Radio station raises the voices of Hungary’s Roma minority

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Melanie Nagy, left, and Szandi Minzari, hosts of Radio Dikh’s women’s program ‘Zsa Shej’, work together in a radio studio in Budapest, Hungary, on Friday, May 6, 2022. Intellectuals, broadcasters and cultural figures from Hungary’s Roma community have founded a radio station to reframe narratives and raise the voices of their marginalized minority group. (AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky)

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Intellectuals, broadcasters and cultural figures from Hungary’s Roma community are using the airwaves to reframe narratives and raise the voices of the country’s largest minority group.

Radio Dikh, a Romani word meaning “to see”, has been broadcast since January on FM radio in the Hungarian capital, Budapest. Its 11 programs focus on Roma music and culture and the issues facing their community, and aim to reshape how this often disadvantaged minority group is perceived by society at large.

“Roma in general are under-represented in mainstream media…and even if they are, they often don’t show the right image or the image that is true to the Roma community,” said Bettina Pocsai, co-host of a Program. that focuses on social issues.

Radio Dikh, he said, aims to “give the Roma people a voice and make sure that our voice is also present in the media and that it shows an image that we are satisfied with.”

Some estimates suggest that the Roma in Hungary number almost 1 million, or around 10% of the population. Like their counterparts across Europe, many of Hungary’s Roma are often subject to social and economic exclusion and face discrimination, segregation and poverty.

Adding to their marginalization are stereotypes about the role of the Roma in society, where they are often associated with their traditional occupations as musicians, dancers, merchants and artisans dating back centuries.

These expectations have limited opportunities for Roma, especially Roma women, to participate and develop their skills in other fields, said Szandi Minzari, a female radio talk show host.

“We are stereotyped by most because they tend to believe that we are very good at singing, dancing, talking about women’s issues and raising children, and we are. But it is so much more,” Minzari said.

Programming specifically for women runs for two hours every day, and Minzari’s show “Zsa Shej,” which means “Come on, girls” in the Romani language, focuses on current events and global issues such as climate change and others. Social problems.

Many women in traditional Roma families rely heavily on male family members, Minzari said, and including them in conversations about issues of public interest is meant to inspire them to engage with a different world.

“It seems very important to us to talk about heavy topics … because we are much more than talking about nail polish, hairstyles and botox,” he said, adding that he would like listeners to conclude that “the problem is not me “. . I want more from life and these girls are doing it, and I can do the same.

Radio Dikh’s slogan, “About Roma, not just for Roma”, reflects the anchors’ conviction that the station can act as a bridge between Roma and non-Roma Hungarians, and can break narratives that tend to associate their community with poverty and other social problems.

As well as co-hosting her own show, Pocsai in her spare time leads informative tours in Budapest that aim to correct misconceptions about Roma for both Hungarians and foreign tourists. In the city’s 8th district, which has a high concentration of Roma residents, Pocsai gave a presentation to a group of visitors from the United States.

Introducing the more than 600-year history of Roma in Hungary and challenging preconceptions, Pocsai said her goal was to make sure that future generations of Hungarian Roma did not have to go through the challenges she faced as a child.

“I want to change the way Roma are seen in society,” said Pocsai. “I want to make sure that there is enough light on the values ​​that the Roma community provided throughout history to the non-Roma society.”

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