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We are so many things

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#wearesomanythings, racism, prejudice, Roma Gypsies, Irish Travellers, campaign, “All the people involved in devising this campaign agreed that the time was now. Enough is enough.”

A campaign launched earlier this year aims to challenge public perceptions of Gypsies and Travellers by asking why people only ever see their ethnicity, not their worth.

Among the people featured in the poster part of the campaign is Mena Mongan, from Hackney, a mother of three, office receptionist and volunteer.

“I wanted to put my face to this campaign to show people who we really are,” she explained.

“This is our response to the racism we suffer every day.

“In London I am often refused entry into restaurants, pubs, and I am followed regularly around shops by security guards.

“Every day, when my children go to school, I make sure that they are more pristine than all the other kids, because I know they will always be the first to be called ‘dirty’.

“I don’t want this any more and I certainly don’t want it for my children or my grandchildren.

“It has gone on long enough.”

Romani Gypsies and Irish Travellers are recognised as ethnic groups under the Race Relations Act 1976, and they are protected by the Equality Act 2010.

But prejudice and discrimination against them are still rife, affecting their access to services, jobs and accommodation.

And negative media coverage increases their feelings of isolation.

The campaign #wearesomanythings uses posters and social media to demonstrate that the reality of Gypsies and Travellers’ lives is a far cry from the vulgar and caricatured images presented in the news media and television programmes such as My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.

It was developed by London Gypsies and Travellers.

“People from the Gypsy and Traveller community are living lives just like everyone else – working, contributing to society, looking after families, studying, pursuing hobbies, supporting good causes,” Debby Kennett, chief executive of London Gypsies and Travellers, said.

“But once people know that a person is a Gypsy or a Traveller, it’s that one fact that dictates their view.

“And the old stereotypes dominate.

“Many people from the community continuously hide their identity because they know it will affect whether they get a job and how they will be treated.

“Our campaign aims to present that reality in a striking way and make people consider their reactions.”

Clemmie James, London Gypsies and Travellers’s Community Development and Campaigns Officer, devised the #wearesomanythings campaign with members of the Gypsy and Traveller community.

Describing the thoughts that inspired it, she said: “Prejudice is learned, often at a very young age.

“With the campaign, we are asking the public to unlearn the prejudice that appears to be ingrained and accepted in all layers of society.

“The media have often added fuel to the fire and portrayed only negative stereotypes.

“The community I have met are just normal busy people getting on with life.

“They often juggle the many daily tasks required to be part of society.

“They often have a couple of part-time jobs, do the school run, enjoy spending time with their family, have hobbies.

“This side to the community is rarely shown, and yet this is what we all relate to.

“All the people involved in devising this campaign agreed that the time was now. Enough is enough.

“It is not okay for a seven year-old to be called dirty at school just because she is a Gypsy.

“It is not okay for young people to get their CVs rejected because they filled in the race section.

“It is not okay for pubs and restaurants to put signs in their window say ‘Travellers not welcome here’.

“It is not okay for TV companies to mock this community and it certainly not okay for politicians to just let this happen.

“The time is right for the public to learn who this community really is and understand that they are all so many things.”

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