About the event
This month celebrates the culture, heritage and contribution of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people to the UK. After various Gypsy, Roma and Traveller organisations lobbied the government over several years for an official history month it was passed into law in 2007. The day is intended to raise awareness about the heritage of these groups, the discrimination they face and to foster sense of pride among Gypsies, Roma and Travellers about their history.
Gypsies, Roma and Travellers are the largest ethnic minority community in the European Union with over 12 million people across the EU and some 300,000 in the UK. They are very marginalised groups of people that have suffered, and continue to suffer, extreme levels of prejudice. This is an important time to learn about common misconceptions, the richness of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller cultures and how our society can support them better.
How to approach it
This month is all about introducing students to the real history of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers beyond the shallow stereotypes often come across in the media and in our communities. For example, teach your class about the origins of Roma people. It is thought they travelled in several migrations from Northern India through central Asia and then spread throughout Europe. They have a distinct language related to Old Northern Indian dialects which you could touch on with your class.
You could also learn about Irish Traveller heritage and their migration from Ireland around the time of Oliver Cromwell’s invasion and destruction of traditional Gaelic society. These groups have often developed particular cultures and ways of life distinct from their parent cultures. For example, there is a common emphasis on family values, handicrafts and a strong oral tradition among Gypsies, Roman and Travllers.
It is also important to explore with students the hardships experienced by Gypsies, Roma and Travellers. These groups have often been harassed and exiled by the governments they have come into contact with. For example, Henry the VIII passed a law banning and exiling the Roma with the threat of death sentences if they did not obey. The Roma were also the second largest ethnic group to die during the holocaust with approximately 500,000 killed. Focus on the fact that because of their different way of life, these communities have been cruelly singled out throughout history. Ask students: how can we all make sure traveller communities are valued and supported? How can we create a welcoming environment for all cultures and communities?
Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people are communities that move around a lot through different countries. It is thought that the Roma once came from Northern India a thousand years ago and since then they have travelled across central Asia to Europe and even to America. Traditionally, these groups travel in mobile homes, such as caravans, in close-knit family groups. They often have distinct languages and traditions that they have kept for hundreds of years. Did you know that the word ‘lollipop’ comes from the Roma language? See if you can find another Romani word!