To mark EU Roma Week 2023, Pavee Point is launching a new report on Roma maternal health.

“This report, ‘Romneango Sfato/Roma Women’s Voices’  is an important step in highlighting the health inequalities experienced by Roma women in Ireland,” said Jenny Liston, Co Ordinator of the Roma Programme at Pavee Point.

“We know from the Roma Needs Assessment (2018) that in Ireland a quarter of Roma women’s first point of contact with maternity services was when they were giving birth.  This report throws some light on systemic issues in maternal health care.”

Systemic Issues

Overall, the reports shows that the experiences of Roma women was mixed, with both positive and negative experiences. However, Roma women reported systemic barriers, such as lack of accessible information, language barriers, and the impacts of racism and discrimination.

Roma women expressed difficulties accessing information and appointments. Roma women who did not speak English were mostly relying on family members translating or Google Translate when receiving healthcare. This was particularly difficult when there were health concerns or a medical emergency as women were afraid and didn’t understand what was happening.

This resulted in unmet medical needs, and under-utilisation of services.


“We spoke to 12 Roma women living in the Eastern region of the country, who were originally from Romania, Poland, and Slovakia,” said Bianca Tanase, Roma Health Worker with Pavee Point. “All had given birth in Ireland. Interviews were held by Roma women community workers, and this was important so women could feel comfortable talking about their experiences” she explained.  

Bianca Tanase, speaking at the HSE launch of Roma Daja – a health information resource for Roma women, based on Pavee Point’s Pavee Mothers resource.

“Roma women told us they needed health information they can understand and to know how they can access interpreters.  Roma women also said they wanted to be treated with dignity and respect and that some felt they had been demeaned and insulted when using maternal health services,” said Bianca.

We need to make sure that Roma women can access mainstream maternal health services,” said Jenny Liston, “We need the development of a care pathway for Roma women accessing maternity services in Ireland in partnership with groups working with Roma, inclusion of an ethnic identifier across all relevant maternal health data sets, anti-racism and intercultural training for maternity staff, an accessible interpreter service, as well as building on the model of Pavee Mothers, create a National Roma perinatal health initiative

Key Issue Since 2013

Pavee Point has highlighted Roma maternal health as a key issue since we published a report on the topic in 2013 and we established a Roma health initiative in 2022. Also, in the National Roma Needs Assessment in 2018, reported significant barriers for Roma accessing healthcare. Half do not have access to a GP/primary care, and this has a knock on effect in terms of Roma women’s access to maternal and infant health services, with a quarter of Roma women not accessing maternal health services in Ireland until they are giving birth.

Health services also reported that many Roma women did not have adequate supplies for their baby when leaving the maternity hospital – resulting in many Roma babies being disadvantaged right from birth.

EU Roma Week

EU Roma Week is taking place from 24 – 27 April with a series of events in Brussels. EU Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen made a speech to mark the week and highlighted that in order to improve Roma’s quality of life the EU Roma Strategy has set precise targets to be met by 2030. 

It is hosted by the European Parliament and European Commission and organized in partnership with Roma and pro-Roma civil society.