This article and the swim event aim to raise awareness and understanding of racism against Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities (GRT), and to raise funds for organisations advocating for their rights and needs. Event details below and on the sponsorship page, https://www.sponsorme.co.uk/annawright/diversity-swim-for-gypsy-roma-and-traveller-community.aspx, and here, https://www.imogensriverswims.co.uk/blog/support-diversity-swim-for-grt/. All were welcomed to join in or support. (This article can also be downloaded as a Note, Word.doc, 6 pages)
Why raise awareness and funds?
Discrimination against Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities is sometimes seen as the last acceptable prejudice, and even people who consider themselves anti-racist don’t always realise the hurt and harm that can be caused by prejudice and hatred shown to GRT communities.
These communities face a wide range of issues and discrimination – which range from hurtful remarks to material issues affecting all aspects of life. Campaign funds are needed to tackle these deep inequalities in society, improve lives, and provide advice.
This note does not seek to address racism and discrimination across the whole range of ethnic minority communities; many have done so elsewhere. One wide-ranging article for young people, ‘What is racism – and what can be done about it?’ https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/52965984. This local newspaper article in June 2020 asks what we can all do to challenge racism, ‘Black Lives Matter Racism and racial discrimination in Norfolk and Suffolk’, Norwich Evening News, https://www.eveningnews24.co.uk/views/what-we-can-do-to-tackle-racism-and-racial-discrimination-in-norfolk-and-suffolk-1-6691958. I’ve also done a short post about black people and ethnic minorities and the countryside and swimming, linking to some more eloquent writings and studies, https://www.imogensriverswims.co.uk/blog/black-people-swimming-and-other-outdoor-activities/
Who are the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people?
There are estimated to be between 100,000 and 300,000 people in the UK identifying as from the GRT community.
Although most Gypsies and Travellers see travelling as part of their identity, they can choose to live in different ways. These include moving regularly around the country from site to site, living permanently in caravans or mobile homes, living in settled accommodation during winter or school term-time, travelling during the summer months, or living in ‘bricks and mortar’ housing, settled but still retaining a strong commitment to Gypsy/Traveller culture and traditions.
While most speak English in most situations, they often speak to each other in their own language. There is a rich and evolving culture and varied set of values, and although Gypsies, Roma, Showmen and Travellers are often grouped together under the acronym GRT (as in this note to save space) there are differences across these communities. https://travellermovement.org.uk/about/gypsy-roma-traveller-history-and-culture#number
What are the issues?
The Traveller, Gypsy, and Roma communities are widely considered to be among the most socially excluded communities in the UK. Life expectancy is much lower than average, while rates of infant mortality, maternal death and stillbirths are higher. They experience racist sentiment in the media and elsewhere, which would be socially unacceptable if directed at any other minority community. Ofsted consider young Travellers to be one of the groups most at risk of low attainment in education. Government services rarely include Traveller views in the planning and delivery of services. https://travellermovement.org.uk/about/gypsy-roma-traveller-history-and-culture#number
“In a survey carried out by the Traveller Movement in 2016, 98% of respondents declared they had been discriminated against because of their GTR ethnicity. 74% of respondents said they have not looked for help. This was either due to a lack of awareness of procedures, the cost of procedures, or a lack of trust in the police and the recurrence of incidents, which happen sometimes too often to be reported.”
(p.3, ‘Discrimination experienced by Gypsies, Travellers and Roma: results from 2016 survey’, The Traveller Movement (2016), available at: https://travellermovement.org.uk/phocadownload/userupload/reports/discrimination-survey-report-traveller-movement.pdf
GRT communities are experiencing particular issues in the Covid-19/coronavirus pandemic, as Friends, Families and Travellers explained in their submission to the Joint Committee on Human Rights – The Government’s response to COVID-19: human rights implications:
“This submission highlights how the Government response to Covid-19 has failed to ensure the protection of the rights of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers under Article 2 Right to education, Article 8 Respect for private and family life in conjunction with Article 14 Protection from discrimination of the Human Rights Act (HRA) 1998.
Due to existing inequalities in terms of health, education, accommodation and employment, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities are not only at greater risk of contracting Covid-19 and suffering more acute symptoms, many have been plunged further into a state of deprivation as the Government have failed to take action.” https://www.gypsy-traveller.org/policy-publications/?wpv_view_count=5633&wpv_paged=2
Some campaigners and issues
In this article and these videos, campaigners explain the issues that communities have faced, what moved them and how they are campaigning to improve lives and challenge discrimination.
“I was just sick of there being so many low expectations about Travellers, … It really wasn’t a choice for me whether I’d be an activist or not….It was just that I needed to raise my voice about things that were going on that I thought were wrong,” said former teaching assistant Lisa Smith, explaining what led her to campaign for the rights of the UK’s Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) children.
Josie O’Driscoll, co-founder of Report Racism GRT which tracks hate crimes against Gypsy, Roma, Traveller and nomadic communities, and can also log when and where there are spikes in these hate crimes, explains: “We can see where the racism is and we know where the hotspots are.”
Mihai Bica from the Roma community says “I got involved in this campaign [because] I liked the idea of it … I thought it’s a really good opportunity for voices, for people from our community to be heard alongside communities with similar experiences, like the Gypsy and Traveller communities.”
Tyler Hatwell, a showman, founded Traveller Pride, which supports LGBTQ+ Gypsies, Roma and Travellers. “The idea now is that the equivalent awkward 14 year old boy can Google ‘gay Showman’ or ‘gay Gypsy’ or whatever it may be – and something will come up,” he explained. “It’s really about building that sense of community and building resources.”
‘ “It Wasn’t A Choice For Me”: The Gypsy, Roma And Traveller Campaigners Fighting Prejudice’, EachOther https://eachother.org.uk/film-gypsy-roma-traveller-prejudices/
What actions are needed, and who is acting for GRT rights and needs?
National and regional campaigning charities and organisations and projects campaign, research, advocate, provide education across all communities, and give advice on all of these issues. They include:
- Friends, Families and Travellers
- The Traveller Movement
- Travellers Times
- Gate Herts
- APPG for Gypsies Traveller and Roma
- Traveller Pride
A list with links of organisations providing advice: https://www.travellerstimes.org.uk/advice
More detail under Further Reading, below
How can people raise issues of discrimination and report hate speech and actions?
#OperationReportHate is a campaign aimed at raising awareness within the Gypsy, Traveller and Roma communities about hate crimes and the need to report them, run by The Traveller Movement, https://travellermovement.org.uk/campaigns/operation-report-hate. Their website explains:
“How can I report hate crime?
If it is an emergency you can call the Police on 999.
If it is not an emergency and you want to tell the police directly, you can call 101.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council’s True Vision for Gypsies, Roma and Travellers:
“This page will give you information on how to report a hate crime, what happens when you do and some of the support that is available in Gypsies, Roma and Travellers if you have been a victim of hate crime.
On this page we use the term ‘hate crime’ to describe anything that happens to you because someone dislikes who you are.” https://www.report-it.org.uk/gypsy_roma_and_travellers
Gate Herts are working towards the elimination of discrimination in the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community. They have a form for anyone who has been a victim of Hate Crime, including: Verbal Abuse, Online Abuse, Physical Abuse or Racism, to Report GRT Racism. https://reportracismgrt.com/report-racism/
Stop Hate in Norfolk (SHiN), Norfolk Constabulary. “SHIN aims to encourage more people to have the confidence to report incidents of hate either direct to the police or through external organisations that can support people to report that may not wish to go direct to the police.” https://www.norfolk.police.uk/stop-hate
The #Cut It Out campaign is a joint initiative between the Traveller Movement and Rene Cassin aimed at tackling hate speech and inflammatory rhetoric in politics against ethnic minority or religious groups. https://travellermovement.org.uk/news/110-the-traveller-movement-and-rene-cassin-call-for-an-end-to-hate-speech-in-politics
Swimming and the countryside
There are tensions in rural areas, especially at popular places where people swim and enjoy the outdoors. These arise especially in summer when larger numbers visit to walk, swim, picnic and camp. This year numbers were swelled by those unable to go elsewhere or do their usual activities. The large numbers of people and the antisocial behaviour of a minority led to an increase in littering and damage, and concerns about the numbers of people crowding together during the pandemic.
These tensions have often been expressed by crude ‘othering’ (*see Further resources) of those believed to be behaving antisocially – that is using words and displaying attitudes that show prejudices and use negative stereotypes – and these are sometimes directed at the GRT community or about young or working class people or people coming into the countryside from urban areas.
What can I do?
- There are organisations campaigning and aiming to empower people to raise issues, tackle prejudice and give advice.
- If you are not currently very aware of the issues relevant to GRT people outlined in this note, have a read of some of these links and resources and educate yourself.
- If you are part of an organisation or group, consider whether that organisation or group welcomes everyone, or whether it could do more to be aware of and tackle racism – if so raise this within that group. This is an example of an organisation facing up to and working to become an anti-racist organisation: https://eachother.org.uk/becoming-an-anti-racist-organisation-our-pledge-to-eachother/
- All are welcome to support the fundraising activity, by taking part, by sponsoring those who take part or by donating. Sponsorship page,https://www.sponsorme.co.uk/annawright/diversity-swim-for-gypsy-roma-and-traveller-community.aspx, and via here, https://www.imogensriverswims.co.uk/blog/support-diversity-swim-for-grt/.
What is the swim event and how can I join in or support it?
Diversity Swim for Gypsy Roma+Traveller Charities
Norfolk and Suffolk swimmers for diversity- solidarity swim for the GRT community.
We are a group of people brought together by a shared love of open water swimming and a commitment to standing up against racism. We have decided to raise awareness and funds for some organisations run by and working with the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Community.
If you’d like to join in with or support this awareness raising event- please challenge yourself to lucky number swims in November or make a small donation to support those who are doing so.
Milly, a grandmother of one of the fundraisers who describes herself as “Romani and proud”, has kindly agreed to give us some lucky numbers as inspiration for the fundraising swims. They are: 3, 5, 7, 21 and 30
and the funds will be split equally between the charities: https://www.gypsy-traveller.org/our-vision-for-change/support-us/
PLEASE ensure that Swimmers and spectators follow any swim safety precautions and Covid rules in your area at the time of your swim.
Also check out https://www.lgbttravellerpride.com/about, which is not a registered charity so we could not add it to our Sponsorme page; and the Traveller Movement, https://travellermovement.org.uk/advocacy-support/lgbt, which has this page for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people from Gypsy Roma and Traveller communities, with advice and stories, https://travellermovement.org.uk/advocacy-support/lgbt
Event on Facebook, https://fb.me/e/1PJ56uTe0
Where can I find out more? Further resources
General introduction and further reading
Publications: a list https://www.gypsy-traveller.org/policy-publications/?wpv_view_count=5633&wpv_paged=2
Roma and Travellers in six countries (European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights) https://fra.europa.eu/en/publication/2020/roma-travellers-survey#TabPubRespondentsquotes3
Campaigning, advocacy and advice discussion and organisations
Friends, Families and Travellers
“…a national charity that works on behalf of all Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities regardless of ethnicity, culture or background.
In all areas of our work, we support individuals and communities experiencing disadvantage and inequalities, with the issues that matter most to them. At the same time, we work to transform the systems and institutions which cause structural inequalities and disadvantages to exist in the first place.” https://www.gypsy-traveller.org/our-vision-for-change/
The Traveller Movement
“…a national community charity promoting inclusion and community engagement with Gypsies, Roma and Travellers.
The Traveller Movement seeks to empower and support Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities to advocate for the full implementation of their human rights” https://travellermovement.org.uk/about
“…Rural Media’s national Traveller-led project that enables Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people- especially younger community members – to develop and use communication and media skills to challenge discrimination, celebrate their history, culture and achievements, and play an active part in all aspects of contemporary society.” https://www.travellerstimes.org.uk/about
“We are a membership organisation for Gypsy and Traveller people across Hertfordshire. Our aim is to improve quality of life for our communities. We work in partnership to address the issues which affect our accommodation, health, education and employment, and our circumstances within UK society.
GATE Herts is a Community led organisation, we seek to educate both Travelling communities and the wider Population to live side by side in a diverse Society.
Our mission is to build a sustainable organisation that provides leadership both locally and nationally in addressing the disadvantage and discrimination that GRT communities experience. GATE Herts will support and empower GRT communities to bring about this change.” https://gateherts.org.uk/
“The APPG for Gypsies, Travellers and Roma provides a forum for parliamentarians concerned about issues facing Gypsy, Traveller and Roma communities and seeks to address these issues and challenge inequalities.” (All-Party Parliamentary Group) https://www.gypsy-traveller.org/appg/
“We are a UK-Based collective made up of LGBT+ Travellers working to provide support, representation and a platform for LGBT+ Travellers.” https://www.lgbttravellerpride.com/about
The Traveller Movement
has a page for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, with stories and advice, https://travellermovement.org.uk/advocacy-support/lgbt.
Its campaign launch was reported, https://www.travellerstimes.org.uk/news/2017/10/campaign-launched-lgbt-irish-travellers-and-gypsies-who-have-nowhere-turn
Culture and heritage
Romany & Traveller History Society, Travellers Times https://www.travellerstimes.org.uk/advice/romany-traveller-history-society
Friends, Families and Travellers online learning programme to help raise awareness of Gypsy and Traveller lifestyles and to dispel some of the myths and stereotypes that still exist. It targets the key themes and questions arising amongst service providers about Gypsies and Travellers. The course is ideal for members of the statutory, voluntary or private sector wishing to engage or work more effectively with Gypsies and Travellers. https://www.gypsy-traveller.org/online-cultural-competency-training/
Staying safe in the river at Appleby – A Redwings film, Travellers Times https://www.travellerstimes.org.uk/index.php/features/staying-safe-river-appleby-redwings-film
* Definition: “ ‘Othering‘ refers to the process whereby an individual or groups of people attribute negative characteristics to other individuals or groups of people that set them apart as representing that which is opposite to them.” https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007%2F978-1-4614-5583-7_414
It is most often done by those in positions of power and relative privilege, in relation to those with less. Explained further, https://newnarratives.wordpress.com/issue-2-the-other/other-and-othering-2/