Unlocking the Potential of Young Roma Children

Roma Week 2023

27 April 2023

14:00 - 16:00 CEST

European Parliament

Each and every child deserves a fair start and equal opportunities in life. However, across Europe Romani children disproportionately face hardship during the early years and beyond. The first six years of a child’s life are critical in determining the rest of their lives. Early Childhood Development (ECD) is therefore crucial in ensuring that Romani children have all the opportunities to unlock their full and unique potential and grow up in good health and wellbeing – to grow and thrive. 

However, there are barriers which make realising this difficult. The size of the problem is difficult to determine because of a lack of (disaggregated) data. Adverse conditions for Romani children and their parents are also persistent, as antigypsyism and poor social determinants lead to hardship in all facets of life; employment, education, health, and housing to name a few. A result is that Romani children are disproportionately placed in separate schools, sent to ‘special needs education’, or simply removed from their parents and placed in institutional care. Poverty and discrimination run through these issues like a red threat, a structural issue. 

During this event, we try to illustrate these issues, by outlining the scale of the problem, providing examples of how this issue might look in daily life for Romani children, and most importantly how this issue can be resolved through policy action. 

Evidence increasingly shows the way we farm and eat has a big impact on the planet, public health, animal welfare and more. Shifting to healthier and more plant-based diets with ‘less and better’ animal products can be beneficial on many counts. During this event, we’ll be launching a new report that dives into these issues and offers real examples of the power of food environments on consumer diets. You will also have the opportunity to hear from experts on how they can be used to influence consumer behaviours and shape our food systems for the better.

Expected Outcomes:

Raising awareness on Romani Early Childhood Development (ECD)

Bring to attention the issue of school segregation and overrepresentation of Romani children in institutional care 

Call to action for European and national policy makers to take action on ECD


14:00 - 14:10 | Welcome and Opening Remarks
14:10 - 14:20 | European Parliament Keynote

Milan Brglez of S&D will set the stage for the discussion, providing his perspective on Romani Early Childhood Development (ECD).


Download the keynote speech
14:20 - 14:40 | Unlocking the potential of young Roma children in Europe: from science to practice

Aljosa Rudas (REYN) will provide an introductory overview of Romani early childhood development based on ECD science and extensive experience of the REYN initiative in the field of early childhood, as well as bring evidence on the status of young Roma children in Europe (focusing on 11 countries) – outlining the rights of young Roma children in Europe to develop and thrive.


Download the country report summary
14:50 - 15:00 | Experiences of antigypsyism and poverty

Tanja Vasić and Reneta Krivozonova (Eurochild) will take turns to illustrate what Romani children may experience because of antigypsyism.  

By describing the scale of the problem of institutionalisation of Roma children, systemic racism and antigypsyism and multiple discrimination are elaborated upon. How could social support help Roma families in need, what are their needs exactly and how could the initiative on Romani children in institutional care support in this? 

15:00 - 15:10 | Comfort Break
15:10 - 15:20 | Call to Action

Building on the previous two presentations, this part of the event looks towards steps that are required to improve Romani Early Childhood Development. It outlines the role of civil society and provides recommendations to policymakers. Central focus points are the power of partnership and the need to break down silos to foster progress. An example of this is the ‘First Years First Priorities’ campaign which provides civil society with an excellent angle of approach. After the event, a statement will be produced to underline what needs to be done.


Download our call to action
15:20 - 15:30 | Commission Input

Based on what was discussed, Géraldine Libreau, Policy Officer for Early Childhood Education and Care, DG Education, Youth, Sport and Culture, European Commission will reflect and provide the Commission perspective. What avenues for action do Commission frameworks provide and does the Commission plan any action on the often-overshadowed issue of Romani children in institutional care?

15:30 - 15:45 | Q&A Session

A chance for audience members to ask questions to the panellists or to make comments.

Prefaced by a presentation of the First Years First Priority campaign by Agata D’Addato (Eurochild) and Francesca Colombo (ISSA).

15:45 - 16:00 | Conclusion

Dragoș Pîslaru will conclude the event with some final thoughts and a call to action.

The event is then closed by Tomas de Jong.

The discussion will be moderated by Tomas De Jong (EPHA).

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The Roma Health Network strives to close the gap in health between Roma and non-Roma by tackling the uneven distribution of environmental and social determinants responsible for physical and mental health and wellbeing.

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