It is well known that historically Roma were classified after their professional occupations. We have caldaras, tinkers, bear leaders, rudars, boldeni (horse sellers), singers, ironsmiths, etc. It seems that this list is continuing to expand. Thanks to the Operational Programme for Human Resource Development,1 there are new Roma groups. Somebody told me that an entire community was trained to be hairdressers. Why not? There are hundreds of projects that have trained Roma in many professions. Hence we have Roma groups of cooks, waiters, chambermaids, landscapers, caretakers etc. To some observers it might appear that Roma communities are flooded with projects that aim to train a number of vulnerable people and this in itself has spawned a new industry; the Gypsy industry! Which has proved to be a rather top-down, hierarchical and inefficient industry. This article seeks to provide insights into the growing belief that funds have been poorly used and even wasted. This article draws on my experiences as an activist and community organiser and seeks to map out a development model based on empowerment and social justice.
We are at the end of a period of European Union (EU) funding programmes and at the beginning of a new one regarding Roma inclusion. Some of the assessments regarding the previous programmatic period (2007 – 2014) evidence both achievements and failures of European or national policies. However the most relevant assessment, beyond the language of indicators, outcomes, outputs, objectives, etc., is what we see when we go to Roma communities. There the quality of life for many Roma remains lacking, with limited opportunities to access quality and non-discriminatory education, employment, healthcare and housing.