Lynne Engleman (United Kingdom)

Lynne Engleman (United Kingdom Association of Gypsy Women - UKAGW): Lynne is from Cleveland, and with a long stop in Chicago. Lynne’s interest in international issues came from studying in London, England and Heidelberg, Germany and travelling to southern India. She also interned with the Canadian Red Cross (International Humanitarian Law division) and worked as a research assistant at the Faculty of Social Work. At the time of her fellowship, she was pursuing a master’s degree in International Social Work at the University of Calgary in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.


18 Jul

This week has been full of meetings and computer glitches, but mostly computer glitches. So, to spare you the fallout from my I-want-to-smash-the-computer-week, I’ll keep this easy on your “servers.”

One of the meetings I attended was held at the town hall in order to meet the new Head Teacher (i.e. a principal) of a school that many Gypsy children attend.

In attendance were some pretty big players: the Director of Student Services for the city, the Coordinator for Pupil Services, the new Head Teacher and another government official. Also in attendance were UKAGW staff and two board members of UKAGW who also happen to be Gypsy mothers of children who attend the school.

All in all it was a very civil meeting. So much so that I was a little suspect at just how routine it felt: everyone got a chance to speak and they all did—very well. The catch here is that everyone spoke. Therein lies the difference, as I was soon to learn.

As we walked out of the town hall, one of the staff of UKAGW told me that when the two women had joined the UKAGW Board, they were afraid to say much of anything—condition to silence by their past experiences with authority and how that authority did or did not deal with them. (One example of dealing with them is the not uncommon practice of bailiffs making surprise visits in the middle of the night to violently evict families.)

In any event, I could not believe the same women who spoke so eloquently and openly and confidently were the same ones being described to me as once fearful and silent. Again something I take for granted: the right—and subsequent ability—to speak to officials without fear of retribution (although I do suffer from the cop-in-the-rearview-mirror syndrome: guilt by proximity. But, imagine feeling like that all the time whether it be a policeman or the mayor or your child’s teacher at school, etc.)

Perhaps this is not the most obvious victory on paper, but a significant one nonetheless: finding your voice and the confidence to use it. UKAGW can be very proud of how they’ve set examples for these women, women who are already passing on these invaluable traits to others.

So, in closing, I encourage you to SPEAK YOUR MIND (at the least, it may save a computer from an untimely demise).

Posted By Lynne Engleman (United Kingdom)

Posted Jul 18th, 2014

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