Every girl and woman needs ‘A room of her own’
A conference dedicated to the role of feminism in preventing gender-based violence was held in Ungheni
‘A Room of One's Own’ – Virginia Woolf's renowned essay, known as one of the most valuable contributions to 20th century feminist literature, served as a benchmark for discussion at the local conference ‘A Room of One's Own. The role of feminism in preventing gender-based violence’, held in Ungheni.
Globally, an estimated 800 million women – almost one in three women – have experienced physical and/or sexual violence. Statistics in the Republic of Moldova show that one in four girls has been subjected to physical violence by the age of 18, and three out of four children aged between 2 and 14 are subjected to at least one form of violence by their parents.
The local conference discussed the need to prevent violence by fighting gender stereotypes, encouraging girls and women suffering from violence to speak out and report cases of violence, and the importance of men's involvement in ending violence against women. At the same time, girls, like boys, can have any profession they want and there should be no limitations or stereotypes in this respect.
The city of Ungheni is one of the champion localities in promoting gender equality, in the past three years making significant progress in preventing and combating gender-based violence and enhancing the protection of victims of violence.
Representatives of the Local Public Administration (LPA) of Ungheni – Alexandru Ambros, Mayor of Ungheni, Tatiana Lazar, Vice President of Ungheni District and Iulia Pancu, Head of the Ungheni District Education Department – stressed the importance of promoting gender equality and combating violence among young people as a cornerstone of the development of generations with equal rights and opportunities. They encouraged the young men and women to behave ethically and non-discriminatorily in their families, schools and other environments.
More Calls From Girls to Child Helpline 116 111
If their rights are violated, young men and women can call the Child Helpline 116 111 – a free and confidential helpline. Gabriela Tudureanu, coordinator of the Child Helpline, said she receives calls from both children asking for help and adults reporting cases of violence or asking for information about the child protection system or advice on difficulties in dealing with children. In 2021, the Child Helpline councillors received and recorded 3,929 calls, most of them from girls.
Referring to national statistics, Anatolii Oprea, UN Women Moldova Programme Officer, also noted that women earn on average 14% less than men, even if they hold the same positions. This gap is also due to discrimination against women in employment. According to the data, the largest gender pay gaps are recorded in the sectors of finance, information and communications, and health and social assistance.
Dragan Markovic, Emergency Coordinator at UNICEF Moldova, expressed his conviction that today's young people are the driving force for positive change in the society: ‘Girls and boys must have equal rights, equal development opportunities and equal protection. Thanks to their involvement, we manage to implement such projects in the localities of the Republic of Moldova, which help create an environment conducive to equal development of boys and girls.’
The Role of Stories in Educating Generations with Equal Rights
The conference gathered about 50 participants from Ungheni district and brought to the fore the role of stories in the formation of critical thinking from an early age, without contributing to the entrenchment of gender stereotypes. Paula Erizanu, author of the novel ‘The Woods Are Burning’, based on the fates of two real-life revolutionary and feminist characters – Inessa Armand and Alexandra Kollontai – shared in a panel discussion about ‘her room’, where she enjoys a private space to create.
‘I count myself among the lucky girls and women who have a room of their own. A private space, isolated from any noise, light or other things that might distract me. Here I collect myself and create. It is important to give every girl and woman a room of her own, where she can feel safe, protected, where she can retreat to listen to her thoughts and heart,’ added Paula.
Complementing Paula's idea, Natalia Blanari, founder of the publishing house and bookstore ‘Cartego’, mentioned that selected books end up in her bookstore because she tries to give parents the opportunity to read to their children stories without scenes of violence and in which the character does not necessarily fall into a predetermined genre.
‘Everyone sees him differently – for one child the character may be a girl, for another – a boy. We need to give children the opportunity to decide for themselves, develop their imagination and let them think big. It has become increasingly popular in recent years to rewrite the stories from the past – ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, ‘The Goat with Three Goatlings’ and others. Maybe it's time to let go of the past and start writing stories adapted to today's reality, books that cultivate acceptance, non-discrimination and peace.’
The writer and editor Cosmin Perța referred during the discussions to his latest book for children ‘Anisia and the Magic Tools’, published in two volumes in Bucharest. Anisia is a little girl who lives in a world where no one believes in anything anymore, but she has immense power. While some writers would prefer to give this superpower to a boy, through his female character, Cosmin has contributed to uprooting the feminine ideal cultivated for girls since early childhood: ‘Who said they have to be beautiful, good-natured, hard-working, modest and good-hearted?’, Cosmin Perța noted.
Girls, Like Boys, Can Have Any Profession They Want
Young men and women from Ungheni highly appreciated the participation in the conference of two young Moldovan women who demonstrate by their own examples that there are no gender-based professions. Ilinca Mazureac is studying molecular biology at Harvard College and Vladlena Timofti chose to design airplanes in the UK and is pursuing a degree in Aeronautical Engineering. The young women talked about their dreams and experience of studying for the so-called boys' jobs, stressing that in their universities, boys and girls study on equal terms and there is no preferential treatment, which motivates them even more to achieve the desired results.
‘Although only 13% of all students are girls, effort and perseverance are the only criteria that determine your success and results along the way, not gender. Both teachers and peers value your progress and the fact that you are a boy or a girl becomes an insignificant detail that has no influence on how you are treated,’ added Vladlena.
In 2023, the National Youth Council of Moldova (CNTM) aims to develop more youth empowerment projects, especially activities to include adolescent refugees from Ukraine. Teodora Panuș, President of the CNTM, underlined that there are no activities classified by gender within the organisation. Active participation and involvement in creating local communities of young people to bring about positive change in their villages and towns is encouraged.
‘These discussions I have attended today are an important tool for working with young people. We have the opportunity to express our opinion and participate in practical activities that make it quicker and easier for us to understand how we should act to prevent cases of violence, to fight for gender equality and to promote equal rights for both girls and boys,’ said Anastasia Perdeleanu, an 11th grade student at the ‘Vasile Alecsandri’ High School from Ungheni. Anastasia is a young woman from Ungheni who participated in several activities carried out within the EVA project – ‘Strengthened Gender Action in Cahul and Ungheni districts’, succeeding in bringing change in her community.
The EVA Project – ‘Strengthened Gender Action in Cahul and Ungheni districts’ is funded by the European Union and implemented by UN Women in partnership with UNICEF in the period 2020-2023 in Cahul and Ungheni districts.