|The position of woman in a Romany family has been developing. Of course, the development depends on topical situation of Romanies and on the group they belong to. For example the status of Vlach Romany women is different in Romany settlements, in mixed marriages and among Romanies integrated within the majority.
There is Romany saying we have mentioned in the chapter multugenerational family already, which resembles the principles of the position of Romany women: “Father takes care of the spoon to eat from, mother takes care of the food in a pot.” It was quite common for Romany women to practise pick-pocketing. The most skilful ones were very respected among other Romanies!
|In a typical Romany family it always used to be the father who took care of the family usually by doing some classical craft. The position of a woman differed depending on her role in life. Generally, we can say that young girls were brought up to be good mothers, housewives and cooks in the future.
At the same time they also helped their husband with their work in crafts (see the chapter classical crafts). They used to worked with clay, wove on looms (kosienky) or made brooms. They also distributed work of their husbands around the neighbourhood. They either sold it or exchanged it for food for it were the women who had to bear the responsibility to feed their children.
|In times of romipen being fully functional there were norms and ways how Romany woman could amend the behaviour of her husband: through social pressure, singing, etc. (pativ and ladž played a very important role as we will learn in a special chapter). The community understood that they must follow the rules of romipen, if not in the big family then at least within the community.
These norms (and their implementation in everyday life) can hardly be followed today yet.
|Birth, first periods, marriages of young children arranged by their parents, etc. A lot of Romany children among which the oldest girl took over the role of mother. She took care of younger brothers and sisters and prepared herself for a future role of mother.|
|After the spread of Romany people and their integration into the life of the majority socialistic governments in Eastern Europe tried to include Romany women to working process. However, since they did not have any qualification they often ended up as cleaning women, kitchen-maids, etc.|
|On the other hand it is true that this administrative change led to partial emancipation of Romany women. They often became family providers and thanks to their contact with the majority they started to realise the importance of the education of their children. Although there is a long way to go.
Romanies do not find education one of the most important things in their life. For most of them it is one of the least important issues. Their priority is to enjoy life, however, there is not a concrete idea behind it. Still, they believe it is the majority which has to help them.
After 1970 there was an attempt of Romany women to integrate with the majority at schools, healthcare, etc. Unfortunately, most of Roms did not identify themselves with the norms of the majority too much.
|Another breakpoint for Romany families and Romany women in former Czechoslovakia was the Velvet revolution in 1989. Society was based on democratic principles, on the other hand there were drastic consequences for romipen, maybe even worse than during the totalitarianism. Capitalism and new laws in social sphere allowed destruction of all positive achievements Romanies reached in previous years. There were laws which allowed companies to compete on the market. They dismissed employees, especially those which they did not find attractive, i.e. handicapped and Romanies (not mentioning the benevolence towards them in the past and their bad working morals).
New social system did not do them any good. After they lost their employment, they were on unemployment benefits registered with unemployment office. Romanies were not able to re-qualify themselves because they were not qualified at all!
|Romany mothers started to realise that they do not need the father former provider of the family - anymore. Moreover, husbands became a burden. And so just like with the majority there were more and more single (bachelor) mothers with a lot of children and mates, too. Another negative phenomenon was the number of genetically handicapped, exposed children in children homes, prostitution and drugs.|
|One positive aspect was the introduction of Romany people in state offices and schools. They substituted positions which in the past belonged exclusively to non-Romanies (gagios). There were Romany assistants, consultants, etc. Romany women prevail in these positions. Romany men are more active in politics and other positions which are better paid. However, women proved to be good in these assistant positions providing their experience.|
|Romany women have had a long way to go. It was considered something unthinkable in the past to exceed these roles: daughter, wife, mother, i.e. kitchen, children, food providers, etc.
Nowadays Romany women become teachers, assistants, doctors, politicians, journalists, historians, etc. Of course, the percentage of them within the majority is very low. On the other hand their way was much more difficult, wasn’t it?!