Social Justice Begins in Early Childhood
Over the last few weeks, we have witnessed a massive mobilization of the Roma minority in Europe standing against injustice and the devastating outcomes of antigypsyism. Recent events in the Czech Republic sadly show how the discrimination, social exclusion, and violence exercised by police against the Roma minority can lead to tragic circumstances in which human lives are at stake.
Such events should remind us that prejudices, discrimination, and the violent use of power often lead to devastating outcomes. There is no way to justify such actions. We must speak out and shed light on the presence of discrimination and antigypsyism in Europe. When a human life is lost, it is already too late.
Promoting values of democracy such as equality, equity, and inclusion and learning about social justice starts in the very early years of life. At their youngest age, children begin to make meaning of the diversity that exists around them and learn to appreciate it. The International Step by Step Association (ISSA) and the International Child Development Initiatives (ICDI) are calling on all European stakeholders to use the current momentum of outcry to start prioritizing the status of the Roma minority in Europe now, ensuring that the young generations will grow up in safe, just and nurturing societies, where every child will be able to develop to their unique potential in and with dignity. We cannot simply wait for change to happen; we must have responsive and sustainable mechanisms to fight antigypsyism, discrimination, and social exclusion in place.
Nurturing the European values of diversity should be at the heart of our work, no matter the field or the age. Setting an example for our younger generations is crucial. ISSA and ICDI continue to stay committed to promoting inclusive practices that are desperately needed, especially at times when incidences of discrimination are on the rise.
Romani Early Years Network – REYN
Building an inclusive society where diversity is seen as an opportunity for growth and development must start in the earliest years, when children begin forming the foundations for their lifelong development. That’s why, through its initiative, the Romani Early Years Network (REYN), ISSA and partners promote the values of social justice and embrace diversity.
REYN advocates for access to quality early childhood development for Roma and Traveller children, professionalism in early years services, and a better representation of Roma and Travellers in the early childhood workforce. By starting at the beginning of the story, REYN contributes to the creation of societies that stand against antigypsyism, discrimination, and social exclusion
TOY for Inclusion
High quality Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) is an essential foundation for all children’s. Disparities in access to quality education and increasing segregation in schools start at a young age and affects children with a Roma, minority and migrant background the most.
TOY for Inclusion aims to combat segregation, promote inclusion and improve the transition experience of vulnerable children to schools. The project is active in 15 municipalities in 8 EU countries and promotes inter-sectoral work, flexible solutions and contextualized responses to the specific needs of young children and their families. Integration and social cohesion are strengthened by bringing children and families from different backgrounds together, with a particular focus on Roma communities. They are brought together to play, meet and take part in creative and social activities in non-formal high quality inclusive educational spaces (Play Hubs).
This approach builds parenting skills and improves the co-operation between civil society and local agencies that are involved in promoting the well-being and education of young children. The approach also promotes the organization of intergenerational activities between older adults and young children.
Social Inclusion is everyone’s responsibility
These two initiatives are an example of how ISSA and ICDI promote inclusive practices in the lives of children and their families in Europe and around the world. Social inclusion starts in the early years with children and their eagerness to play and learn.
Although children from a very young age recognize differences between people, discrimination is not something they are born with, it’s something they learn. We should all work together towards a more inclusive society. We need to celebrate the importance of inclusion and diversity and teach children about treating everyone with equal respect.