Romano Cher, supporting traditional Roma craftsmanship

The Romanian Impreuna Agency for Community Development runs several parallel projects. The Romano Cher project is trying to intervene in the recent abandonment of Roma traditional craftsmanship, preserving these cultural skills, suffering from the challenges of failing to compete with modern industrial production. The project is similar to Bagázs in that it works through establishing an interface between the majority population and the Romani, trying to reduce communication barriers and prejudices through its work.

The project was realised through a communication campaign promoting direct contact between the Romani craftsmen and the customers from wider community. the craftsmen were trained in management skills in order to help them adapt their products to the new market. The core of the project is the establishment of a centre where exhibitions can be held and that can serve as a scene for professionalisation. The overall aim of the project is to promote the protection of cultural identity through channelling the products to a changed world’s conditions whilst integrating their makers into broader society. The result, economic self-empowerment though a fragile one balancing traditionalism and modern conditions.

Local action, global conclusion?

Though the two examples do not represent the majority of international action plans, together, they demonstrate that when channelling down significant EU funds, the key to efficiency lies in civic action and support combined with deeply localised knowledge. It is clear that projects like Bagázs are tremendously time and (human) resource consuming. 

The experience of these two projects can and should be translated to other local contexts, just as the Romano Cher project has built up of 30 sub-communities centered around five big cities, each tailoring the general structure to the demands of the local specificities.

There remains two questions though - will there be, or can there be - enough active citizenship to sustain these highly labour-intensive agendas to have serious European-wide impact on Roman integration, or will these need to be isolated examples of hope in otherwise segregated societies? And if they can, how can these small-scale models be efficiently transferred elsewhere and help to bridge the gap between large scale of policy making and the reality of grassroots organisation? The first steps may be to take note of these excellent examples, to support them with political momentum and encourage their proliferation with a new pan-European strategy for fostering Roma integration with European society.




Cover photo: Giusi Barbiani (CC BY-NC 2.0)












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