Roma Girls’ Solidarity

Roma Girls’ Solidarity is a part of the Special Focus support program – it’s an educational program organized by RWF since 2011 in southern Serbia, attended by more than forty Roma girls, aged 14 – 21, from Niš, Jelašnica, Pirot, Vlasotince, Vranje, Bujanovac, Aleksinac, Vladičin Han, Predejan, Grejač, Bela Palanka. It’s intention is to create an open space for active learning, gaining knowledge and skills, using art to express personal experiences, energies, feelings and memories, needs and opinions, as well as questions addressing the immediate surrounding, but also broader public. Through this program, girls are being empowered to step out in public, to raise their usually suppressed voices (suppressed because they are Roma, they are young, they are women, they are poor) and speak out about topics they probably never spoke of before, to make friends, to connect with each other and support each other, as well as to meet various artists and activists.

In 2012, in cooperation with Patricia Ariza, a Columbian theatre director and political activist, the collective performance Pasarela was created, based on individual stories and memories of the girls and expressing the „defense of diversity of bodies, sizes, ages, traditions, choices, voices, visions and ways of thinking of the women“. Actors were program participants and members of artistic-activist group ACT Women from Belgrade. Through stories about violence against women, war rapes, child marriages, the cult of preserving innocence, lesbianship, femicide, life and struggle on the margins, this performance promotes empowering, empathy, breaking the isolation, protest and demand to… „Continue my education“, „Choose the person I love“, „Change the decisions I previously made“, „Be fat“… The performance continued to live through the movie bearing the same name, which trailer can be seen at  > > >

In July 2014, working for a week with Ana Woolf, an artist from Argentina, Vera Ribeiro, an artist from Brasil, and their old friends from ACT Women, the girls exchanged various experiences and took part in the process of rethinking our attitudes toward our bodies and voices and learned how to treat them responsibly. The joint work resulted in the performance “Presence in Life”, played in the Puppet Theatre in Niš and in Roma settlements in Vlasotince and Pirot.

As Ana Woolf put it, “Every day we will find a new door to struggle with, to pass through. New places to pass through, to dance in, to stay in, to step into”. Solidarity (as well as enthusiasm and decisiveness) of Roma girls will keep that door wide open.