The Association for the Preservation of Gypsy Culture estimates that there are around one million gypsies in Brazil. 300,000 of them are nomads.
The gypsies, who are still viewed by society through the eyes of prejudice, are present at the 1st National Conference to Promote Racial Equality being held in Brasília, Brazil’s capital city.
They are demanding that the government adapt the country’s health and educational systems to guarantee their communities adequate services.
Yaskara Guelpa, who is a representative of the Association for the Preservation of Gypsy Culture, says that government officials are only now beginning to recognize the special characteristics of the gypsy people and showing willingness to discuss government policies.
According to Guelpa, in the health area the gypsies want a greater understanding of the fact that women only accept the gynecological services of female physicians.
Resistance on the part of health posts and hospitals to this cultural precept is causing many women to die of complications when giving birth or to develop diseases that could be prevented.
In the area of education, the big problem is enrolling school-age children. The nomadic groups have a habit of moving their camps every three months. With the delays in the enrollment process, many children are left out of school.
And many of those who manage to enroll suffer discrimination in the classroom, because teachers lack understanding of gypsy habits, Guelpa observes.
“We still face incredible prejudice in hospitals and public schools. Employees grab their wallets when we walk by,” Guelpa protests.
“People still believe in myths like the one that gypsies steal children. This is not true. It was a myth that developed over time, based on the period when many women gave unwanted children to gypsy women to rear.”
ABr – www.radiobras.gov.br