishes to see themselves as racist, yet racism persists, real and tenacious”. William Ryan put it more succinctly in his seminal work of the 1970’s “Blaming the Victim” when he said “No one wants to think of himself as a son of a bitch”
Rather than go through the pain of realising you’ve presided over, or been part of an organisation that is and has been responsible for inequality and suffering, much easier if the cause of such suffering was to be found elsewhere, and what better place to look than with the victims themselves. If there were something about these people that made providing a good and equitable service difficult, if they were culturally different to mainstream society in some way that explained their inequality, then something could be done about it without the need to look inwards. Without the hardship, effort - and let’s not forget the expense- it would take to bring about real institutional change.
In his book, Ryan identifies this very issue as a 3-step process to avoiding institutional change.
1 Identify or accept the problem
2 Look closely at those who have the problem and then define these as a special group different from the population in general
3 Allocate the cause of the problem to this difference
“Et Voila”. You can then be seen to be doing something constructive about the issue without having to look too closely in your own backyard. Your social conscience can be soothed without having to change too much about the way you do things.
And hence the problem with Gypsy Traveller Training. It is focused on us, the Gypsy and Traveller. We are saying, “Come and look at us, learn all about us. Identify the obstacles to quality service provision”. The message being sent is a clear one and it is this. “The root cause of the problem lies with the Gypsy and Traveller, not with the service provider.” Essentially, we ourselves are completing Step 2 of Ryan’s “institutional change avoidance strategy”, on behalf of the very institutions we want to change.
Firstly, we’re not that different. Like any group, we like to think of ourselves as unique and certainly we have a unique history and heritage, but so does every other minority ethnic group. That’s what qualifies them to be an ethnic group. We have suffered enormous oppression and discrimination, and continue to do so, but we are far from alone in that respect. And most importantly in terms of this discussion, we are all, just like everyone else on the planet, individual human beings. We each have our own, thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, political views, religious view etc. What is important and right for me isn’t necessarily the same for any other Romani. And this is the way it should be. It is only right and proper.
So, if you accept this is true, what general facts are there, that apply to all Gypsies and Travellers, that we can teach service providers and that will allow them to go away and start treating us fairly. Personally, I can’t think of any. We are not suffering enormous disadvantage because people don’t know enough about our culture or heritage.
The second reason I think GRT training is a flawed approach is this. Institutions and systems protect themselves. This is part of the systemic discrimination. They will automatically try to maintain the status quo and find ways of avoiding change. Even if someone does come away from a GRT course or event enlightened at the structural inequality within their own institution, the chances of them going back to the workplace and bringing about systemic change are close to zero. The very nature of structural systemic discrimination ensures it is deeply entrenched and forms part of the very fabric of the organisation itself. Any individual attempt to change this will be met by fierce resistance. I know this from personal experience. Anyone looking to dismantle systemic racism within their own organisation can expect at best to be ignored or not taken seriously, and at worst to be met with hostility and isolation, which are in effect efforts to remove them from the very system they are trying to change. Can we expect delegates to GRT training courses to put themselves through this? It might happen, but it’s a big ask. My money is on it not happening.
GRT training then, may look like an attractive proposition but is it really? I suggest not. To the service provider, GRT Training allows them to feel like they are doing something constructive. They can demonstrate that they are taking some action to address inequality. Most if not all institutions will have performance indicators of some description in terms of their equality duty. What better way to show you are working towards addressing equality issues and meeting your duty, than showing you’ve made the effort to been trained in “Gypsy Traveller Culture”. And to us, the Gypsy or Traveller, it might at a surface level allows us to think we are doing something positive. To feel we ae making progress. After all, we have a need to feel we are proactive and have some influence over our own destiny. But what is GRT training really achieving?
In my experience, Institutions don’t change voluntarily out of ethical or social conscience. They only change when changing becomes less difficult than not changing. When the current status quo becomes untenable and the only option left is for change. The issue has to be forced. To reach this tipping point requires massive cohesive action on the part of the disadvantaged group. History shows us this. The Civil Rights Movement of the 60’s brought about change through enormous organised community protest, and action. Not by holding Black Cultural Awareness Sessions.
If change is going to happen for Gypsies Roma and Travellers it is vital we all work together. However, all the time institutions have a reason not to change, they won’t. My fear is, Gypsy Traveller Training gives them that reason because essentially it’s saying the problem lies with us, not them. Maybe it’s time to stop giving them that excuse.
Jim Davies is currently TM Equality and Social Justice Manager, is a Romany Gypsy and is a founding member of the Gypsy Roma Traveller Police Association, as well as a retired police officer
Every year, our Annual National Conference, brings together all types of stakeholders in the fight for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller equality. It is the biggest event for the GRT sector.
The annual conference is an opportunity to spark ideas, promote collaboration and drive forward the agenda for justice in regards to Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.
Please read our TM conference report 2018 now!