Sunday, January 31, 2010

Minorities in Sweden have a worse health status than the rest of the population

I received this article from Rajan Zed, and it suggests that minorities may be receiving a different quality of health care than the majority. I edited slightly for brevity.

“Most of the national minorities have a worse health status than the population as a whole”, according to a new survey by Swedish National Institute of Public Health, a state agency under Swedish Ministry of Health and Social Affairs.

Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) on January 19th, 2010, said that it was distressing to note minorities’ health status from this survey, which was indicative that minorities in Sweden were treated differently than the rest of the population. It was the moral responsibility of the majority to take care of its minorities, Zed stressed.

This survey points out: “There are clear links between health status among the national minorities and like high unemployment, feelings of alienation, powerlessness and discrimination”. It talks about discrimination against male Jews; high unemployment, feelings of alienation, powerlessness and discrimination in case of Roma; Roma women experiencing lot of stress; high depression among Sami women; worse physical health of Swedish Finns; Tornedalers women felt discriminated against; etc.

Rajan Zed, who is president of Universal Society of Hinduism, urged Sweden to have a strong political will to ensure minority inclusion and integration programs to immediately take off the ground providing them with better health and education avenues, higher economic opportunities, sources of empowerment and participation, etc.

Zed also urged Sweden to urgently improve the plight of its Roma populace, who reportedly lived in apartheid like conditions. Zed asked how Sweden, which prided itself for its human rights record, was tolerating such reportedly widespread prejudice against a segment of its own society. Maltreatment of Roma was a dark stain on the face of Sweden.

According to Swedish Government’s Human Rights Website, “The Roma still occupy a highly vulnerable position in Swedish society and are exposed to discrimination although this is prohibited by law. Generally speaking, many Roma encounter great difficulties in virtually all spheres of society. This applies to education, the labour market, housing and health care and to possibility of participating in the community on the same terms as the majority population.”

Located in Ostersund with Sarah Wamala as Director General, the Swedish National Institute of Public Health works to promote health and prevent ill health and injury, especially for population groups most vulnerable to health risks.

Stockholm News also has a report about the issue. The article goes through the minorities in question and explains what in particular the health problems are. It's worth a read! Check it out here. Not all immigrants/minorities were involved in the study, and this quote from SN explains the missing data:

Around 500 000 people in Sweden identify themselves as belonging to a national minority. The absolutely largest group is the Finnish minority or "the Sweden-finns" as they are called. There are about 450 000 Sweden-finns in Sweden.

This means that there are many immigrants in Sweden who are not included in this study. In 2007, 1.23 million were born abroad. Since today it is at least the same number we can conclude that there are 700 - 750 000 immigrants who are not seen as minorities. The reason is that they are not defined as minorities in the strict sense, but immigrants.

An end to segregation in Czech schools in sight

Good news! I have it from a source in the Czech republic that the Roma segregation issue is being resolved due to the flood of emails protesting the unfair treatment of Roma children in schools. The articles just haven't appeared in English yet.

Here is what my source sent me:
Amnesty International campaigns for equal access to education has attracted the attention of almost 6 thousand visitors More than 2 thousand of emails requesting for Nahal, Li, Francis and millions of other children equal access to education, went to Ministers and Minister of Education of Afghanistan, China and the Czech Republic.

In the near future we will send ministers and Secretary of the eight thousand letters, which, thanks to high school students have signed the inhabitants of thirteen cities CR. The campaign also promoted several major figures, including former President Vaclav Havel.... See more

Major achievement of the campaign is that it responded to the Minister of Education Miroslava Kopicová. Sent to participants in the call letter acknowledged that the chances of education of Roma and non-Romani children are effectively balanced. Presented the results of research, under which the primary schools in so-called practical (former special schools) 27% of all Roma children, while only 2% of non-Roma.

Improve access to education for Roma children, Amnesty International will seek in 2010. In Afghanistan, we will support in particular activist for the rights of Georgia's women in China have posvítíme on working conditions in factories. Learn more at

It is so nice to see that hard work really does pay off! It makes me warm and happy knowing that things are changing. My grandmother is Roma, and she grew up in a war torn Germany. She had to hide her ethnicity in order to save her life. Her horror stories have never left my mind, and they have shaped my life. She taught me to love all people, to be proud of who I am, and to speak up when there is injustice. People spoke up about this issue, and things really happened. The world is made up of many things, but all problems caused by people can be fixed by people too. It's important to remember that.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Roma kids segregated in Czech schools

I'm quite behind on my blogging. In my defence, I've been spending all my time either volunteering at Barnardos, or constructing scholarship essays (which takes a lot of time!!). But this is very, very important. The article, is again, courtesy of Rajan Zed, my ever faithful informant and activist. And as always, I've condensed the article slightly.
Shock at the reported continual and systematic segregation of Roma children in Czech Republic schools, resulting in their receiving inferior quality education.

According to a recently published Amnesty International report titled “Discrimination in education of Roma persists in the Czech Republic”, “Romani children are regularly segregated in schools and classes for pupils with ‘mild mental disabilities’, where they receive an inferior education based on a limited curriculum”.

Statesman and president of Universal Society of Hinduism, Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) January 14th, 2010, said that it was unbelievable that in Europe in 2010 segregation was still continuing. It was simply immoral and unacceptable and European Union should immediately act to end this discriminatory practice and ensure equality in education.

Zed further remarked that Czech Republic should “wholeheartedly” back inclusion of Roma children and work on improving their educational attainments. At least, Roma children should be accorded equal opportunities and avenues of full participation in Czech life.

Talking about Roma children, the Amnesty report also points about “teachers’ prejudice” and “limited expectations”. In some places, Romani children make up more than 80 percent of the classes intended for pupils with ‘mild mental disabilities’. There are also Roma-only schools which often offer a lower quality education.

Zed argued that Roma people in Czech Republic reportedly faced violent attacks, stereotyping, racism, prejudice, growing gap between Roma and other Czechs, fear, beatings, poor quality housing, systemic employment and overall discrimination, persecution, throwing of Molotov cocktails, social exclusion, marginalization; refused service at restaurants, stores, discos, etc.; municipalities/towns failing to support them; and the state being unwilling or unable to offer protection.

Zed stressed that the country of Franz Kafka, Antonin Dvorak, Jaroslav Hasek, Karlovy Vary, and rich cultural heritage should not continue staying apathetic and silent spectator ignoring Roma apartheid.

References to Roma people in Europe, who are believed to have their roots in the Indian subcontinent, reportedly went as far back as ninth century AD. Amnesty International, headquartered in London and launched in 1961, is a global movement of 2.2 million people in more than 150 countries and territories who campaign to end grave abuses of human rights. Claudio Cordone is interim Secretary General.
The full Amnesty report can be found here. At the end of this post there is a link to "Support the Appeal" by sending a pre-worded letter to support the appeal to Minister of Education of the Czech Republic, Her Excellence Miroslava Kopicová, to end the education system's discrimination against Romani children. Please do this! You just have to sign it and send it with love. It's one of those precious things that takes a moment but makes a difference.

I quote a small section of the report:
The placement in practical schools and classes for pupils with "mild mental disabilities" is based on the results of assessments that fail to factor in cultural and linguistic differences of Romani children and may be compounded by the prejudice of staff conducting them.

Amnesty International has called on the Czech authorities to:

* Freeze all placements of children into practical schools and classes for pupils with "mild mental disabilities" for the school year 2010/11, pending a review of the need for such a curriculum and schools;
* Enforce in law the desegregation of education and adopt a comprehensive plan with clear yearly targets to eliminate school segregation of Romani children;
* Ensure that additional support is immediately made available for children who need it in order to effectively participate in and develop to their fullest potential within the integrated mainstream elementary school.

It's shocking that race segregation is still an issue. But this will change if enough people care, and make it known that they care.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Cash flow, yoga, apple crisp, and an angry badger

It appears I am not so great at blogging. I've been quiet for large-ish spans of time. It is somewhat unnatural to me to be talking about stuff in a way that anyone can see. But... this is the way of the future, or a kind of socially encouraged big brother, or whatever.

I have been busy though. I need to get to Scotland for school in a recession. It is complicated. I'm very busy applying for scholarships, basically, and so far FAFSA has been breaking my heart. I did however get almost all of my course books for my MLitt in Creative Writing at the University of St. Andrews. I love them! It's so nice to be going to school for something that absolutely enthrals me. I can't wait until September!

Also, since I was 14, I've wanted to become a certified yoga teacher at the Kripalu Yoga Center in Lenox, MA. It is a wonderful yoga school and yoga retreat center. I am convinced that dedicating myself to yoga in this way will be life changing, and I have my heart set on this center in this part of the world. But I realise that this summer is probably the last opportunity I will have to go for quite a few years since I plan on completing a PhD after my MLitt. But, the funds simply are not there. So that leaves a lot of puzzling on my part. I am determined to go, but I'm scrambling for a solution. In the meantime though, I've kicked up my yoga practice in preparation, just in case I can go. My body complains a little, but I still find it so invigorating to enjoy an even longer than usual yoga practice once or twice a day, especially first thing in the morning. It takes discipline, but I find that after I conquer the pull of my warm bed, I'm excited to twist myself in all ways imaginable before breakfast.

And speaking of breakfast, I discovered the yummiest breakfast EVER. I found it on this blog, The Gluten Free Mommy. It's Natalie Naramor's Guten-Free Apple Crisp. I have Celiac's Disease which means that I can't east anything with gluten in it because my body just can't deal with it. A lot of people have it and don't know it because the symptoms are different for everyone and sometimes not obviously connected with food. I had it all my life and have been sick all my life, and only just realised what it was about 8 months ago. The blood tests for it can't be relied on either-- often times someone with Celiac's disease will test negative, even multiple times. So if you suspect you have it, the best thing to do is cut out gluten for 6 months and see if you feel better. If you're not so sure, eat one thing containing gluten and see what happens. Something like 75% of the population are suspected to have gluten intolerance. Wild stuff! But anyway, about the apple crisp, I tried it with the cream cheese layer, except I used extra light cream cheese, and it was DIVINE!

I suppose there is a lot to talk about though that has nothing to do with my trundling life. I will be blogging about more serious stuff, hopefully today.

But before I get too serious I should mention a little story that happened to me yesterday. I woke up to bright sunshine and for no reason that I can recall or explain, I said to my husband by way of greeting, "Have you ever seen a badger?"

L replied, "On TV."

"Are there badgers in Ireland?" I asked.

"Yeah," he said. "I guess I've just never seen one."

"Neither have I! I wish I would though. I feel like they might be adorable."

The day continued as usual. I went into Cork city to volunteer at Barnardos, a charity that aides abused children, I picked up some avocados for dinner, I went home on the bus, I made dinner and ate a nice meal with L. Then I noticed that the cat's water dish looked a bit skanky. I brought it outside and flung the skank-water into the garden, at which point I heard an awful screaming. It wasn't the cat, or a dog, or anything else I've ever heard before. I peered into the darkness and saw a very angry badger shaking water out of its eyes and turning tail to hide under the shed.

My first badger.

Photo courtesy of the BBC because the badger I accidentally threw water at was too angry to photograph. Plus it was awful dark.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Roma Inclusion Programs in Europe Appear Ineffective

Despite four years into the “Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005–2015” initiative, Roma people of Europe still reportedly live in apartheid-like conditions.

Rajan Zed, acclaimed Hindu statesman and president of Universal Society of Hinduism; and Rabbi Jonathan B. Freirich, prominent Jewish leader in Nevada and California in USA; in a joint statement in Nevada yesterday, said that almost everybody involved in Roma upliftment programs would agree that Roma continued to face deeply embedded institutional discrimination and social exclusion. Concrete steps were immediately needed to improve their plight, who mostly migrated from Indian subcontinent to Europe starting ninth century AD.

Zed and Rabbi Freirich say that in spite of this much publicized “Inclusion” initiative involving political commitment by governments of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, and Slovakia to improve the socio-economic status and social inclusion of Roma, they unfortunately reportedly continue to suffer from human rights violations and brazen structural discrimination.

Zed and Rabbi Freirich further say that on paper, Roma are fully covered by European Union legislation, which prohibits discrimination on grounds of ethnic origin in employment, social protection and education as well as access to goods and services, including housing. But in reality, Roma reportedly regularly face racism, substandard education, hostility, social exclusion, joblessness, rampant illness, inadequate housing, lower life expectancy, unrest, living on desperate margins, language barriers, stereotypes, mistrust, rights violations, discrimination, marginalization, appalling living conditions, prejudice, human rights abuse, racist slogans on Internet, etc.

Zed and Rabbi Freirich urged Czech Republic, which will reportedly preside over “Roma Decade” initiative starting July one, to deliver effective implementation, firm commitment and strong political will to improve the Roma plight. In the past, policies on paper to tackle Roma discrimination and exclusion had proved very weak to deal with their day-to-day sufferings. It is simply immoral to let this around 15 million population of Europe continually suffer and face human rights violations.

*Information provided by Rajan Zed

I hope that the Cxech Republic does step up to the plate. In this short article here written by ROMEA, ČTK, and translated by Gwendolyn Albert, Gabriela Hrabaňová, director of the Czech Government Office for Roma Community Affairs, told ČTK that the vision is to focus on Romani women and children. However, when asked for details she said "We do not yet have specific plans." However, she expects that by May the project will become more focused.

If you would like to read more about the Decade of Roma Inclusion, you can check out their website: . It's a great website with a lot of information!