The impoverished port city of Cartagena in south Spain is challenged by a great risk of polarization, as the far right party gets immense political power. Our city needs empowered social leaders to defend the values of tolerance, diversity and democracy. As the only feminist Roma women association in Spain, we run a local leadership school for Roma women, where they get training for enhancing their political skills and for building cross-cultural bridges for dialogue, with a grassroots approach.
The project takes place in the neighborhood “Las 600” in Cartagena, Murcia region, south Spain.
Cartagena is located in the Murcia region, which has a risk-of-poverty rate of 28,6, a GDP among the national lower third, and a high Roma population rate. Women are under-represented in the public sphere and have scarce space to engage politically; especially Roma-women, who have historically suffered discrimination and stigma. The region is currently facing a threat of polarization. In the 2019 general elections, the far right party VOX got its national best results in Cartagena, obtaining the first majority with 31% of votes. Since their emergence, racist and anti-Roma discourses have proliferated in the region. In this context, the empowerment of Roma women will be an asset for building bridges and opening spaces for dialogue and diversity, beyond prejudices and political differences.
Roma women have historically been treated as second-class citizens in Spain. They face animosity and institutional discrimination on a daily basis. This affects not only them, but their whole family and community system. The current rise of the extreme right in the local political scenario entails a big challenge that will require strong grassroots leaders. Until now, political participation hasn’t been a real option for Roma women. This is what this project is about: we offer Roma women the possibility to develop leadership skills through non-formal education with a feminist approach, which will empower them to raise their own voice and establish dialogue in cross-cultural cooperation at the local and regional level.
Our feminist local school is conceived to be a platform for generating dialogue and networks in the neighborhood, and we plan to invite the municipality to join us in organizing round tables. We have contacts to other civil society players which we hope will agree to get involved. We also want neighbors and newcomers, who are normally not politically active and may feel excluded, to join. The main idea is that, even though we may have differences with other civil society actors, we certainly have key similarities based on democratic values and the engagement for a respectful living together. We are convinced that only if we succeed in generating a strong common voice, including the vision of Roma women, we will be able to confront the rise of far right fundamentalism in our city.
Our next steps will be: 1. Finding a physical space in “Las 600”; 2. Reaching out to the target group. We have 30 participants on board (aged 15–72), and expect to reach 50; 3. Hiring trainers, a mediator and possibly a babysitter. 4. Talking to municipality, in order to present our idea to collaborate for organizing round tables; 5. Inviting community actors and neighbors to get engaged; 6. Conduct our activities with an inclusive, diverse and tolerant approach. We will define specificities of the program on a participatory basis. It will include lectures on gender based-violence, sexual and reproductive health and participation, as well as “physical” courses like batucada, theater and flamenco dance, by which we address issues of sense of belonging, body language and leadership skills.
We visualize the success of our project as a shift of paradigm. In a region at great risk of polarization, the reinforcement of community leaders with strong networks at the local level and capabilities of creating dialogue beyond prejudices and political differences, will make a key difference. Our feminist leader´s school will encourage civic engagement of Roma women, who will develop their own political voice. By getting leadership skills and learning about historical and structural injustices, they will get empowered to confront situations of injustice at the public and private levels, also transferring this knowledge to their parents and children. As a result of this project, we aim to help building a more tolerant, inclusive and diverse community.
European democracies are facing a big challenge, with the spread of hostile and racist discourses as far right parties get seats in national parliaments. Additionally, the post- pandemic will confront us with unknown circumstances, which political effects are still unpredictable. Europe needs citizens that are aware and empowered to defend the values of democracy and diversity, including people with different ethnical backgrounds. The unique grassroots feminist approach of our project aims Roma women to lead the construction of those necessary dialogue bridges. Roma women all over Europe carry generations of discrimination and segregation with them, and shall be given the chance to assume this role. We are optimistic that our project could successfully be replicable in other regions too.
This idea stems from a need for Roma women to come together to learn about intersectionalities determined by gender, ethnicity and social class, to reflect about their values and diversity, and to put together their own voice, establish inclusive dialogues and fight for their rights. The mission of Calala is to support the feminist movement in Spain. We collaborate with grassroots groups at eye level, so that they can develop their projects and have access to financing. For Calala this idea is important because we believe in the power of the local and we think that women themselves should define the approach of their projects. To us, the feminist leadership school is an outstanding case of women empowerment and bottom-up intervention.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
Personnel costs (trainers, mediator, etc.): 36.000 EUR
Renting space for school: 3.000 EUR
Public relations: 2.500 EUR
Travel and accommodation: 1.000 EUR
Project coordination: 4.000 EUR
Administrative expenses: 3.500 EUR
We would love to hear to what extend you think a project like ours could benefit Roma women communities in your region.