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All citizens, including children, have the right to actively express their opinion and take part in decisions regarding all aspects of their lives. For children this right is stated in Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The EU Roma integration strategy (EU Commission 2011) seeks to tackle the structures and systems which marginalise and exclude Roma communities from social, economic and political integration. Although progress has been made in some countries, Roma children and youth are excluded from effective participation, due not only to their age, but to a major part because of their economic status, social exclusion and ethnic prejudices. In countries across the European Union Roma children are subject to many social disadvantages that reduce their chances to influence processes, decisions and activities that affect them.
We have started by involving Roma young people and professionals working with them in reflecting on current participation opportunities and use this information in training with them and professionals working with them to help create an effective environment for promoting their participation and the capacity of partner organisations to work participatively. Roma young people and their workers will evaluate their own progress within their participatory projects and share their successes and difficulties with their peers and professionals, communities, social settings and policy makers to try to promote participatory cultures and opportunities. Roma young people and community members will lead or co-lead every part of this process.
PEER will enable Roma children aged 12-18 in nine countries to actively engage as co-participants in action research processes. The goal is to explore and develop how they might become more empowered to participate in decisions and actions that shape their lives and bring about positive change at local, regional or national levels. This will be achieved by: 1) Supporting Roma children to develop and deliver training to build capacity; 2) Engaging Roma children as co-inquirers sharing and critically reflecting on learning from existing practice in schools and organisations working with Roma; and 3) Developing follow on action research initiatives. Experienced action researchers and Roma children with participation experience will create initial training materials and deliver training to staff and children through NGOs and schools who have made a commitment to try to increase young Roma participation (WS1 Output). Piloting the effectiveness of this training, young Roma will evaluate existing participation activities or explore further action research activities, to reflect and learn from their personal experience. These activities will involve at least 3 groups of Roma children in each country and will give the participants greater knowledge and understanding about how to help bring about change on issues that are important to them (WS2 Output). The learning from these activities will be integrated into a finalised training manual on peer led action research and reflective inquiry with Roma children (WS2 Output). A report on the activities in each country, plus two deliverables that draw together these findings and outline implications for policy and practice at local, national and possibly European levels will consolidate and disseminate learning (WS2 Output). The development of training materials, exchange of learning and dissemination of outputs and deliverables will be facilitated by literature searching, social networking and information gathering about existing Roma participation activities, and integrated into an on-line information hub and networking site (WS3 Output). Children will share their learning with each other through coordinated quarterly online conferences (WS3 Output). Learning from these will be embedded through renewed action and learning cycles, to involve at least 3 groups of Roma children in each country, a total of at least 270 children in at least 12 meetings over a nine month period. Some children or groups may drop out and others may be recruited during this time so up to an estimated 540 children will be involved in robust peer participation activities (WS4 Output). At least 70% of these will be young Roma, but some groups may be mixed where this promotes inclusion and sustainability. We cannot define detailed actions in advance, as this will be led by Roma children, but in each country action will be taken on at least three matters that concern the children at either local, regional or national level (WS4 Output).
Evaluation of the impact of participation (on participants, practice, policy and structures) will be fully integrated into all stages of the project. To address barriers to effective participation and to train staff, we will provide up to two additional capacity building interventions. This may include training of policy makers (WS2 Output). The consolidation and dissemination of the working papers will be guided by the children involved and our evaluation of effective means of ensuring that Roma children’s voices are heard. The outputs will include: A revised advocacy guide aimed at young Roma; A guide to participatory practice with Roma children aimed at practitioners and policy makers (WS4 Output). These would be available online and would involve video and mobile aps as well as print versions. In addition, the learning will be disseminated through 9 national and one European celebration event (WS0 Outputs). Coordinated ethical reporting will ensure quality and safety in this work.