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Gender Equality Festival: How was the 12th edition?

The 12th edition of the Gender Equality Festival took place in Sibiu between 21st and 23rd of September, an event for preventing gender discrimination and violence, organized by the Association for Liberty and Gender Equality – A.L.E.G., an organisation supporting women and children, victims of domestic violence.

Ziua Paci_Lant uman © dragos dumitruOn the 21st of September, the A.L.E.G. volunteers have marked the International Peace Day taking up the motto “Until there is peace for every woman” and forming a human chain to get the community’s attention on the need to take attitude against acts of violence. The International Peace Day was also marked by using stencils on the Horizontal Wall together with Dan Perjovschi and the A.L.E.G. team.

On the 22nd of September, approximately 80 high school students watched the Movie Girl Power, an event made possible with the collaboration of One World Romania. The movie depicts the life of girls and women passionate about graffiti in a predominantly masculine environment. This was followed by the first time Romanian projection of the movie “Have I told you I have been abused”, which won the State Excellency Award in Serbia, 2009.

The movie is based ont the accounts of young women which have been abused during childhood and stresses upon the fact that most sexual abuses take place in families and remain hidden years on end. The participants had the opportunity to discuss with the creator of the movie, Dušica Popadić from Incest Trauma Center from Belgrade about the ways in which we can protect children and youngsters. Dušica Popadić talked about the collaboration of their organization with the Ministry of Education for preventing abuse through several school subjects, from the earliest age.

Concurs In a RelationshipOn the 23rd of September, the young researchers from the „In a Relationship” project realized in 2016 by AVON and the Foundation Friends for Friends, Andrei Stupu and Diana Smeu presented the results of the national study they applied on the subject of teenagers and their relationships. The results show that a lot of teenagers go through abusive relationships without even knowing that it is abuse in the first place. The conclusions from the  research were illustrated through an exposition hosted by the Gong Theater which includes the creations of teenagers between 16-18 years from 8 cities in Romania.

The day continued with the contest “In a Relationship”: 15 high school students went through different practical exercises on assertive communication, recognizing different forms of abuse but also amusing tasks of practical skills through which they could demonstrate breaking the roles of women and men. At the event participated 5 representatives from The Platform for Gender Equality from The Republic of Moldova remarking: „The active involvement of young people from all over the country (including in activities of social research) is a perfect example of a good case practice which we want to implement back home – in the Republic of Moldova.”

Teatru forum_AThe festival ended with a theater forum show entitled “The party at the cabin”. The A.L.E.G. volunteers create in an yearly basis different scenarios through which they get to showcase to their generation peers about the causes and the form of gender violence, encouraging them to take attitude whenever they witness a sexism or violence manifestation.

“Like every year, the show was a success, bringing the message close to the spectators. I hope it offered a different perspective on couple and relationship issues to all the spectators like it did for me!” (Iulia R., spectator). During such a play, the spectators have the chance to intervene by replacing the actors and to propose changes in the actions and the behavior of the actors thus avoiding a situation of gender violence.

“The Gender Equality Festival is an important pillar in the fight against violence and I appreciate that you at the 12th edition.As we speak, there are young people around us in action and this aspect is very important: they can practically understand what domestic violence and gender equality means. Continue to play an important part in the fight for dignity and keep on paying if forward“ was the message from Alexandra Maier, the coordinator of social campaigns at AVON, present at the events.

The Gender Equality Festival – XIIth edition is an action financed by the Local Municipality and Council from Sibiu and co-financed by AVON.

The Festival in images

We Need Education to Build Healthy Relationships!

Press release

„In order to build healthy relationships, we need education closely connected to the problems in the lives of young people, and the involvement of schools is essential” – this is the conclusion of the Gender Equality Festival,  after 3 days dedicated to the prevention of gender-based violence by promoting equality between women and men.

On Friday, October 14th, the counsellor of the Ministry of Education, Mr. Eugen Crai, and the State Secretary representing Ministry of Labour’s National Agency for Equal Opportunities between Women and Men, Ms. Andra Croitoru participated at the Conference Equality and Prevention of Gender Violence in Education”, listening to the thoughts and recommendations of the 10 high schools which tested the educational module proposed by A.L.E.G. in the school year 2015/2016. Premiere concurs Dezvatam violentaIt was no ordinary class, i.e. we did not sit at our desks listening to scientific theories. We were involved in role plays, encouraged to express our own opinions and to find solutions to actual cases of partner violence. All youngsters should go through this module, since we never talk about these things at home”, states Andrei-Gabriel Stupu, a former pupil of the “Anghel Saligny” Technical High School in Bacău, presently a pupil of the “Jean Monnet” Theoretical High School in Bucharest. Andrei and his colleagues in the 10th grade also won the grand prize of the video production competition “Unlearning Violence”. Some of their conclusions were: in a healthy relationship, the two share power, and jealousy is not proof of love! To see the video, access: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9a_m8SgBP8. A special prize went to the pupils of the “Octavian Goga” National High School, Sibiu. During the project “GEAR against Intimate Partner Violence II”, funded through the European Union Daphne Programme, A.L.E.G. Trained 55 teachers and school counsellors to implement the module; subsequently, 274 pupils in Brăila, Bacău, Cugir, Cluj-Napoca, Sibiu and Slobozia went through the 13 hours of interactive activities. The A.L.E.G. Trainers also held a module with a group of 12 youngsters from the Sibiu “Gulliver” State Complex (including their educators), because the young people in the child protection system are vulnerable to repeated violence.  The children’s and teacher’s manuals can be downloaded at www.gear-ipv.eu. 14639833_700776973412281_4898310991858518588_nThe representatives of the two Ministries states in Sibiu that such materials and good practice examples are very necessary in Romania, which, starting this year, has the obligation to integrate violence preventive education in all levels of education, in accordance with the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.

In parallel to the conference, in the centre of Sibiu, volunteers holding huge letters challenged passers-by to find the “Ingredients of a Healthy Relationship”, during the activity “Choose your words!”. Over 80 people were engaged, and the most common answers were “trust” and “communication”.

On Saturday, October 15th, at the Habitus Book Store, over 80 young people, and some parents participated at the forum theatre performance, in an attempt to change the ending of a theatre play – Chalet Party – created by A.L.E.G. volunteers and inspired from real events in high school pupil’s lives. This year’s performance brought to light some of the peer pressures that nowadays young people have to deal with in their relationships, i.e. girls, having a boyfriend who supports them financially, and boys, not be seen as henpecked and break as many hearts as possible. These pressures cause trouble for the couple, and sometimes violence. In order to solve the conflict, the participants suggested changes through which the true friends of the main characters choose get involved before getting to a conflict. Coordinator: Doriana Tăut, vice-dean of the Faculty of Letters and Arts, the LBUS Department of Drama and Theatre Studies.

The film “Stockholm”, offered by Transilvania Film and the “Gender Treasure Hunt” which took place in the historical centre of the city also drew the attention of numerous youngsters eager to look beyond clichés and stereotypes regarding the role of women and men in society.

A.L.E.G. has been organizing this event for over 10 years, allowing teenagers to come up with and implement activities aimed at other youngsters. The project taking the form of a festival aims at offering teenagers access to education targeted at preventing couple violence and at promoting healthy relationships in which power is divided between the two.

The 11th edition of the Gender Equality Festival was co-founded by the Sibiu Local County and the Sibiu City Hall through the Community Agenda.

The conference Prevention of Gender Violence in Education” marks the end of the project „GEAR against Intimate Partner Violence II”, funded through the European Union Daphne III Programme.

The competition Unlearning Violence” is funded through the funds raised by runners and supporters during the 2016 Sibiu Half Marathon, a sports fundraising event of the Sibiu community organized by Fundația Comunitară Sibiu (Sibiu Community Foundation).

Reproductive Health and Gender Equality

When it comes to abortion and contraception, we are bombarded with diverging opinions and value judgments. Gender stereotypes – regarding the role of men and women – can be found in many of these opinions, most often preventing the bridging of the gap between the various groups debating the subject and finding beneficial solutions, which could later on become strategies in public policies.

A.L.E.G. believes that since pregnancy involves a man and a woman, solutions proposed in the field of reproductive health and rights (SRHR) have to be based on the principles of gender equality, whether we are talking about decreasing the number of teen pregnancies, of abortions, maternal deaths, or about public information and education campaigns, if we are to have real positive effects. This is why the United Nations Development Programme links human development to gender equality, and takes the maternal death rate and the number of teen pregnancies into account when calculating the gender inequality index. We can find serious problems regarding reproductive health in those countries where the gender inequality is high. (See http://hdr.undp.org/en/data)

We are assessing below a series of prejudices and myths regarding reproductive health and rights, and propose solutions from a gender perspective.

Myth: the woman is to blame for an unwanted pregnancy

Gender critique: Responsibility for a pregnancy is shared between man and woman, and therefore the woman cannot be the only one to blame for an unwanted pregnancy. The man continues to be in most cultures the one initiating the intercourse. So, why do we tend to focus on the woman and exclude the man when it comes to responsibility for a pregnancy and preventing an unwanted pregnancy?

Why do we only condemn “evil mothers” who abandon their children in the hospital, before even asking where the father is and what he did to prevent the situation? Why would a child’s birth certificate have a father’s name entry if the woman is the only one responsible for a pregnancy? Isn’t that a double standard? Does the father get to reap rewards only when everything works according to plan? We claim to live in a modern state, we have a law regarding equal opportunities between women and men and it’s about time we took it into account. When analyzing the high number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions, blaming the woman/mother and exempting the man from responsibility for a pregnancy is part of the problem, not the solution.

Solution: make both partners responsible in all media and educational contents related to pregnancy

Myth: a nation’s prosperity depends on birth rates

Gender critique: In 2013, the Romanian president criticized women, stating that the country’s birth rates dropped severely because of women’s emancipation and that Romania was facing economic problems because of irresponsible women. First and foremost, it has to be said that birth rates did not drop dramatically in the last decades – according to statistics, the birth rate remained constant since 1990, even if overall, the number of births is lower than during the communist era. Anyway, a numerous population does not ensure economic prosperity. There are many poor states in the world which have high birth rates, but also face infant mortality, maternal deaths, and high migration rates, as people choose to work abroad because of lack of decent living conditions inside the country. Prosperity is not only measured from the point of view of quantity, but also of quality.  As the study occasioned by the reviewing process ICPD+20 (ICPD – International Conference for Population Development) showed, investment in health and education are at least as important in order to ensure a prosperous society. Quick solutions trying to force an increase in birth rates failed: both Decree 77 banning abortion in the communist period and the attempts to increase childcare allowance after the Revolution proved to produce harmful impacts (maternal deaths, children born with disability, an increase in the number of people who have no or low income, an increase in the number of abandoned children).

How will I raise the child? What are the risks of birth? Who will help me raise the child? What kind of life will my child have? These are some of the main questions we, “modern” women tend to ask ourselves. And we will not be encouraged to become mothers unless we have decent incomes, access to decent medical conditions for birth, solutions for childcare and unless we trust the future perspectives of the state in which we give birth to a child. Any person, man or woman, needs to feel that his/her life is somewhat predictable from the professional, financial and political points of view in order to make the decision of becoming a parent. In order to become a parent, you have to at least be able to envision a future for your child. Another factor supporting the decision of becoming a mother has to do with the fair/equal division of responsibilities regarding family life.

So we would argue that poverty, corruption, poor health services and overall distrust in public policies are responsible for low birth rates in Romania, rather than women’s emancipation

Solution: Multi-sectorial programs approaching both the labor market and incomes, access to decent medical care and education and family life free from abuse and violence are needed in order to encourage women to have children.

Myth: organizations advocating for reproductive rights promote abortion

Gender critique: for those who lived during the time of the “children of the decree”[1] (or those who have seen Florin Iepan’s film), it is very clear that abortion, especially when done in precarious conditions, represents a major risk to women’s health. Ceaușescu’s Decree 77 did not put an end to abortion: it only moved abortions to the black market, which led to the death of over 10000 women and the birth of thousands of impaired children because of failed attempts to end pregnancies. The organizations advocating for reproductive rights and health want to avoid that history repeats itself. However, we do not promote and praise abortion; we promote the right to information and access of men and women to modern and safe means to prevent unwanted pregnancies. However, since society is not yet so advanced as to be able to prevent any unwanted pregnancy, we are aware that abortion will continue to practiced, whether we agree or not. Therefore, abortion has to be a legal medical procedure which can be performed safely. Sex education is the main method through which we can decrease the number of abortions, as the two partners will know how to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. Similarly, through sex education we can also efficiently reduce teen pregnancies jeopardizing girls’ future physical and professional development. The problem is that in Romania there are no programs subsidizing contraceptive means, nor sex education.

Solution: Sex education should be compulsory in schools starting in secondary school and all the way through high school. Sex education classes should be held by trained staff and rely on recent scientific information in order to cultivate healthy and responsible behaviors which lead to saving subsequent higher costs in society. The purpose of sex education classes is that girls and boys graduate school understanding how their own bodies work, how to protect themselves from sexually transmitted disease (including HIV/AIDS)  or unwanted pregnancies, what consensual sex means and how to avoid abuse (including sex trafficking risk circumstances) or how to build a non-violent, balances relationship. A society of young men and women who know their bodies, as well as their personal value beyond the body will save us a lot of future trouble.


Myth: only uneducated and selfish women turn to abortion

Gender critique: In the absence of contraceptive means, women of all ages and from all social classes turned to abortion, from celebrities to simple women. Florin Iepan’s film “Decrețeii”  offers first-person testimonials on this reality, from the communist regime.

Nowadays, many women still turn to abortion because they don’t know or can’t afford low risk contraceptive means, or because, despite using them, they got pregnant and cannot take on having a baby at the moment. This either because they are not in a steady relationship, don’t want children, don’t have the necessary resources (financial and/or moral) to raise them or because they already have the desired number of children. There are countless reasons and we don’t claim to be able to cover them here. Important is that we do not blame them because we don’t know whether ruining the life of a born child (through abandonment, neglect, abuse, being raised without of love etc.) can be considered less serious than an abortion. We believe that the world will be a better place when men and women will be encouraged to become parents when they are prepared, rather as an obligation. As the countless cases of child abuse and family violence prove, there are too many children who suffer because of their parents, and we all pay the price.

Solution: sex education in order to prevent an unwanted pregnancy, as well as removing social stigma around the right to choose whether to become a parent or not


Myth: sex education encourage young people to become sexually active at an early age

Gender critique: Wherever you try to talk about the necessity of sex education, somebody will step in worried that it will determine children/young people to become sexually active very early on. Such an attitude only proves lack of real communication with young people and the lack of knowledge regarding human sexuality. The age that young people become sexually active is rather related to the parental model, their group of friends, their partner and overall messages about sexuality in society. Specialist studies ascertain that, with every generation, the age when young people begin their sex lives drops, but that it is linked to other biologic changes which also happen sooner (the beginning of adolescence). The age when young people become sexually active with a partner should not be the main cause for concern. What is important is that the relationship be based on love and real feelings between young people of similar age, a consensual relationship, free of violence, exploitation, deceit or risk of disease. Sexuality is a normal fact of life; it is important for us to understand it as such and know how to prevent any risk situation. Young people start building an idea about sexuality and love very early on, based on what they see, hear and feel occurring between their own parents. Another information channel on sexuality is mass-media, and most of the times messages promoted on TV or in music create confusion and anxiety, especially among preadolescents.

Solution: sex education taught by trained personnel and focused on building responsible attitudes and behaviors will lead to young people being able to avoid unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted disease, sexual abuse etc. when they become sexually active.

[1] N. TR. The phrase refers to Romanians born in the 1960s and 1970s, shortly after the communist regime of Nicolae Ceaușescu issued Decree 770, aimed at the creation of a new and large Romanian population by restricting abortion and contraception.