The FXB Center at Harvard University is leading the Roma Adolescent Agency Initiative, a three-year participatory action research project with Roma and non-Roma youths aged 15 to 25 in Serbia, Romania and Italy. The aim is to address the profound marginalization of the Roma community in Europe by developing and empowering the next generation of Roma youth leaders. This will contribute to an improved understanding of the policies, programs and practices needed to support Roma adolescents as they transition to productive adulthood and claim their rights as equal citizens in Europe.
The Roma are Europe’s largest ethnic minority with an estimated 10 to 12 million members, nearly half of whom are children and youths. Many face extreme discrimination, poverty and exclusion in their everyday lives. Roma adolescents are especially vulnerable as hardship forces many to leave school prematurely and forgo opportunities for education, training and participation in mainstream economic and social life. This lack of skills and education increases their vulnerability to high risk circumstances such as sexual exploitation, petty crime, forced labor, and human trafficking. Targeted support for adolescent interventions is urgently needed to prevent further violations of their human rights—a reality that is only underscored by the escalating climate of anti-Roma hostility across Europe, including attacks, hate speech and discriminatory state measures.
Together with its European partners, the FXB Center is bringing together a group of Roma and non-Roma youth to conduct research and advocacy on Roma rights issues, including educational exclusion, social stigma, economic destitution, and the radical absence of skill development and employment opportunities. The participatory approach we are developing, with teenagers at the forefront of the research, will generate valuable new insights into policy improvements needed to facilitate the school to work transition of Roma youth. This innovative approach will also build a transnational cohort of youth leaders capable of advancing adolescent rights claims relevant to the Roma community in national, regional and international policy circles.