After a year of being apart because of the pandemic, the women members of the Survivors’ Network were reunited again on Friday, 16 July, in Bucharest, at the in-presence 2021 Survivors’ Forum, an event organized annually by the Association for Liberty and Equality of Gender – A.L.E.G., in the framework of the Și Eu Reușesc programme, which aims to develop support communities meant to help people overcome intimate partner violence. The Survivors’ Network is Romania’s first and largest community of women who overcame domestic violence and now help other women facing similar situations. The objective of the event was to discuss last year’s challenges and successes, to incorporate new members and celebrate their power to break free from the vicious circle of violence, especially considering the pandemic situation.
Participants included over 50 women from the Și Eu Reușesc communities in Bucharest, Brașov, Satu Mare, Cluj-Napoca, Sibiu, and other towns with active survivor communities: Hunedoara, Galați, Craiova. Women from the Republic of Moldova also joined the event, speaking about the challenges of the pandemic beyond the Prut River. For a year now, the programme Și Eu Reușesc has been present in the Republic of Moldova, too, as A.L.E.G. has mentored organizations active involved in combating violence and supporting survivors, supported by UN Women Moldova, the Embassy of Sweden to the Republic of Moldova, and the Coalition “Life without Violence”. Besides survivors, the forum also benefited from the contribution of pro-bono experts of the Și Eu Reușesc communities, such as lawyers, psychotherapists, and social workers, who most often engaged with the programme’s local partners: ANAIS Association, Pas Alternativ Association, GRAB – Support Group for Women Who Overcame Abuse.
Most participants stated that the online communication tools associated to the programme made it easier for them to face the lockdown and the social distancing – ‘A sister was always available to listen, so I am grateful for sorority’, said Maria from the Republic of Moldova, who despite the distance is very close to the Satu Mare community. ‘The universe works to ensure that, when she’s down, I find the strength to lift her spirits’, Iuliana added. ‘I am grateful to my psychotherapist and the support group that helped me accept myself, so I want to help more women understand the importance of joining a group’, said a survivor from Bucharest.
The event was also attended by programme supporters, such as Ashoka Romania, who described the Spanish good practice model that inspired the creation of the programme in 2018. Tanya Collingridge, the UK Embassy’s Deputy Head of Mission to Romania, spoke to the forum participants in Romania, congratulating them for their courage and restating the Embassy’s commitment to combating violence against women. We were also joined by our partners at the Friends for Friends Foundation, alongside whom we continue to organize the In a Relationship – supported by AVON Romania – prevention workshops for teenagers and parents. The day ended in celebration, as survivors had the chance to offer each other the #ȘiEuReușesc brooch, a symbol of women solidarity, as well as a word of encouragement.
In the future, the network aims to strike partnerships with employers from various cities in Romania in an attempt to facilitate dignified employment opportunities for the women who need to integrate on the labour market in order to overcome economic dependence.
The Survivors’ Forum was funded by the Vodafone Romania Foundation through the project “Extending and strengthening the Si Eu Reusesc programme”, and cofounded through the IKEA Fund for Gender Equality, supported by IKEA Romania and managed by the Bucharest Community Foundation.