Matache grew up in what she has described as an ‘activists’ bubble’, embracing her ethnic identity and pride in her Roma heritage, believing in social justice and treating the disenfranchisement of Roma and the escalation of anti-Roma pogroms as a challenge rather than an inevitability. Studying at the University of Bucharest in 1997, she volunteered with the Roma Students Association in 1999, going on to work at Romani CRISS, founded by Nicolae Gheorghe. She finished her BA in 2001 and her MA in 2003, when she started work full-time. She became the executive director of Romani CRISS (2005 – 2012). During her leadership, Romani CRISS received several awards, including the Civil Society Gala award for ‘Defending individual/collective human rights’ and the ERSTE Foundation’s Recognition Award.

Between 2006 and 2007, Romani CRISS campaigned against Roma segregation in education. In 2007, this led to the approval of the School Desegregation Bill and a Ministerial Order on cultural diversity. In 2011 they convinced Parliament to include an article in the new Education Law, forbidding the misdiagnosis and abusive placement of children in special schools based on their race, ethnicity, or other criterion.

In 2009 she registered at the University of Bucharest doctoral program, with a thesis on Early childhood development of Roma children: ideas, policies, instruments in 2013. In 2012, she was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship at the François-Xavier Bagnoud Centre at Harvard University, where she founded the Roma programme and in April 2017, she curated Culture Beyond Borders: The Roma Contribution, Harvard’s fifth annual International Roma Day event. She also co-edited Realizing Roma Rights, with Andrzej Mirga and Jacqueline Bhabha, which documents the growing Roma-led political movement engaged in building a more inclusive and just Europe.