2015 Grants Competition

Background on the 2015 Grants Competition

In the past several years, the Fundamental Rights Agency of the European Union (FRA) published a number of significant reports and survey results on discrimination toward vulnerable groups in Europe, including women, Roma, Jews and members of the LGBT community. The results of these surveys, deeply important in themselves, can provide an invaluable basis for pursuing concrete action to advance fundamental human rights in Europe.

As Humanity in Action has closely followed the FRA’s important work in recent years, the two organizations have consulted and collaborated a number of times. By organizing the 2015 grant competition, Humanity in Action sought to convert research and survey data into local projects developed by members of the Humanity in Action community. Specifically, Humanity in Action looked for project proposals that address two issues highlighted in the FRA’s reports: discrimination against Roma and Antisemitism.

Humanity in Action sought to activate civic engagement to combat the FRA’s findings on discrimination and prejudice towards Roma and Jews. The goal was to develop a series of innovative responses that work towards solutions, especially among younger generations, to the troubling trends of growing prejudice, intolerance and discrimination identified in the FRA surveys.

This initiative has been generously supported by the German Foundation Remembrance, Responsibility and Future (Stiftung “Erinnerung, Verantwortung und Zukunft”).

Thematic Focus

The 2015 Grants Competition sought to specifically address discrimination against two specific minorities in Europe – Roma and Jews. 

Roma in Europe

In 2012, the FRA published the report “The Situation of Roma in 11 Member States” and released three new reports in 2014 on the Roma minority. The reports focus on education, poverty and employment and gender. Some key excerpts from their findings include:

“Roma people form Europe’s largest ethnic minority and have for centuries constituted an integral part of European society. But despite efforts at national, European and international level to improve the protection of their fundamental rights and advance their social integration, many Roma still face severe poverty, profound social exclusion, barriers to exercising their fundamental rights and discrimination. These problems affect their access to quality education, which, in turn, undermines their employment and income prospects, housing conditions and health status, curbing their overall ability to fully exploit their potential.” (FRA, 2014)

“[...] on average only 12% of the Roma aged 18 to 24 who had been surveyed had completed upper-secondary general or vocational education, compared with over 70% of the majority population living nearby. [...] About 90% of Roma in the survey have an income below the national poverty threshold and only about a third of those surveyed have paid work, which is often precarious and informal. In addition, about 40% of the children live in households struggling with malnutrition or hunger. [...] Across the 11 EU Member States surveyed, the average situation of Roma women in core areas of social life, such as education, employment and health is worse in comparison to that of Roma men. Roma women must often also run a household, sometimes without access to electricity, piped water, washing machine and other facilities that are taken for granted across Europe.” (FRA, 2014)

In the survey report, the FRA looked at the situation in the following 11 EU member states: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Greece, Spain, France, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Slovakia. Similar trends can be found in research and documentation on other countries. The FRA also offers country-focused studies on the situation of Roma for many more countries, such as Denmark, Germany, or the Netherlands.

Jews in Europe

In November 2013, the FRA published two reports: “Discrimination and Hate Crime Against Jews in EU Member States: Experiences and Perceptions of Antisemitism” and “Antisemitism: Summary Overview of the Situation in the European Union 2002–2012." Some key excerpts from the FRA's findings include:

“Antisemitism is a deeply rooted prejudice that has persisted over centuries and whose devastating effects continue to be felt to this day. Jewish people across the EU continue to face insults, discrimination, harassment and even physical violence which, despite concerted efforts by both the EU and its Member States, show no signs of fading into the past.” (FRA, 2014)

“Two thirds of the survey respondents (66 %) consider antisemitism to be a problem across the eight EU Member States surveyed, while on average three quarters of the respondents (76 %) also believe that the situation has become more acute and that antisemitism has increased in the country where they live over the past five years. In the 12 months following the survey, close to half of the respondents (46 %) worry about being verbally insulted or harassed in a public place because they are Jewish, and one third (33 %) worry about being physically attacked in the country where they live because they are Jewish. Furthermore, 66 % of parents or grandparents of school-aged children worry that their children could be subjected to antisemitic verbal insults or harassment at school or en route, and 52 % worry that they would be physically attacked with an antisemitic motive while at school or en route. In the past 12 months, over half of all survey respondents (57 %) heard or saw someone claim that the Holocaust was a myth or that it has been exaggerated.” (FRA, 2014)

In the survey report, the FRA looked at the situation in the following nine EU member states: Belgium, Germany, France, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Romania, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The summary report from 2002-2012 covers many more countries.

Call for Action

Humanity in Action wanted these survey findings to lead to action. Many Humanity in Action Senior Fellows live, study and work in these countries and have first-hand knowledge and experience with their societies.

Moreover, a basic part of Humanity in Action’s educational approach is studying the Second World War and the Holocaust. Humanity in Action also explores national histories of discrimination and resistance, as well as examples of issues affecting different minority groups today.

Humanity in Action therefore believes its Senior Fellows are informed and motivated agents of change who can implement local projects that can address these discrimination issues by:

  • Raising awareness
  • Educating
  • Cooperating with and empowering Roma and Jewish communities
  • Actively working against discriminatory practices towards Roma and Jews among other minority and majority populations

2015 Grant Winners

The following Humanity in Action Senior Fellows received funding in 2015 through the Senior Fellow Grants Competition.

Anton Guhl, Gülay Gün + Team: Antisemitism in a Democratic Society – The “Wave of Smears“ in Hamburg 1959/60

The "Wave of Smears“ in 1959/1960 in the city of Hamburg illustrated how latent Antisemitism can escalate in a democratic society within a few days. This project raises awareness of covert Antisemitism, educates about the history of hateful graffiti in Hamburg and develops teaching materials. The project consists of four major steps: 1) Exploring the incidents in Hamburg through archival research, police records, press photos, interviews with contemporary witnesses etc., 2) Developing substantial educational materials in an appealing design, 3) Presenting the findings and the materials in a panel discussion with experts on Antisemitism as well as with history teachers and historians, 4) Publishing the findings in a scientific journal. Download their teaching materials (in German) here

Sudip Bhandari, Łukasz Niparko: The Anne Frank Project Posznań

The Anne Frank Project Poznań is a summer school of tolerance countering Antisemitism by addressing secondary school students in Poznań. In an intensive educational program young people learn about Jewish history in Poland, particularly the old Jewish Poznań in order to build a presence and future that is free of discrimination and Antisemitism.  

Regina Frentzou, Evanthia Panagiotou: Stumbling Stones for Thessaloniki 

This project seeks to bring the German idea of the Stumbling Stones (“Stolpersteine”), which commemorate the victims of the Holocaust, to Greece. The primary goal is to educate the public through a constant interaction with the stumbling stones and to honor the victims of the Holocaust. The Heinrich Böll Foundation in Thessaloniki is locally supporting the project initiators in fulfilling their goals. The final implementation of the stumbling stones in Thessaloniki took place on October 19, 2016.

Elif Çavuşlu, Beril Eski, Pinar Sayan: Roman Medya - A Training for Roma NGOs

Roman Medya: How to communicate through media: A training for Roma NGOs” is a workshop that was conducted in May 2015 in Istanbul to provide Turkish Roma NGO representatives with the necessary set of skills and knowledge to interact successfully with media representatives and to use media tools for strategic communication. The project partner was The European Roma Rights Center (www.errc.org). The project has recently been honored as the “web project of the week” by Professor Erkan Saka of Bilgi University (http://erkansaka.net/efd-haftanin-web-projesi-roman-medya-romanmedya-sitesi/).

Andrea Bila, Elma Orucevic, Arne Semsrott + Team: Pull the Brake Against Roma Discrimination

pullthebrake.eu is a large-scale awareness campaign fighting Antiziganism in Europe. The campaign deals with on- and offline methods and runs simultaneously in Albania, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Germany, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Slovakia. It is conducted across 17 cities and is available in 13 different languages. The project partner is the civil society organization “Balkans, let’s get up!”. The Open Society Foundation is a partner on the Slovakian side of the project.  

Jarmiła Rybicka, Marysea Zlonkiewicz: Learning Assistance for Warsaw’s Roma Children

This project focused on Polish Roma children attending primary and secondary schools in Warsaw. The project ended in July 2016. Many Roma children were given the chance to improve their knowledge level and learning skills through individual tutoring. The project was an extension of an informal volunteer initiative that had started in 2009. The main goal was to support the education of Roma children by developing a habit of everyday studying and doing homework, as well as assisting them in meeting their school-related responsibilities and fostering their dutifulness and independence while studying. Besides expanding their knowledge base, the aim thereby was to improve their school grades and thus increase their opportunities in the future.

Sahra Josephine Hjorth + Team: ROMA – A Discussion of Diversity and the Treatment of Minorities 

ROMA – A Discussion of Diversity and the Treatment of Minorities is an online course created by CanopyLAB, an organization founded and run by Humanity in Action Senior Fellow Sahra Hjorth. During the 5-week course 64 students from across the European Union learn about the situation of Roma people during and after World War II. The course also teaches about structural racism and contemporary discrimination of Roma people in Europe as well as about the dreams and expectations of Roma youth. The project aims at creating campaigns and social projects to help solving some of the problems Roma people in the European Union face today. The course started on October 18, 2015.

Christina Antonakos-Wallace + Team: with WINGS and ROOTS: The Miman Study Guide 

The aim of the “Miman Study Guide” is to produce discussion guides and video modules to accompany the 90-minute long documentary film “with WINGS and ROOTS”. The material focuses on the story of Miman, who was born in Germany to Roma guest worker parents and is now pursuing social work that focuses on Roma-refugee families. The goal of this project lies in the production of teaching materials that convey complex issues in a comprehensible way and in filling a gap in the existing educational tools against Antiziganism. The materials are prepared for students ranging from the high school to the undergraduate level and are made available on an interactive website.

Supported by

This grant competition was made possible by a generous grant from the Foundation Remembrance, Responsibility and Future.