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 15th 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 for young Roma as an integral part of youth as a whole.

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; but we can build the future through our contribution. Young people are forces of change. To build the future does not mean only to direct expectations to others, but also to take responsibility ourselves.” said Mr. Hasantari. He also stressed that young people today are able tell to the local and central government, that they have the wish and capability to help finding solutions for problems they encounter, with all the complexity that characterizes them.

The Roma community leaders, Ms. Meleqe Rrenja and Mr. Latif Kazanxhiu, emphasized the importance of youth involvement for minority advocacy and integration. This congress is an outcome of several years of integration efforts of the Roma community; efforts also to become actively involved in the Albanian society. The congress was also attended by representatives of the EU delegation in Albania and of the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, which showed high interest in the event and encouraged the youth for their achievements.

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

The congress took place in the frame of the campaign "Thank you Mr. Mayor! Local partnership for 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. 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.

The resolution of the 1st Roma Youth Congress: digital in the ternYpe Annual report 2011