PERSPECTIVES OF ROMA MOTHERHOOD
in Giurgiu, Mizil, and Valea Seacă
Dajphen is a constructed term deriving from the Romani words daj, which means ‘mother,’ and phen, which means ‘sister.’ The juxtaposition of these two terms defines an entire sorority system created by Roma women to assist, support, and care for each other during the process of becoming mothers.
In Romania, the discussions on maternity and delivery are defined from the perspective of white, educated, middle-class women, which creates a type of representation that defines the idea of being a mother. At the same time, Roma women, poor women, women with different types of disabilities, women with mental health issues, those in rural areas, or coming from other minority groups are excluded from this representation because their image does not fit the desirable portrait of the mother.
On the other hand, Roma women’s motherhood is generally discussed in negative terms, the narrative abundant in stereotypes, prejudices, and references to forced sterilization policies. The same narrative excludes realities faced daily by Roma women: poverty, lack of sexual education, insufficient services or lack of access to maternal and reproductive health services, lack of medical infrastructure, discrimination, and institutional racism.
The photo-voice exposition documents various experiences of Roma women in Giurgiu, Mizil, and Valea Seacă, from the decision to become a mother, delivery itself, access to services, and discrimination from the authorities, to the support networks created between Roma girls and women during the pregnancy period, but also after giving birth.
We believe it is crucial for Roma women to have platforms to define their perspectives regarding motherhood with all the challenges, responsibilities, and contexts specific to each community. Our endeavor reflects all these concerns and also the Roma women’s local mobilization to increase their access to maternal and reproductive health services.
We dedicate this exposition to Roma women and those who regard us with respect, who have open minds and a desire for knowledge beyond stereotypes and biases.