Tanja Jovanovic has overcome prejudice and harassment to realise her educational ambitions.
I am a Roma woman from Serbia, and also a feminist. I entered higher education because I wanted to show the world that I have a brain, and can contribute to society.
I am especially interested in making things better for other Roma women who, in my experience, are frequently dismissed as not full citizens, or heavily sexualised. At school, I was treated badly – often by non-Roma boys who sexually harassed and tormented me.
To them, I was just a body, and an easy target as I was seen as living on the margins of civilised society. The Roma community often just wants their women to marry and have children. From an early age, I wanted to change my identity and be different.
The media is full of terrible stereotypes of Roma. They are so often portrayed as living in squalor, as thieves and cheats. There is almost no coverage about all the Roma who live and work quietly – often in professional jobs.
I am lucky, because I have received considerable support. I did my undergraduate course at the Central European University in Budapest, which has a strong commitment to supporting and enabling Roma to enter and achieve in higher education. I then came to the University of Sussex to do my master’s in international education and development. It was at Sussex that I came across the Centre for Higher Education and Equity Research.
To read more: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/blog/higher-education-must-not-exclude-roma-communities