Maricica, an extraordinary young girl

A young Roma girl from Baia Mare inspires her peers to go to school. Her voice rings out now through the UNICEF-supported Children’s Board.

Roxana Grămadă
Maricica, member of the Children's Board
26 July 2022

ROMANIA, Bucharest, April 8th 2022 – When Claudia Costea needs to communicate something to the community, she knows whom she should tell to make sure that the everybody finds out the news. In Pirita, a Roma community neighbouring Baia Mare, 72 out of the total 130 children are of school age. Though she is only 12, Maricica knows how to bring the news to everybody.

“She is very mature”, says Claudia, founder of the Pirita Children Association and community social worker for more than six years. “Since she was little, she has been saying that she wants to go to school, to learn a trade, to build a better life for herself. There are girls of her age and younger in the community who never took school seriously. She is very clear about her future. She is an extraordinary young girl. I hope with all my heart that she will enjoy this experience”.

The experience Claudia is talking about is the Romanian Children’s Board, an informal group supported by UNICEF and led exclusively by children, where Maricica has recently became a member.

One out of five Romanian and European citizens is a child. The studies however show that we have still much to do before children’s voice will be heard and taken in consideration by politicians and authorities in decisions that involve children’s future. The Romanian Children’s Board was established with UNICEF support precisely to provide children with a forum for mutual consultation and a platform for making their views known. The Board has now 40 children members aged 11 to 18 from around the country.

“I have met many political agents and Members of the European Parliament. It is great to see that your ideas are heard directly by an adult who is trying to understand you and asks questions. This demonstrates direct interaction.”, says Ilinca, a 17 years-old teenager who has been a member of the Children’s Board for two years.

Making themselves heard is even more important for the most vulnerable children, such as those from the Roma community. And since the 8th of April is the International Romani Day, UNICEF invites you to learn the story of two Roma children who have recently became members of the Children’s Board. Maricica is one of them.

Ilinca will be Maricica’s older sister on the Board. Same as Maricica, she found it very difficult to speak in public at the beginning. “I didn’t know I was going to develop my skills so well. I was terribly frightened to speak in public. With each experience you became more outgoing, more knowledgeable.”

Though describing similar emotions, Maricica is unyielding when it comes to going to school. The other day she announced all the school children and their parents that the classes start at 9 every day. “There are some who say that school starts at 8 and go to the parks”. It is important for Maricica that all children make it to class, and she is ready to act to see them in school. Though she knows that it isn’t right to fib, because “truth eventually comes to light”, she doesn’t miss the chance to pull childish pranks. She tricked all her classmates on April Fool’s Day.

Maricica would like to change other things in the school too. “It’s good that we are only Roma, but it would be good if there were Romanian children too”. If there were also Romanian children, she believes, Roma children would be more motivated to perform in school, would have role models.

She knows very well how important motivation is. Her parents, in particular the father, always encourage her to go to school. She is now in the fifth grade, more than her parents achieved, and she has “only grades of 10 on the school record. The Headmistress is pleased with me”, says Maricica, always careful to mention her friends, Denisa and Alexandra, on the high achievers’ list.

Claudia Costea wanted Maricica to be heard beyond Pirita, in the Romanian Children’s Board. The motto of the Roma community, “Nothing about us without us”, and that of the Children’s Board, “Nothing for children without children”, originate in the same desire for engagement and inclusion. Maricica will, more than likely, have much to say.

The Children’s Board will meet online on the 13th of April to discover the new members. Then, they will work together to define the activity plan for the upcoming period. So far, the Children’s Board has contributed to the National Strategy for the Protection of Children and Children’s Rights, has encourage immunisation and worked to raise awareness of mental health, during the pandemic; moreover, the Board worked on media education and to turn children’s participation rights into reality.