The main aim of the Roma Leadership Program of the nonprofit organization Slovo 21 is for 16 chosen young Romani people to learn how to become leadership figures and eventually get involved in local or even national politics. Educated Roma who are currently studying or who have already graduated from college have been selected to participate.
Such young people enjoy the best preconditions for success in the public arena. „Without elites, it won’t work,“ says Jelena Silajdžičová, director of Slovo 21.
„There is a need for young, educated Roma to enter politics. They need to show the rest that it’s not so inacessible,“ project manager Martina Horváthová says.
While 28-year-old Martin Bajger, for example, has already been politically active for a longer time and became a town councilor in the North Bohemian town of Trmice last year, his younger colleagues, especially the female ones, will be primarily interested in gaining experience. „They will undergo a comprehensive, year-long political training. They should get an idea of how to apply their leadership skills and have the chance to try it out for themselves,“ Horváthová says.
Some of the young women in the program have already graduated from a different political training last year provided by Slovo 21. Other participants have signed up because they were in contact with the organization during their preparations for college entrance exams.
Slovo 21 has been preparing young Romani people for college free of charge since 2004. „We also have a database of possible candidates from other previous projects, and we have attempted to promote this on Facebook, thanks to which people from elsewhere have also applied. We have chosen a total of 25 entrants,“ Horváthová said.