Many members of majority groups in the CEE region hold biases, prejudices and stereotypes that motivate their everyday behaviour towards the members of Roma communities. Stereotypes that are prevalent throughout Europe, such as the idea that the Roma are disproportionately reliant on welfare, or are the exclusive perpetrators of various kinds of crimes, pose significant obstacles to overcoming negative attitudes towards these persons. At the same time, Roma people often come from underprivileged backgrounds, which makes them unable to break out of the vicious circle of biases and stereotypes.
Through the financial and personal support of Roma youth from underprivileged backgrounds, the initiative I Am a Roma Doctor contributes to gradually breaking down the stereotypes. The initiative, run by the organisation ActiveWatch, gives Roma students who want to pursue medicine scholarships in Iasi, Bucharest, Timisoara, Craiova and Cluj. More than 600 Roma students have received academic scholarships so far (2008–2016). In addition to scholarships, the students were assisted by mentors and attended camps advocacy, volunteering activities and medical congresses. The scholars are encouraged to actively assume their Roma identity.
Along with helping Roma youth pursue a higher education, the second aim is to educate the public about the Roma, and this is done through ‘disruptions’ in society, where the Roma break down the stereotypes ascribed to them by the majority. Stereotypes about the Roma people are based on negative stories. It is in the power of honest stories to change the narrative about the Roma and implicitly question the stereotypes that most people automatically assume. Realising this, the positive story of the initiative was publicised through a documentary film in which five young people, fellows of the Roma Health Scholarship Program, became the first doctors in Romania who proudly assumed their Roma ethnicity.
I Am a Roma Doctor is a statement that appears in a society where the belief that Roma people embarrass Romania is often encountered. The effect of this belief, the social rejection, occurs, grows and multiplies. This initiative is successful not only because it inspires Roma children to pursue higher education, but also breaks down widespread stereotypes and false beliefs. Additionally, it is successful due to the professionalism of the films and the wide reach of the project, extending across the country. The project deliverables have been communicated through Facebook, the ActiveWatch website, and YouTube. http://activewatch.ro/ro/antidiscriminare/evenimente-si-activitati/foto-sunt-doctor-rom-expozitie-2016