Growing up Roma means growing up fast. Roma families are large and start early, some couples are married at the age of 10. It is not uncommon for one family to have more than 8 children. Much of daily life is happens outdoors, with children having little supervision from their parents. In Europe, most Roma endure stigmas and stereotypes on a consistent and daily basis. It is not uncommon for Roma students to be placed in classes with students who have mental disabilities because it is assumed by school administration that they are not intelligent. Roma people live in strong, loyal communities, always wary of outsiders. This is due largely to Roma culture being highly transient and loosely rooted.
Roma people originated in various regions of India and migrated into the European continent several hundred years ago. Many family groups were skilled tradesmen, selling their crafted items, working odds jobs, even stealing from villages they traveled through. Permanent Roma settlements have popped up since the time many countries in Europe have tightened border controls.
While visiting Roma villages in Romania, I photographed every day moments in Roma life, focusing on the expectations placed on children to grow up quickly and function in adult social roles at an age early age.
©Melanie Mahoney 2016