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Marginalisation and the Voices of Gypsy/Traveller Girls

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Geetha Marcus

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 geetha.marcus@ed.ac.uk

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 University of Edinburgh

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0  Abstract

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 Amnesty International has accused the media and Scotland’s 32 local authorities of perpetuating discrimination against Gypsy/Travellers declaring, “despite four inquiries by the Scottish Equal Opportunities Committee over the last 12 years, little or no progress has been made” (AIUK, 2013, p. 1). The Scottish Government’s Race Equality Statement (2009) acknowledges that Gypsy/Travellers are “a particularly discriminated against and marginalised group” (2010a). The ESRC and the Scottish Government have provided funding for a doctoral research project that broadly aims to enhance an understanding of the experiences of Scottish Gypsy/Travellers. Despite an extensive catalogue of legislation, policies, and recommendations, our comprehension of Gypsy/Travellers is underdeveloped. Interpretations of the image and lives of Gypsy/Travellers in Scotland are riddled with misperceptions, myths and assumptions based on stereotypical definitions of difference. The propagation of these images continues to contribute to the orchestration of interventionist policies that till this day seek to “civilise” people into assimilation with the majority settled population. I am in the second year of my doctoral studies, in the process of collecting and analysing fieldwork data. This paper draws attention to preliminary findings from in-depth interviews with Scottish Gypsy/Traveller girls[1] about their educational experiences, because their voices are missing in existing literature. The girls’ accounts are highlighted and juxtaposed alongside the general problems encountered by Gypsy/Travellers in Scotland, and reveal a more complex narrative. Space, race, gender, culture and poverty appear to intersect where barriers continue to exist. Equally, discrepancies in levels of empowerment, public participation, media representations and respect for ethnicity are experienced at these intersections.

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0  Keywords: Gypsy/Traveller girls, Intersectionality, inequalities, power, marginalisation

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 Introduction

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 2 Research by Wilkin et al (2009) indicates that Gypsy/Traveller children are the lowest achieving minority group in the United Kingdom. As other studies attest, the perception that Gypsy/Traveller children are underachieving academically is a major concern (Cemlyn et al, 2009). Existing research in the UK and indeed in Scotland tends to focus on the experience and issues of Gypsy/Traveller families or children (boys and girls).  There is currently no research that focuses on the educational experiences of Gypsy /Traveller girls in Scotland.

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 1 Their educational experiences in terms of their level of attainment and achievement, their attendance in schools, the quality of schooling that they experience and how this relates to their ambitions and aspirations within school and beyond, the external influences that might impact on their experiences at school, have yet to be explored. My thesis aims to improve understanding of the educational experiences of Gypsy/Traveller girls in Scottish schools, dispelling myths and misperceptions about them. The main research question asks how the girls living frame the education they have experienced? I am interested to learn how they perceive the challenges and barriers they have faced and what explanations they offer. What are their life ambitions and aspirations? How do they perceive success? My thesis attempts to explore and critically analyse their experiences, views and perceptions, in the light of the grave problems faced by of the Gypsy/Traveller communities in general.

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 The idea for this paper originated from a presentation at the Kaleidoscope Conference held at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge in June 2014, in which the general issues facing Gypsy/Traveller girls in Scotland were accentuated. I was in the second year of my doctoral studies, conducting fieldwork and only beginning to analyse my initial findings. Even though I have interviewed 12 girls to date, the paper focuses on preliminary themes that have emerged from two in-depth interviews. Skye, aged 15 years and Rona, aged 19, were the first two Traveller girls that I met and their powerful narratives buckle stereotyped ideas of Gypsy/Traveller women. The girls’ views are markedly different from the other ten that I interviewed. They are the only two girls who critically reflect upon and question some of the values and norms within their own community.

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 The first part of this paper presents the reader with essential background information that briefly explains the history of Gypsy/Travellers in Scotland, their multiple identities, and the problems they face. The second part highlights some of the design issues I encountered that are, arguably, peculiar to researching hidden and marginalised communities. As I am still in the process of coding and categorising data, I have not as yet firmly decided on the conceptual framework with which to critically interrogate my findings, although broadly, a critical approach within a postcolonial framework could be argued for. The final section of this paper features the views, perceptions and explanations of the two girls I mentioned above, in response to my research questions. The data gathered from each account revealed a rich and complex intersection of the positive celebration of life, alongside challenging issues and inequalities.

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 1. Background

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 1.1 History

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 1 According to some sources, Gypsies and Travellers have lived in the British Isles since the 15th century (Okely, 1983), but their complex history is not fully understood.  Rehfisch (1975) argues that trying to piece together the puzzle of Gypsy/Traveller identity is almost futile because “their origin is lost in the far past and can hardly be reconstructed”(p.272). Theories linking their origins to Egypt and India abound, but are debated and disputed to this day. Scotland’s Travelling people or “the mist people” are thought to be a nomadic group “formed in Scotland in the period 1500-1800 from intermarriage between local nomadic craftsmen and immigrant Romanies from France and Spain in particular” (Clark, 2001, p. 111). According to one source, they may have existed as far back as the 12th century as records suggest a group known as “tinklers” were identified in the Farandman Laws (Grampian Regional Council Social Strategy Unit, 1994, p. 6). These laws permitted them to “to go about their business” and they were respected as skilled craftsmen and artisans (Clark, 2001, p. 160). Williamson (1994) writes that they could possibly have even existed in the hunter-gatherer Mesolithic period and indeed many Scottish Travellers believe this to be the foundation of their proud ancestry. Kenrick (1998) maintains that today’s Travellers in Scotland are a product of years of inter-marriage between pre-Celtic or Celtic and Romanies.

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 1.2 Identities and Nomenclature

16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 Scottish Travellers refer to themselves as “Nachins” or “Nawkens”, in their native language, Cant. Like English, the language borrows heavily from a variety of sources, but it has strong links to both Romani and Gaelic. Interestingly, the dictionary defines Cant as a language used among thieves and beggars, a kind of non-standard speech.

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 1 The term “Gypsy/Traveller” is the Scottish Government’s (2014) most recent official terminology and is used in some academic literature as the preferred term. Gypsy/Travellers were officially recognised as having a separate ethnic status in Scotland in 2008 (K.MacLennan vs GTEIP, 2008) and granted protection under the Race Relations Act (1976) (The Scottish Government, 2014). The term is capitalised, failure to do so in newspaper reports, and in some government papers have caused upset amongst some in the Travelling community, as they believe it reinforces the lack of recognition of their ethnicity.  The name “Gypsy/Traveller” was created to reflect the variety of communities that live, travel and have intermarried in Scotland over the centuries. Gypsy/Travellers are not a homogenous group, sharing a single socio-economic stratum.  Each community can have their own understanding of their history and identity. For example, Show People comprise cultural and business communities and do not wish to have a separate ethnic status (STEP, 2013).

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 It is important to note that the term is not accepted by all Gypsy/Travellers and is controversial. There are “misunderstandings” (McKinney, 2001) over identity and nomenclature both by the settled community and within the groups in question. Many Gypsy/Travellers prefer to use “Scottish Traveller” or just “Traveller” instead.  Some will not object to being called “Gypsies”, but many consider the term pejorative. The variety of terms used and the changes over time demonstrate that identity, how it is perceived and labeled is not static and impervious. The European Union’s own terminology has also changed over the years, and since 2010, refers to all its nomadic or semi-nomadic peoples as “Roma”, its latest generic term. The Council of Europe (2012) considers Scottish Gypsy/Travellers to be “Roma”, to the disapproval of many Travellers I have met. In the paper, I use the official term Gypsy/Traveller or at times Gypsies and Travellers, where appropriate. However, all of the girls I met, except one, used the term “Traveller” to describe their ethnicity. Out of respect for the girls this study also uses the term “Traveller”.

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 1.3 Young Women or Girls

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 Gypsy/Traveller girls are often considered by their families and communities to be young women when they reach puberty. By 12 years, they tend to leave formal education and are not enrolled in secondary school. In the initial stages of this study, I took advice from an older Traveller woman who has spent many years as a liaison officer and consultant. I asked whether the term young woman or girl would be more appropriate to describe a female who is 12 years or above. She said that the former would be more accurate, but none of the research participants I interviewed thought of themselves as young women. Rona and Skye in particular were adamant and they emphatically replied, “Girls! Girls!” They explained:

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 Skye: Yeah I know you’re meant to finish school when you’re 12.

22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 Rona: A lot of traveller girls when they finish…when they come out of school like usually they come out of primary school –

23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 Skye: That’s them…12… and that’s them grown up apparently! You’re still a child. I think I am a child! We are still children!… I’m quite childish for my age and I’m still a child, leave me alone!

24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 Skye and Rona were implying that they were girls because they are not married, and they are still children. I surmise that the term ‘young woman’ alludes to a female who is married or sexually active, whereas a girl, is still “a child”, and has not as yet crossed that boundary. The research participants in this study are all referred to as “girls” as that is how they self-identify.

25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0 1.4 The Demonised “Other”

26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 The stereotype of the Gypsy/Traveller is a powerful image that has been, consciously or subconsciously, embedded in the minds of the settled community for hundreds of years. Gypsy/Travellers have traditionally been viewed as “rogues, vagabonds and vagrants” (Mayall, 1995, p. 40), and have experienced multiple forms of persecution and marginality (Dawson, 2005). The symbolic public perception reflects a demonized “other”. Gypsy/Travellers are cunning, thieves, and they are wild and dirty. They are accused of not being gainfully employed, their children not going to school, and that their girls only want to marry and have children. Many amongst the majority think Gypsy/Travellers are all poor and that they all live in caravans.

27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 Various means have been used to control them – ranging from the death penalty in the mid-16th century, deportation to the colonies, ethnic cleansing, and removal of children from their parents to be sent to Australia and Canada, to forced assimilation (Dawson, 2005; Fraser, 1995, p. 170; Groome, 1890; MacRitchie, 1894).

28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 It would be incorrect to imply that all Gypsy/Travellers suffered relentless persecution across the centuries in Britain, as they have from time to time lived and worked harmoniously alongside settled populations (Kenrick & Clark, 1999, p. 51). However, sections of Gypsy/Traveller communities, as yet to be defined, continue to encounter grave problems in having their needs and their rights met in a way that does not compromise their ancient traditions and culture. The Scottish Centre for Social Research (Scottish Social Attitudes Survey, 2010) and Amnesty Reports (2012a and 2012b; BBC News, 2012) demonstrate the complexity of the situation that remains largely unchanged. The Scottish Government’s Race Equality Statement (2009) acknowledges that Gypsy/Travellers are “a particularly discriminated against and marginalised group” (2010a).

29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0 According to the charity, Save The Children (2005), 92% of young Gypsy/Travellers in Scotland said that they have been bullied or called names because of their ethnic identity. A doctor’s surgery can still refuse to accept Gypsy/Travellers onto their patients’ list despite there being vacancies. Over 50% of Gypsy/Travellers in Scotland will have spent at least part of their lives without access to running water (MECOPP, 2012). The Scottish Social Attitudes Survey (Scottish Centre for Social Research, 2010) confirms that there are negative and racist views towards Gypsy/Travellers. It is undisputed that the life experiences of some Gypsy/Travellers in all the key areas – accommodation, health, education, and employment – reflect an unacceptable level of gross mistreatment and marginalisation, what Coxhead (2007) describes as the “last bastion of racism.”

30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0 Out of the 12 girls I interviewed, only two, seem to have had different experiences. “Never!  I’ve never experienced any of that” (Rona). They were adamant that they had “never” been bullied and they enjoyed being in school. “Everyone like knows we are Travellers and that we live on a site… nobody cares, there’s been no hassle like” (Skye). They found their teachers supportive and were happy to attend school, “to mix with non-Traveller friends” (Rona). They both felt that this was because of their “attitude” and their family’s support and encouragement to be “open and friendly to others [non-Travellers]” (Skye). Most are “not keen on travellers marrying non-travellers…. That’s like making people more racist… like Travellers say Oh My God! They are so racist towards us… it’s a two-way thing… we are racist towards them” (Skye).

31 Leave a comment on paragraph 31 0 As the girls point out, “the other” can be demonized on all sides. There are misperceptions, fears, prejudices and racist attitudes in settled populations as well as in Travellers. A general reluctance to associate, befriend and even intermarry fuels these rifts and exacerbates misunderstandings. The situation also demonstrates the complexity of power relations between two seemingly opposing sides, and the spaces in which these relations are enacted.

32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 0 1.5 The Paradox of Legislation

33 Leave a comment on paragraph 33 0 These power struggles are particularly reflected in the history, discourse and effects of legislation, which have had a detrimental impact on the lives of Gypsies and Travellers in the UK (O’Nions, 1995). In the last 50 years, Gypsy/Traveller communities have experienced draconian legislation, particularly to do with accommodation and camping sites, which have undermined the communities’ traditionally semi-nomadic way of life, affecting their physical, emotional and mental wellbeing (MECOPP, 2012).

34 Leave a comment on paragraph 34 0 The Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 places a duty on Local authorities to regularly review and update their Local Housing Strategy to meet the accommodation needs of Gypsy/Traveller communities in Scotland. Scottish local authorities currently do not have a legal duty to provide caravan site accommodation for Gypsy/Travellers. However, The Children Act (Scotland) 1995 states that public authorities have a duty to safeguard and promote a child’s welfare and “any intervention by a public authority in the life of a child must be properly justified” (The Scottish Government, 2006). The lack of stopping sites for Gypsy/Traveller families, the denial of space and time to rest, hiding from the police, together with the consequences of being evicted, must have a negative impact on children and their education. Stopping and camping sites, authorised or unauthorised, do not fit into traditional concepts of “home” held by settled populations and policy makers, and are viewed instead as squatting, invasions upon space as real estate. The majority settled community sees itself as host and Gypsy/Travellers as unwanted guests. The conflicts and controls over space can have direct links with race and power. In her work on Race Space and the Law, Razack (2000) argues, “spaces [can be] organised to sustain unequal social relations and… these relations [in turn] shape spaces” (p.1). Space can be used to empower some and disempower others, and in the process a child’s educational experiences may be adversely affected, as I have discovered from some of the girls I met.

35 Leave a comment on paragraph 35 0 2. Research Method

36 Leave a comment on paragraph 36 0 My thesis is largely an exploration of an individual’s perceptions, experiences and understandings of a particular phenomenon. I am interested in the way a Scottish Gypsy/Traveller girl views the world specifically within the context of her educational experiences in Scottish schools. As Conelly and Clandenin (1990) argue, “humans are storytelling organisms, who individually and socially lead storied lives” (p. 2). There are multiple realities and multiple constructs of knowledge, even if one reality may be viewed as “privileged” within our society. Within these varied realities and stories are issues and struggles to be analysed and, as Lorde (2007) reminds us,  “there is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not lead single-issue lives” (p.138). Given this view of reality, the aims of my research, and the critical approach needed to “constructively disrupt” (Cochran-Smith, 2009) current modes of thinking and practices within this subject area, I wondered if quantitative or mixed methods of inquiry would suffice, in this instance.

37 Leave a comment on paragraph 37 0 2.1 Qualitative or Quantitative

38 Leave a comment on paragraph 38 0 As an ESRC funded researcher I initially felt compelled, rightly or wrongly, to conduct a quantitative study. Previous efforts to gather statistical data on the population and experiences of Gypsy/Traveller communities have been largely unsatisfactory. Intermittently, since approximately 1895, successive governments have made formal attempts not just to “count”, but also to comprehend and cater for Gypsy/Traveller communities. The inability of the twice-yearly counts conducted by the Scottish Government (The Scottish Government, 2010b), along with various other statistical data; to accurately shed light on the lives and experiences of Gypsy/Travellers is evidence that a quantitative study will not yield better understanding. The 2011 Census, for example, suggests that there are 4,200 Gypsy/Travellers in Scotland. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC, 2015) acknowledges that it is highly likely that this figure is not reliable. Problems linked to sampling, coverage, literacy levels, non-response and measurement have had a direct impact on the accuracy of statistics. Gypsy/Travellers are generally suspicious of authority and opposed to being counted and surveyed.

39 Leave a comment on paragraph 39 1 A qualitative approach is particularly useful for data collection of perspectives that have been traditionally marginalised. The findings will not only add to the existing bank of knowledge, and explain some of the limited statistical information, but could have more positive and significant results for Gypsy/Traveller communities in the long term. Their elusiveness and their reluctance to self-identify does also present challenges to the qualitative researcher in trying to capture a representative sample, to draw conclusions or make generalisations that are both internally and externally valid.

40 Leave a comment on paragraph 40 0 2.2 Sample

41 Leave a comment on paragraph 41 0 It took over a year to gain access to research participants. In studies such as this where sections of a population are challenging to locate, a degree of flexibility from the outset is necessary to allow for a careful interweaving of individual stories and the common themes that could be gleaned upon analysis of these narratives. Okely (1983) in researching Travellers revealed that she “could not select a single “village”, nor was it feasible to restrict [herself] to one “group”, even if it were possible to isolate such an entity… thus [she] only observed travellers when they entered [her] location” (p. 48). She relies on the argument put forth by N. Dyson-Hudson that “[our] analytic units need not be population aggregates of some sort: they can as well (and sometimes more revealingly) be segments of time or action, points of contact or separation” (as cited in Okely, 1983, p. 48).

42 Leave a comment on paragraph 42 1 I used a non-probability sampling technique like a snowball sample. Each encounter with a Gypsy or Traveller girl led to the introduction of other Gypsy/Traveller girls, and occasionally contact with one charity or organisation led to introductions to others. Each organisation that was willing to help provided access to yet another prospective participant. This process of networking across the country continued until I gathered enough interviews.  There is no sampling frame.

43 Leave a comment on paragraph 43 0 Bechhofer and Paterson (2000) suggest that “representativeness… is difficult to achieve” (p. 42); and this kind of opportunistic sampling may not be a firm representative sample of Gypsy/Traveller girls in Scotland, but I believe it was the only method available to me because of the difficulty in gaining access. I argue that whilst the conclusions in my thesis are linked to specific findings around specific circumstances, there is room for some generalisations to be expressed that could be helpful to all communities, in influencing policy debates. Okely (1983) clarifies, “each [story] retains its specificity while illustrating a wider theme… The single carefully chosen example offers generality through its very specificity” (p. 48). I can make assertions about the particularities of the sample I am working with currently. In addition, the issues, controversies and challenges surrounding Gypsy/Travellers in general, also demand a critical approach.  The emphasis on “improving understanding” implies the need to review critically current ideas, policies and practice, to help inform or create meaningful change.

44 Leave a comment on paragraph 44 0 Each research participant chose the setting in which we met, usually in an informal venue outwith schools, in their homes or in cafes away from their local area. This choice further ensured anonymity, confidentiality and safety of the participants. To safeguard my own safety, a gatekeeper facilitated each meeting and made introductions. Gatekeepers were not present at any of the interviews. Subsequent meetings were then organised on my own. Although it took a year to forge relationships with gatekeepers, and many are resistant to this day, I could not have gained access without the trust and support of the few “activists” that paved the way. The issues surrounding the role of gatekeepers, the power they wield and the knowledge they inadvertently conceal within their ranks is critically analysed in my thesis, but not in this paper.

45 Leave a comment on paragraph 45 0 2.3 Outsider and Insider

46 Leave a comment on paragraph 46 0 As I am not a Gypsy/Traveller, I am considered an “outsider researcher”. Weckman (1998), a Finnish Gypsy activist, warns the “outsider” against the limitations of attempting to represent the experiences of a group or groups. Working with members of Gypsy/Traveller communities as an outsider has its unique challenges. The vocabulary of the majority may not truly capture an account of Gypsy/Traveller life and experience and there are, perhaps, aspects of the experience of “hard to reach populations” that cannot be fully expressed by the language of the outsider researcher.

47 Leave a comment on paragraph 47 0 According to the 2011 census, as an Indian, I am a member of a very small minority ethnic community in Scotland (approximately 0.6%). As an Indian woman, I have a particular set of experiences and views that helps me to empathise with the girls I met and interviewed. I understand what it is to be the “other”, to feel marginalised and just how difficult it can be to confront ingrained, and sometimes subtle, systems of prejudicial thoughts and behaviour. I am simultaneously an “outsider” and an “insider”, sharing knowledge and experience on this subject equally with the young Gypsy or Traveller women who have agreed to participate in this study. The interviews were semi-structured, but conversational in style. My research position is fluid and shifts with the encounter, the idea, the experiences expressed throughout the research journey.

48 Leave a comment on paragraph 48 0 It is not possible to remain detached from the subject matter of research (Mason, 2002, p. 149). Both researcher and participants contribute to the data. My perspectives, values, privileges, and experiences are part of the multiple realities and perspectives in this study. Borrowing from ethnography, the use of a “field diary”, allowed for personal, candid reflections, which are used to inform the mechanics of my research and its outcomes (Punch, 2012). Calvey (2000) advises that reflexivity works within limits as it “can become self-regarding, pompous indulgence in which more is learned about the fieldworker than the field” (p. 57).

49 Leave a comment on paragraph 49 0 I am keenly aware that it is not possible to remain in full control of the interview process.  Participants may not wish to be collaborative partners in research. They may, as Backs (2007) argues, “undermine playfully the implicit hierarchy between the questioner and respondent” (p.19), or they may choose to fit or modify their responses because they know they are being researched – Hawthorne effect. I am also conscious of the unequal relationship between researcher and participants. I have aimed for a dialogic, reflexive and critical approach, and these form the underlying principles of my research. The dialogic nature of the interviews I conducted includes and amplifies the voices of the participants, whilst highlighting the analytical voice of the researcher (Freire, 1970).

50 Leave a comment on paragraph 50 0 After 17 years of teaching in schools and working as a Head Teacher with children, their families and communities, I began to develop a personal commitment to programmes that emphasised diversity, conflict resolution, and building harmony through education, hence my interest in this project.

51 Leave a comment on paragraph 51 0 2.4 Ethical Considerations

52 Leave a comment on paragraph 52 1 Travellers and those who work with them are a network of close-knit communities. There are a limited number of council, and privately run Traveller sites and it would not be too difficult to identify the girls and their families. For their protection, I do not disclose names, places and schools. The girls were less guarded in their communication with me because of their assured anonymity.  In some cases, family members met with me, gatekeepers shared information in confidence, and this provided additional background knowledge. I have given the girls pseudonyms and as they are all from Scotland, I thought it appropriate to use the names of Scottish islands.

53 Leave a comment on paragraph 53 0 3. Discussion

54 Leave a comment on paragraph 54 0 3.1 Skye and Rona – Bigger, Fatter, Gypsier?

55 Leave a comment on paragraph 55 1 Skye is 15 years old and described herself as a Scottish Traveller. She is the youngest in a family of seven children. She lives with her entire family in two permanent trailers on a council-run site. Gypsy/Travellers call caravans, “trailers”. Skye is still at school and enjoys being there. Unlike most of the other research participants, her family have remained in one place. She said that she has had only positive experiences at the nursery, primary and secondary schools she attended. Skye also said that she has ambitions to carry on until she is 18 years old and completes sixth year studies. She is adamant to get a job, have a career and plans to gain the qualifications she needs to do so. She clarified, “Like if you want to get a good job you’ll need your qualifications”. When I first met her she was in an all-black ensemble, with a striking red-tie, her jet-black hair, cut short and swept back with gel. At a quick glance, she could almost have looked masculine, but on closer inspection, she is a beautiful girl, tastefully made up to look like a Goth. Of all the 12 girls I interviewed, Skye was the only one who seemed to consciously make a statement rejecting the overtly feminine image, projected by and expected of Traveller girls. Within a few minutes of meeting her she declared defiantly, “I’m not big, I’m not fat and I’m not Gypsy!” I was not expecting to meet a Traveller Goth and this in itself questioned my own stereotyped ideas of how a Traveller girl should present herself. Skye is a young carer for a close member of her family.

56 Leave a comment on paragraph 56 0 At 19 years of age, Rona is the oldest research participant who took part in the study. Like Skye, she lives on a council run Traveller site with her family. Unlike the other research participants, she attended her local nursery, primary and secondary school. Rona chose to go to the main school in the local area because she “liked being around other people [non-Travellers]”. Rona said that her family have always encouraged her to mingle with non-Travellers and would not object if she married someone from another culture. One of her sisters is married to a non-Traveller. Her parents would rather they married a “good non-Traveller”, than a “bad Traveller” from a rival family. Rona is currently looking for a job at a hair and beauty salon. “Yeah and I was like well hopefully like…finish qualifying for a hairdresser and a family and one day open my own shop”. She said that she would never deny her ethnicity and would reveal her background to any prospective employer.

57 Leave a comment on paragraph 57 0 I didn’t hide it, I didn’t try to hide it and I didn’t boast about it. If someone like asked me, I would say yeah I am and that was it… I don’t see the point in hiding who you are to make someone else happy (Rona).

58 Leave a comment on paragraph 58 1 Like Skye, she is a young carer. This common experience brought them together several years ago. They have remained firm friends ever since. I interviewed them together over coffee and lunch in a small rural hotel. My abiding memory of them was their insistence that they were “never” bullied in school, had “never” encountered any racism, and that , in their opinion, they were both very unlike other Traveller girls, declaring that they were “unique”. This declaration of difference is the main reason why I have chosen to highlight their stories in this paper.

59 Leave a comment on paragraph 59 0 3.2 Education and Success

60 Leave a comment on paragraph 60 0 Skye and Rona were asked about their views on education and their ambitions for their future. They stressed the importance of learning more than just basic literacy and numeracy. Skye said that she would like to go as far as she can and “maybe even attend university”. Unlike the other research participants, they not only valued and argued for pursuing what they called a “good education”, but critically appraised their community’s traditional views about the role of education in Traveller women’s lives. Both were proud to be Scottish Travellers, but expressed their disapproval of the “racism” and “sexism” (Skye) within their communities.

61 Leave a comment on paragraph 61 0 Both girls chose not to attend the mobile school made available on their Travellers site, but attended the local State school throughout their education. They highlighted the importance and benefits of socialising with peers from both the Traveller and non-Traveller communities. “Why would you wanna be with Travellers all the time… it’s so boring! (Skye)”

62 Leave a comment on paragraph 62 0 I was asked whether I wanted to go to secondary school and I said yes because like it’s the normal thing to do…like my sister didn’t ask any of her kids if they wanted to go to school… they just went (Skye).

63 Leave a comment on paragraph 63 0 They also believed the curriculum offered at mobile schools was deliberately made simple for Traveller children “as if they were too thick to understand” and the behaviour in these schools is poor. This level of provision was not in their view a “good education”. “We’ve got like a portacabin and a teacher used to come down and go in twice a week for the kids from the site” (Rona). “And there was like limits…there was like limits…because like the…in normal school it’s like um…you can…they’ll help you do whatever you want, whatever you want to [achieve] (Skye).” In one such school I was at, teachers used magazines like “Heat” and “Take A Break” to teach Literacy because the girls were interested in the material. Rona explained further, “I have heard for myself from like a Traveller mum… [If her daughter goes to school her] daughter will have boyfriends, start smokin’, drinkin’, sleep around with boys … you’ll be classed as like a little whore basically.” Skye interjected:

64 Leave a comment on paragraph 64 0 But it’s not like that at all…It’s more like a fear sort of… but it’s ridiculous!

65 Leave a comment on paragraph 65 0 It’s like you have to send your kids to high school or they’re not going to have much of a future… they (Traveller girls) depend on the man.  The man will bring in all the money all the time.

66 Leave a comment on paragraph 66 0 When asked about their aspirations and ambitions they explained how much they valued formal education as a means to get a job. They wanted to pursue a career, gain financial and social independence from men. They believe, education and success are linked. Skye spoke of “achieving [her] dream but has “no ten year plan.” Achieving good grades and working hard in school are part of the plan for the moment. For Skye, success would be getting a place at university. Rona wanted to own her own business as beautician and hairdresser.

67 Leave a comment on paragraph 67 0 The girls also had strong principles and values that they wanted to uphold. Rona said she hoped she would “just stay [herself] and not try to like…hide… not change.”

68 Leave a comment on paragraph 68 0 Rona: Yeah I think that would be success for me like just…grow old gracefully

69 Leave a comment on paragraph 69 0 Skye: I think another way of success to me would…just being happy with my own life.

70 Leave a comment on paragraph 70 0 Skye: I think to be successful you’ve got to be happy.

71 Leave a comment on paragraph 71 0 Rona: Yeah I think for success I’d probably just like surround myself with…

72 Leave a comment on paragraph 72 0 Skye: Things that make you happy.

73 Leave a comment on paragraph 73 0 Rona: Yeah like…my family have a lot to do with my happiness…

74 Leave a comment on paragraph 74 0 Interviewer: You’re a traveller and I get the feeling that you’re very proud of being a traveller?

75 Leave a comment on paragraph 75 0 Skye: I don’t know…I hope I’m a good person so…I don’t know…I would hate it if anybody described me as…narrow-minded or…I don’t know I just…I really just want to be open about my thoughts.

76 Leave a comment on paragraph 76 0 Both had ambitions to not marry at a young age, but pursue a “good education” and a career first. Unlike all the other participants I interviewed, they believed it was possible to combine a career and marriage.

77 Leave a comment on paragraph 77 0 3.3 Education, Gender Expectations and Equality

78 Leave a comment on paragraph 78 0 For a child or young person aged five to 16 years to have no access to education is illegal and a criminal offence in Scotland, but according to the Head of Education Law, Ian Nesbit (personal communication, 21st May 2014), this is apparently rarely enforced – usually with a caution, a fine and a recommendation made to The Children’s Panel to monitor and ensure proper access and attendance.

79 Leave a comment on paragraph 79 0 Skye and Rona stated strongly that from their view most Gypsy/Traveller girls are not allowed to go to school: “They have like no choice in anything and that really sucks!” (Skye)

80 Leave a comment on paragraph 80 0 Rona: I’m going to make sure my kids are in school.

81 Leave a comment on paragraph 81 0 Skye: You’re surrounded by other travellers [at the mobile school] and maybe if you pick the wrong thing to do…maybe if like the boy picked something that wasn’t…manly enough.

82 Leave a comment on paragraph 82 0 Rona: I’ve kind of noticed that as well.

83 Leave a comment on paragraph 83 0 Skye: He’d be sort of picked on by the rest of the travellers as well…

84 Leave a comment on paragraph 84 0 Rona: Like a girl becoming a mechanic!

85 Leave a comment on paragraph 85 0 Skye: Travellers are quite sexist.

86 Leave a comment on paragraph 86 0 Gypsy/Traveller girls, often considered by their parents and communities to be young women at 12 years, leave school because their parents do not want them to be“contaminated” by non -Traveller boys, drinking, drugs, sex education, and what Gypsy/Traveller parents perceive as the decadent lifestyle of the settled community. One Traveller mother I met said that she did not want her daughter to touch the textbooks touched by non-Traveller children because it is unhygienic (10th June, 2013). Gypsy/Traveller parents are not only concerned about their daughters’ exposure to other cultures, but also their safety and their purity, which have to be preserved to protect family honour. Issues of safety and cleanliness are two emerging themes that will be discussed in the thesis. Dana, a 13-year old Traveller girl,  explained why it was important to stay safe and clean. If she was seen talking to a “country boy” (non-Traveller boy), her marriage prospects would be damaged and her family’s honour destroyed. According to her, she never leaves home unaccompanied by a family member. She is transported by taxi to attend classes in literacy and numeracy at a youth centre twice a week with other Gypsy/Traveller children.  She told me that she would never do anything that would jeopardise her image and her family honour, because “family is everything”.

87 Leave a comment on paragraph 87 0 In contrast, Skye and Rona considered themselves to be “different” from the norm as the following conversation suggests. The girls looked critically at some of the behaviour and traditions within their community.

88 Leave a comment on paragraph 88 0 Rona: They [Traveller girls] don’t have any friends.

89 Leave a comment on paragraph 89 0 Skye: Their friends are like just their cousins yeah.

90 Leave a comment on paragraph 90 0 Rona: They don’t really get out much either.

91 Leave a comment on paragraph 91 0 Skye: No but that’s not the question.  It’s like –

92 Leave a comment on paragraph 92 0 Rona: Yeah what stops them?

93 Leave a comment on paragraph 93 0 Skye: What stops them yeah like…no yeah it’s just like the gender stereotypes, they’re meant to stay at home with the children and that’s what their goal is.  There’s like nothing passed that.

94 Leave a comment on paragraph 94 2 bell hooks (1981) argues, as many other feminists do, that minority women are worst affected as they are often doubly oppressed because of their race and their gender. Just as there are stubborn perceptions in Western consciousness about other types of female minorities (Hooks, 1981; Groot, 2013, Spivak, 1988), there exist stereotypical perceptions of the life ambitions and aspirations of young Gypsy/Traveller women. Gypsy/Travellers in Scotland include semi-nomadic minorities whose identities clash with the majority population not just because of their race, ethnicity, cultural traditions, but also over class, ability and gender. These differences and conflicts are interrelated and reflect the “intersection” of multiple forms of discrimination and oppression (Knudsen, 2006).

95 Leave a comment on paragraph 95 0 It would seem that the minority ethnic female who leads a semi-nomadic lifestyle and who is also inhibited by her economic circumstances lies at the very kernel of such intersection. She could be the most vulnerable within the many power structures that surround her. One should not necessarily assume that all minority ethnic women are vulnerable or feel vulnerable, and are in need of protection. Vulnerability can generate, in the case of some of the girls I have met, a formidable spirit of resilience and determination to succeed beyond the realms of marriage and childrearing. Skye and Rona have challenged my own stereotyped perceptions of Traveller women.

96 Leave a comment on paragraph 96 0 I am inclined to question the assumption that all research participants from ethnic minority communities are necessarily “vulnerable,” and ask if they should all be treated as such from the outset. Conversations with Skye and Rona, demonstrate the situation is rather more complex. Both young women are strong, independent, and ebullient and had some absolutely cracking one-liners about gender equality, marriage, school, their family, their identity, and racism.

97 Leave a comment on paragraph 97 0 There’s like no gender equality among travellers, they’re just like the women and men have to…they have like no choice in anything and that really sucks because like I won’t…when I grow up I want to have my own job and everything and I don’t want to have to live off… like… a man… Yeah it’s ridiculous! (Skye)

98 Leave a comment on paragraph 98 0 Both harbour a strong sense of self, but also a strong loyalty and love for their families. Yet both acknowledged that they are who they are because their families have allowed them to be so. Like Dana, family is [also] everything to Skye and Rona.

99 Leave a comment on paragraph 99 0 My mother is still kind of like…she has sort of the old traditions in her because of the way she was brought up. But she’s trying to keep me as open as possible but I can tell that she would rather me be like…she’d rather I’d have a boyfriend right now and she’d rather I’d be talking about marriage and stuff. I think my mum still has some of those beliefs but she’s trying…she doesn’t force anything upon me (Skye).

100 Leave a comment on paragraph 100 0 It would seem that the self-image of Gypsy/Traveller girls is intertwined with their gender, femininity, roles as women (both are also young carers) and family expectations. Their voices reveal the tension between divergent elements.

101 Leave a comment on paragraph 101 0 Rona: I think the mother and father kind of put that into their head as well and plus they see it from what their mother and father act like and they think oh well that’s the way I should be.

102 Leave a comment on paragraph 102 0 Interviewer: So that’s their role models?

103 Leave a comment on paragraph 103 0 Rona: Yeah!

104 Leave a comment on paragraph 104 0 Skye: They don’t see anything wrong with like their mother and father’s relationship because…it depends on what type of family

105 Leave a comment on paragraph 105 0 Skye: There’s a lot of like…there’s like no gender equality among travellers, they’re just like the women and men have to…they have like no choice in anything and that really sucks because like I won’t…when I grow up I want to have my own job and everything and I don’t want to have to live off like a man.

106 Leave a comment on paragraph 106 0 Rona: Depend on a man.

107 Leave a comment on paragraph 107 0 Skye: Yeah it’s ridiculous!

108 Leave a comment on paragraph 108 0 Conclusion

109 Leave a comment on paragraph 109 0 Whilst academic literature (Clark, 2001; Clark and Greenfields, 2006; Kenrick and Clark, 1999), reports from the Equal Opportunities Committee (EOC) and Amnesty International tend to point to the “single issue” of racism that is experienced by Scottish Gypsy/Travellers, interviews with the young women I met suggest a rather more complex interplay of multiple issues.  One of the most striking findings is the liminality of their situating betwixt and between the complex intersections of space, race, gender, class, culture and intergenerational tensions. Some of these young women seemed doubly oppressed by systemic institutional inequities and the fixed gender expectations from within their culture and families, whilst others express strong views and aspirations about their future roles as women, which challenge stereotypical perceptions.  Yet, all seem governed by their family and their locality – the physical, social and emotional spaces they inhabit. Their varied experiences illustrate that “there are many kinds of power, used and unused, acknowledged or otherwise” (Lorde, 2007, p. 53). The multiple voices reflect multiple realities influenced by long-standing institutional, structural, political and cultural agendas. The girls are caught within these structures.

110 Leave a comment on paragraph 110 0 As Backs (2007) suggests, “the capacity to hear has been damaged and is in need of repair” (p.5); and those in the majority or dominant position of power, in particular, cannot readily “see” the experience of the minority or the effects of their subliminal supremacy over others. The French philosopher and writer Albert Camus (1947) once observed that “the evil that is in the world always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack [genuine] understanding” (p. 131). In helping to promote a better understanding of the multiple realities in what is essentially a conflict spanning centuries, in elucidating connections, “what understanding begins to do is to make knowledge available for use, and that’s the urgency, that’s the push, that’s the drive” (Lorde, 2007, p. 109). Preliminary findings suggest that there is not only a range of levels of insight, but also a lack of concerted effort amongst various groups, institutions, government departments and Gypsy/Traveller communities themselves. All parties concerned at times, lack the bridging capital to connect with one another, recognise commonalities and value differences.

111 Leave a comment on paragraph 111 0 There is the view that Gypsy/Traveller cultures “expose and provoke the pathologies of European culture” (Heuss, 2000, p. 52). It is perhaps time to value more than one gaze, one perspective of the world, to look further than the dominant white male view, for example. What is also clear from the girls’ narratives that strict gender expectations and cultural taboos, can also restrict the physical, emotional and mental space to flourish as a human being. Some of these girls are beginning to challenge these binding spaces of long held values and traditions, reimagining a world in which they have agency and choice. Some girls are content and have chosen, as is their right to accept that this is just part of who they are as Gypsy/Travellers. Acknowledging how external and internal structural inequalities affect some Gypsy/Travellers in Scotland, particularly young women, is key to improving understanding, taking committed action to tackle these power imbalances, restoring trust and healing centuries of conflict.

112 Leave a comment on paragraph 112 0  

113 Leave a comment on paragraph 113 0 References

114 Leave a comment on paragraph 114 0 Amnesty International. (2012a). On The Margins. Retrieved 11th May 2013 from http://www.amnesty.org.uk/sites/default/files/amnesty_international_on_the_margins_2012.pdf

115 Leave a comment on paragraph 115 0 Amnesty International. (2012b). Caught in The Headlines. Retrieved 11th May 2013 from http://www.amnesty.org.uk/sites/default/files/amnesty_international_caught_in_the_headlines_2012.pdf

116 Leave a comment on paragraph 116 0 Amnesty International (AIUK). (2013). Scottish Gypsy Travellers, Amnesty International UK. Retrieved 11th May 2013 from http://www.amnesty.org.uk/content.asp?CategoryID=12418

117 Leave a comment on paragraph 117 0 BBC News (2012, April 2). Amnesty reports say Scottish gypsy travellers face discrimination, BBC News Scotland. Retrieved 12th May 2013 from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-17583892

118 Leave a comment on paragraph 118 0 Backs, L. (2007). The art of listening. New York: Berg Publishers.

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162 Leave a comment on paragraph 162 0 The Scottish Government. (2010a). Race Equality Statement. Retrieved April 2013 from http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/People/Equality/18934/RaceEqualityStatement

163 Leave a comment on paragraph 163 0 The Scottish Government (2010b). Review of the Twice Yearly Count of Gypsies/Travellers in Scotland, Retrieved April 2013 from http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2010/03/05103811/0

164 Leave a comment on paragraph 164 0 The Scottish Government (2014). Gypsy/Travellers, Retrieved January 2015 from http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/People/Equality/gypsiestravellers

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167 Leave a comment on paragraph 167 0 Williamson, D. (1994). The Horsieman: memories of a Traveller 1928-1958. Edinburgh: Canongate Press.

168 Leave a comment on paragraph 168 0  

169 Leave a comment on paragraph 169 0 Note(s):

170 Leave a comment on paragraph 170 0 [1] The research participants all preferred to be called “girls” rather than “young women”. This change in terminology is therefore reflected in the paper and is explained in section 1.3.

Source: http://corerj.soc.srcf.net/?page_id=122/