by Greg Sproston, Policy and Campaigns Manager at the Traveller Movement
The conference was well received and the affirming, inspiring, and sometimes challenging discussion couldn’t have happened without fantastic engagement and input from our attendees.
In a departure from the norm we decided this year to hold a thematic conference on Gypsy, Roma & Traveller youth, in recognition of the stark and historic challenges facing young people. A decade of austerity and swinging cuts to vital public services, decades of entrenched discrimination and disproportionately, and a COVID-19 policy response which has exacerbated existing ethnic inequalities have all combined to create what can only be considered a ‘hostile environment’ for young people.
Despite these stark – some would say existential – challenges, the tone of the conference was optimistic and hopeful. It was heartening to see leaders and decision makers from a multitude of organisations not only listen to the perspectives and lived experience of community members; but to actively and seriously consider how the information could be used to drive positive change.
2021 marked the Traveller Movement’s 14th annual conference and, though the conference was once again conducted online, we maintained the same format as previous years – with two main panels in the morning followed by thematic workshop sessions in the afternoon.
Whilst one panel assessed economic inclusion and the other the schools-to-prison pipeline, contributions from speakers and delegates alike drew attention to the fact that the barriers facing young GRT people are complex and interconnected, and cannot be compartmentalized neatly into distinct policy areas, a theme which continued into the workshop discussions.
Throughout the conference, attendees drew valuable comparisons between the position of young GRT people and that of other minority groups in society, and stressed the need for practical solidarity and greater collaboration between discriminated against communities, and the groups that advocate for and with them.
Despite the extremely challenging political situation we are in, the conference has helped the TM team to develop new perspectives, and to identify new areas of work and new opportunities for collaboration and partnerships. We hope you felt the same way, and look forward to working with you in 2022!
A full conference report will be released in early 2022