From artists to politicians, learn about the lives of Roma women with Instagram account @romani.herstory

30 June 2021

A story treasure trove, @romani.herstory celebrates the women of Europe’s largest minority group by sharing the achievements and struggles of Roma female artists, writers, playwrights, lawyers, and politicians.

Researcher and journalist Émilie Herbert-Pontonnier, who is of mixed French, Belgian, and Roma background, set up @romani.herstory in March last year while she was doing a research project on Roma feminism. “I’m the first and only one in my extended family to have obtained a PhD,” she told The Calvert Journal, “and I’ve always been interested in the popularisation and dissemination of knowledge.”

Among the historical figures featured is Lily van Angeren-Franz, a German Sinti Holocaust survivor who was one of the key witnesses in the post-war trials of the Nazis thanks to her office work at Auschwitz Birkenau. Other notable women include Soviet-Norwegian Romani singer Raisa “Raya” Bielenberg (born Udovikova), who grew up in an orphanage, rose to world fame by joining the oldest Roma theatre in the world, the Moscow-based Teater Romen, and then became a fierce Roma rights defender after moving to Oslo in 1967.

@romani.herstory also celebrates contemporary Roma women who are making a difference. Some of the women featured are Czech composer and violonist Iva Bittová, Carmen Gheorghe, founder of the first Roma feminist NGO in Romania, E-Romnja, and Simonida and Sandra Selimović, two Serbian Romani actresses, directors, and rappers.

Starting off with the goal of featuring 100 Romani women who inspired her, Herbert-Pontonnier is now at 130 profiles, and says that she still has a long list to go.

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