This profile was prepared when Ivan Vesely was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2006.
The New Idea
For too long, Central European Romani or gypsies, have survived on society’s fringes. Rather than helping them, mainstream media has perpetuated societal prejudice and further alienated these communities. To reverse their marginalization, Ivan is providing various new platforms from which they can be heard. Most notably, he has established a media platform—produced by Roma—that give voice to an array of Roma issues in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and beyond. Beginning with a Romani-led magazine and radio station, the media has several functions: 1) to combat predominantly negative or condescending stereotypes of the Romani minority in Central European society by providing alternative perspectives 2) to bring Romani issues to public attention, and 3) to provide the Romani themselves with models for self-organization, discussion, and problem-solving. The last function is the most important aspect of Ivan’s work and he promotes it with a complementary strategy of Romani community organizing. Ivan founded a network of Romani clubs throughout the Czech Republic, built on the idea of Romani coming together to identify common challenges faced by their communities and ultimately improve their situation. These issues serve as content for Ivan’s magazine and radio, but also as focal points to organize public events that intend to change unjust policy toward the Romani in the Czech Republic, and in the future, across Central Europe.