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Methodology for participatory research among Roma communities
On the 17 and 18 of February 2014 the Center for the Study of Democracy organised in Sofia a workshop with partners from 7 countries to discuss a methodology for participatory research among Roma communities within the framework of the Countering New Forms of Roma Child Trafficking (CONFRONT) project. The methodology is to guide the project field work, which will seek to explore new forms of child trafficking affecting Roma communities, to build the capacities of the communities to prevent trafficking and to improve assistance mechanisms for child victims.

The workshop participants shared common challenges in their preliminary research phase. Such challenges included lack of ethinically disaggregated data on trafficking. It was also pointed out by most countries that cooperation of authorities on data sharing was at low levels, due to data protection laws and also due to reluctance from the authorities.

Ms. Kamelia Dimitrova, research fellow at the CSD, explained the main principles and the characteristics of participatory research (hereafter: PR). Moreover, her presentation also contrasted PR with the traditional research and identified the fundamental differences. The point was made by Ms. Dimitrova that PR puts the Roma communities in the center of the research making these communities become influential in decision making process. Similarly, the presentation called attention to the expected outcomes of PR, especially the empowerment quality by informing the Community on the issues deeply effecting them therefore informing and mobilising them against risks of trafficking.

The next speaker was Dr. Brenda Oude Breul from the Willem Pompe Institute for Criminology and Criminal Law at the Utrecht University, the Netherlands. She gave a overview on the risks and challenges of the participatory approach in which she highlighted some possible drawbacks that a researcher could face while taking on PR methods. In accordance, she pointed out the problem of community distrust and the vitality of building trust for any visible progress to take place in the research. Likewise, she identified ‘trafficking’ as being a sensitive issue within the Roma Community therefore a hard topic to discuss and learn about. In regards to this, she proposed the usage of indirect questions to learn about the place and the importance of children in Roma families and Communities, eventually leading the researcher to be informed about the issue of trafficking and exploitation of children.

The workshop continued with the presentatiton of Ms. Erika Bodor, Project Coordinator from the European Roma Rights Centre, France, as she talked about a succcessful PR methodology applied in the Roma communities in France called ‘Women’s Empowerment Project in France’. Firstly, Ms. Bodor talked about the situation in France in which poverty and housing are two biggest problems threatening the quality of life of Roma communities. She pointed out the importance of having specific objectives driving the Participatory Research, and also the added benefits of using both qualitative and quantitative research methods. The presentation especially highlighted the utility gained from having mediators that were themselves from the Roma community. Consequently, she indicated that giving these Romani mediators contracts went hand-in-hand with the empowerment aspect of PR. Like the previous speakers, she underlined the importance of gaining the trust of the community to be the key aspect that makes the research successful.

The next participants to present were Dr. Mila Mancheva and Ms. Kamelia Dimitrova from the CSD. They concentrated on the possible PR methods that can be used in undertaking this research concerning the Roma communities. The presentatiton included methods such as focus groups, community mapping and venn diagrams, with examples on how to make use of these methods. In regards to the presentation of methods, another distinctive method was introduced by Yva Alexandrova from CSD, called “life stories method”. Ms. Alexandrova pointed out that this practice allows for anonymity on sensitive issues therefore could be very helpful in understanding the issue of trafficking and exploitation from different points of view. Following this the first day came to an end after a discussion on the information conveyed by the participants in these presentations.

During the second day, participants discussed practical and theoretical aspects of conducting participatory research among Roma communities. Discussions on how to frame the issue of child begging and how to ensure a culturally sensitive approach to exploring childhood and child rearing in the Roma communities helped achieve a better understanding on how to approach the pending field research. Another important discussion helped identify strategies to contribute to the empowerment of the communities through the field work. The research should be regarded as a two-way knowledge sharing process: communities share information about their ways of life, project partners share information about rights of children/victims and available assistance for families and children at risk. Last but not least, the project coordinator, Ms. Dimitrova, explained that the knowledge generated through the field work will serve to improve the capacities of local child protection authorities and child assistance service providers to prevent child trafficking and to offer more sustainable assistance to victims.

List of the participants of the workshop:

Ms. Kamelia Dimitrova, CSD, Bulgaria
Doc. Dr. Andrey Nonchev, CSD, Bulgaria
Dr. Mila Mancheva, CSD, Bulgaria
Ms. Yva Alexandrova, CSD, Bulgaria
Ms. Svetla Encheva, CSD, Bulgaria
Ms. Maria Karayotova, CSD, Bulgaria
Dr. Brenda Oude Breul, Willem Pompe Institute for Criminology and Criminal Law, the Utrecht University, the Netherlands, Advisory board member
Ms. Erika Bodor, Project Coordinator from the European Roma Rights Centre, France Advisory board member, Advisory board member
Mr. Luigi Bellesi, CENSIS, Italy
Ms. Sara Giannone, CENSIS, Italy
Ms. Lilla Jacobs, CPS-CEU, Hungary
Ms. Zsuzsanna Vidra, CPS-CEU, Hungary
Ms. Dia Anagnostou, ELIAMEP, Greece
Ms. Anna Kandyla, ELIAMEP, Greece
Ms. Tímea Stránská, People in Need, Slovakia
Ms. Romana Medvedova, People in Need, Slovakia
Ms. Ammer Margit, BIM, Austria
Ms. Daniela Tarnovschi, SOROS Foundation, Romania
Mr. Iulian Stoian, SOROS Foundation, Romania

Co-funded by
the European Union.

* This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the CSD, and the European Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
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