First Albanian Roma Youth Congress

"The youth, this force which toppled the Berlin wall in November of 1989, will now break down the wall of discrimination and stereotypes." This was the message that young people expressed during the "First Congress of Roma Youth", organized by “Roma Active Albania” on April 15-th 2011, which attracted more than 200 young people from Tirana, Durres, Korca, Fier, Pogradec, Vlora, etc., as delegates, representing Roma youth in those cities. "We are part of the society of this country; we are that force which will contribute for Albania to join the European family, "said Erion Xhaibra, one youth representative from the city of Durres.

In this congress participated also the Ambassador of the Swiss Confederation, Mrs. Yvana Enzler, who stressed out the importance of education in the integration of young Roma. Ms. Enzler also recalled the measures being taken in various international levels, such the one of Roma Education Fund, regarding the improvement of education of Roma youth, and opportunities that they have related to the access in higher education. Also Ms. Enzler expressed the support and consideration for young Roma as an integral part of youth as a whole, seeking, in the first place, from their selves in strengthening and mobilization, and from the society in terms of their integration.

Mr. Adriatik Hasantari, director of "Roma Active Albania", at the opening of the congress, said that discrimination against the Roma minority, and also of young Roma is present in different shapes. Refusal to enter bars, with the claim of reserved seats, sitting in the desks at the end of a classroom, staying at the corner seat in the bus, treatment as second class citizens, families forced to flee their homes, are phenomena that make youngsters to feel discriminated and excluded. This situation has created a vicious circle that holds back the integration of the Roma community. For this reason this congress has a special importance as the young Roma with the support of other young people, have joined voices in a single force, to break this vicious circle and to bring progress in the Albanian society. "The past cannot change; we can build the future by contributing. Young people are forces of change. To build the future does not mean only to expect from others, but also to ask from ourselves. We all are factors and not just actors of our lives” said Mr. Hasantari. Also he stressed that young people today tell to the local and central government, that they are able to cooperate to find a solution for problems with all the complexity that characterizes them. "This congress is a concrete example that we are ready to engage and provide appropriate input, in order to build a society towards the great European family”, said in his closing speech Mr. Hasantari.

Roma community leaders, Ms. Meleqe Rrenja and Mr. Latif Kazanxhiu, emphasized the importance of youth involvement in the path of integration for minorities, and their role in advancing and concretization, like this congress, of the efforts of Roma community during several years. Efforts spent in the active involvement in the Albanian society.

This activity was also attended by Ms.Andrea Chalupova, representative of EU delegation in Albania. The EU delegation showed high interest on this event and during the non-formal moments encouraged the youth for their achievements.

During the discussions was appreciated the input of Marsela Taho, the secretariat for minorities in the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities. This ministry has attended most of the activities implemented by Roma Active Albania at national level.

The congress aimed the approval of a draft resolution drawn up by young people. This resolution shall be sent to relevant institutions at central and local levels, and addresses the priorities defined by the youngsters about their inclusion in society and in decision-making processes, in order to improve the living conditions of the Roma community as a whole. Also the resolution submits specific requirements related to strengthening youth activism and the strengthening of the Albanian youth in general.

This congress took place in the frame of the campaign, "Thank you Mr. Mayor! –local partnering Roma inclusion", which aims to increase the inclusion of Roma, through local partnerships. This campaign is part of the campaign "Roma-REACT" - make Europe an equal place for Roma, which is initiated by ERGO Network (European Roma Grassroots Organisations Network). The campaign "Thank you Mr. Mayor! –local partnering Roma inclusion" has started in October 2010 and will last until December 2011. It is supported by the European Commission and aims to develop and implement concrete steps to reduce discrimination against the Roma community and creating a social climate more positive toward Roma.

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