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13706084_10207659877235165_1222840321_nOn 18th July 2016 in the regional library “Ljuben Karavelov” there was a photo exhibition with pictures, taken by the young people who participated in the campaign for prevention of early marriages, undertaken by Equilibrium in the neighbourhoods Selemetya, Traksia and Sredna Kula.

The exhibition under the slogan “That’s me – still a child, and this is my life!” is the final event of the campaign “Life at both sides of the camera lens”. It was run by Equilibrium under the project “Cessation of the marginalization of the Roma people in Kjustendil by creating a new model for the community’s development” of the Know-how Centre for Alternative Care at the New Bulgarian University and funded by the Velux Foundations.

The campaign aims at changing the attitude of parents and young people from the Roma community towards early marriages by applying a socio-experimental approach for stimulating personal development and individual resources.

The EQ project team formed a group of 16 youngsters (13 – 18 years old) and their parents – a total of 27 participants. All of them belong to marginal groups – Kardarashi, ethnic Turks and Millet. Two focus groups with children and parents were held – the showing of educational films and debates on the topic of the risks of early marriages and the consequences from them.

The results and conclusions from the focus groups, shared by the kids and their parents, were very interesting. According to the boys early marriages don’t have any impact on their future lives. They claim that they can freely make choices, take decisions and actions. However, they were embarrassed when they were asked what the position and opinion of their partner was, and what her role was. Here again the traditionally leading role of the man in the family stood out – the dominating attitude and the continuing conservative upbringing of male children. They themselves say that they were brought up this way – no set rules or boundaries, they tend to give in under their parents’ pressure.

The girls’ opinion was radically different: they are not willing to marry young, they realise the consequences, don’t approve of the “buying of brides” and think that the decision for marriage should be taken by them. They want to stand up for their decisions and opinions in front of their parents and their future husbands, to have their own goals which they actively pursue.

The activities continued with the taking of pictures of the participants’ everyday life. As a result they chose the best of their works with a message attached to present at the exhibition. Some of the participants presented their messages in the form of essays.

The aim of the exhibition was to show a different, positive view towards the Roma community, presented by young people, members of the same marginal group. They defined themselves as “white sparrows” and encouraged the guests of the event to write messages of their own on the symbolic paper swallows and stick them to the tree, drawn for this purpose.

Stanimir Stanchev – a deputy governor of Ruse region – congratulated Equilibrium on the initiative and paid special attention to the young participants, advising them to have a meaningful childhood and not to marry too early. He told them to bravely build their future, to continue their education, to believe in themselves and to keep on pursuing their dreams. The deputy governor was the first to leave his message on a paper swallow as a symbol of positive change. He was followed by the other official guest from Ruse Municipality – Mrs. Ina Georgieva.

The photo exhibition will remain in the regional library till September. After that it “starts its journey” around the municipalities of Ruse region to carry its messages to other parents and young people from the communities there.