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Finland’s Romani community returns hundreds of rejection letters to highlight discriminatory recruitment

Finland may be one of the most socially just countries in the world, ranking among the best in gender equality and equal pay. But the Romani minority still face open racism and experience discriminatory recruitment, despite their descent have lived in Finland for hundreds of years. In recent decades more Romani people are holding degrees and are open to join the workforce, but securing employment is an uphill battle for many.

That’s why Diak and the creative house SEK collected hundreds of Romani people’s rejection letters from Finnish employers to send back to the companies.

‘Rejection letters are the norm for Romani people in Finland. We decided to return the letters to companies and remind them to give everyone an equal chance for employment no matter their background,’ says Katri Perho of Diak.

The letters had an attachment that invited companies to join the freshly founded employer pool: a portal that helps Romani people identify employers that are willing to hire people of Romani descent. According to research up to 5% of all companies in Finland say they are not open to hiring a person with a Romani background.

‘That’s why plain words no longer cut it. We need to see concrete action from employers to ensure equal opportunities for all,’ Perho continues.

The campaign uses employers’ own words to drive a message

By using the companies’ rejection letters as a medium, the real challenges the community faces daily were highlighted.

‘One goal was to raise hope among younger Romanis. We want to highlight that getting an education and applying for employment is worth it, as all applicants should always be treated equally,’ Perho continues.

‘The stories we heard from Romani people while creating this campaign were shocking. We want to help drive as many companies as possible to join the campaign. That’s why using employers’ own words as a tool was the best route to take. The limited budget also meant there was no room for traditional media – another reason why direct mail was used as our primary media,’ explains SEK’s Creative Director Lauri Gran and Senior Creative Samuel Räikkönen.

The returned rejection letters’ attachment, that invited companies to join the employer pool, was designed by Tino Nyman, a prolific Finnish graphic designer of Romani descent.

The campaign also featured a short film that showcased real stories from Romani people. The film highlighted only some of the forms of racism that Romani people face when applying for employment.

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