December 2020 blog - Looking ahead with optimism to 2021!

By Yvonne MacNamara, CEO of the Traveller Movement  

Well, I can hardly believe we’ve finally got to the end of 2020. What a year it’s been! COVID-19 has changed everything, with highs and lows across the board. We've decided for our final Spotlight blog of the year to give a rundown of key events. I hope you enjoy.  

We started the year by meeting some lovely new volunteers at our #GRTsolidarity event. In February we launched some important new research about the educational barriers for young Travellers in London.

In March, to mark International Women's Day, we held the first ever screening of Never Going to Beat you, a film about domestic abuse, made with Irish Traveller women and men and professional actors. We were so proud to see our women's worker, Tina Cooper take the lead role once again. The film is a powerful awareness raising tool, which is now used in our domestic abuse training programme 

When the pandemic hit we went full speed ahead to provide online support to GRT people. The pandemic has shown us not only the depth of vulnerabilities but also just how resilient we can be if we work together and support one another. We also set up Tutors for GRT, a catch-up tutoring project for pupils in partnership with King’s College London.   

In April, we watched in utter dismay the Channel 4 programme Dispatches: The Truth about Traveller Crime and immediately issued a response. The programme received nearly 1,000 complaints about the biased and skewed reporting that led to a spike in online hate crime against Gypsy and Traveller people.  

From the beginning of May we transferred our domestic abuse awareness training for service providers online. Domestic abuse numbers soared during the lockdowns, we knew we had to keep delivering the training so professionals were equipped to help Traveller women. The training is co-delivered by Traveller survivors and has been a great success. 

Later in the summer, emerging data showed the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on people from minority ethnic groups, who already suffer from worse health than the population as a whole. The pandemic has laid bare the stark inequalities that affect Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people along with other minority groups.  

In September and October we met with our GRT advisory board, and our education policy group who provide us with much needed guidance and support with our policy and research.  

In November, we launched our #StopTravellerHate campaign with Stop Funding Hate, which will help fund projects to tackle the rising racism and hate crime against Gypsies, Roma and Travellers. We also held our first ever digital Annual Conference with the keynote address being given by Eileen Flynn, the first Irish Traveller in the Seanad - the conference was a great success!  

Finally Open Doors, a not-for-profit Community Interest Company, will work alongside the Traveller Movement to take forward new education, employment and training programmes. We are delighted to offer online catch-up tutoring for around 80 school children, plus support for up to 30 young people who are not in education, employment and training (NEET) 

We end this turbulent year with the news of a vaccine and look forward with optimism, but we will remember those who have lost their lives to COVID-19 and their families who are in our thoughts and prayers.  

I want to wish a Merry Christmas and a peaceful new year to all our friends, funders, colleagues and supporters. We look forward to seeing you in 2021.