The long-awaited first day of my fellowship is here, less than twenty-four hours upon arriving in the Czech Republic. I will admit that, to my embarrassment, I searched for Dženo Association’s office for an hour. Being from Prague, I thought a cursory look at the map prior to leaving for Europe would have sufficed. The trouble was I had mistaken the name of the street, switching it in my mind from Španělská to Štěpánská. Finally, I was able to call information and obtain the correct address.
When searching for the correct street, relying on the kindness of the Czechs got me nowhere, but in the process of asking for directions, I found a small amount of pleasure in turning typical Czech frowns into smiles with my well-practiced disarming ways. Funny thing was that not one of the dozen or so Praguers knew where Španělská steet was. Finally, like a real tourist, I purchased a map and found the building.
Because most of the staff are currently out of the office, I was briefed on Dženo’s current projects and shown around by the chairman’s assistant, Petr. For the rest of the day, I was given time to do independent work until I can meet up with those in charge to outline my work plan.
Quiet time to do a bit of research is something I can always use. There are many issues to read up on. The Canada-based Roma Rights Network provides an informative summary of the issues the Roma in the Czech Republic face. These are: discrimination in housing, education, healthcare and employment. During my fellowship, I am especially interested in highlighting examples of practices which have successfully helped to chip away at some of these barriers.
In addition to reading up on institutional racism against the Czech Roma and on positive developments in combating discriminatory practices, I am reading the blogs of past Advocacy Fellows who have worked with Dženo in previous years. I am also outlining steps for a long-term project which I would like to commit to beyond my fellowship, about which I will write later.
I am here, ready for the work, all eyes, ears and, most importantly, hands.
Posted By Tereza Bottman
Posted Jun 21st, 2010