Margareta Matache MC/MPA 2019 works to advance the rights of the Roma people.
By Jody Sharpe and Calee Lucht
December 4, 2017
Home Country: Romania
Education: BA, Social Work, University of Bucharest 2001 MPP, European Social Policies, University of, Bucharest 2003, PhD, Political Sciences, University of Bucharest 2012
HKS Fellowship: George W. Mallinckrodt Graduate Fellowship
Margareta “Magda” Matache’s roots in activism stem from her childhood growing up in a Roma family in post-communist Romania. Magda’s community had been enslaved for five centuries; today, her people continue to be treated as a disenfranchised minority. This sparked her struggle for Roma rights and shaped her conviction in social justice for all.
“My passion and my call are very much directed towards rights, respect, dignity and humanity,” says Magda. “I hope that my contribution at HKS will translate some of these ideals into actions.”
Magda began her career as a community organizer and youth worker in Roma neighborhoods in Bucharest subsequently rising to the position of first female executive director of the Romani Center for Social Intervention and Studies (Romani CRISS), a leading Roma nonprofit that ties advocacy and strategic litigation with community intervention. Under her leadership, Romani CRISS won landmark anti-discrimination cases and influenced the passage of education bills promoting diversity and desegregation.
Magda’s shift from activism to academia resulted from a desire to gain skills and knowledge that would enable her to develop more participatory and better-targeted solutions for the Roma and other minority marginalized groups.
“Although I continue to believe in and apply a bottom-up approach in my work, equally, I recognize the benefit of having strong Roma voices at the highest levels of leadership. We need to catalyze change and shift paradigms in designing, implementing, and monitoring European policies to ensure sustainable social and economic change for the Roma, and why not, create a model of inclusion for minorities in Europe and worldwide.”
This drive led her to HKS, where she is a George W. Mallinckrodt Graduate Fellow in the Mid-Career Master in Public Administration, Edward S. Mason Program.
“The Mid-Career program is a hub for developing substantive relationships with future leaders, alumni and the Harvard community as a whole. It’s extremely exciting to be part of a global community whose members can help one another, inspire each other and keep each other accountable in our struggles for global justice. I am honored to be a Mallinckrodt Fellow: The support has not only allowed me to advance my own education, but also to push for conversations about the Roma within the broader HKS community.”
Magda is already translating “ideals into action” at HKS. Along with several classmates and the Human Rights professional interest council (PIC), she is organizing the first annual human rights symposium in order to create a space for Harvard to strengthen its solidarity and partnership with oppressed communities across the world and for students to stand up for and stand with minority and marginalized groups. Her hope is that future generations of students will build on this initiative and continue its work toward the realization of human rights.
She also has her eye on how she can make a difference after she leaves HKS:
“The ‘Ask What You Can Do’ banner at the entrance of the school is an everyday reminder that what makes one exceptional is not how we enter the doors to HKS, but rather how we exit them: how positively our actions will impact one life or millions of lives, or how our leadership will shift our countries toward peace, global solidarity, inclusion, rights and respect for all people.”