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Activism is also for YOUth. Conclusions at the end of the Gender Equality Festival®

The Gender Equality Festival, the annual campaign carried out by A.L.E.G. which reached its XVIII edition this year, encouraged the young people of Sibiu, as well as the institutions and organizations that work with them, to get involved in actions for equal opportunities and combating discrimination. With a mix of activities that included forum theater, a book launch, an international exchange of best practices in the field of youth, workshops on the history of the women’s rights movement, workshops on healthy relationships and combating prejudice.

Activism, but also the risks faced by young people in the online environment, were the main themes for the “Influences” forum theater performance staged on Thursday evening by A.L.E.G. volunteers, who also designed the scenario, during a summer camp, under the coordination of Doriana Tăut, lecturer at the theater arts department within ULBS. More than 150 people actively participated in the “Influences” show, hosted by the Gong Children’s and Youth Theater, enthusiastically getting involved in finding solutions to change the situation. The show was preceded by the launch of the book Theater for Equal Rights, which documented the forum theater scenarios designed and staged by A.L.E.G together with high school students and young actors from Sibiu in the last 12 years, as well as other social theater methods used in the support of education for equal rights. Along with the authors of the book, Doriana Tăut and Camelia Proca, Mihaela Miroiu, theorist and feminist activist, and Adrian Tibu, the manager of the Children’s and Youth Theater “Gong”, a long-time partner of the festival, spoke at the launch, who emphasized the importance of constant work in support of freedom and democratic values. 

On October 6, A.L.E.G. organized an exchange of best practices on the theme of youth activism between organizations from Romania, Germany, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, aiming to capture how the topic of equal rights is integrated. The conference was hosted at the council room of the Sibiu City Hall, with the participation of the Social Assistance Directorate, but also of other local public institutions such as DGASPC Sibiu, CJRAE, the County Police Inspectorate, the School Inspectorate and civil society organizations. Laura Griese from the Marburg City Hall, presented how this twinned city with the Municipality of Sibiu implements the European Charter for Equality, which it signed in 2014: it has developed a local action plan and annually allocates a budget for this theme, even having a department for Gender Equality, Diversity and Combating Discrimination, which carries out projects to encourage women’s political participation or campaigns for fair remuneration in the cultural sector. The Marburg administration sees gender equality as hand in hand with the elimination of other disadvantages related to age, disability, origin, religion or sexual orientation, all of these inequalities deepening experiences of discrimination when they intersect. Girls are a vulnerable category that the Girls*Unite organization in Marburg takes special care of, putting them in contact with various resources designed to support them.

Two projects in Ukraine, the educational and creative center Svitlytsia and the NGO Resource Center, moved us with their enthusiasm for defending the chances of a normal life for war-affected communities, talking about how they work to reduce anxiety among children, respectively to increase the chances of survival for the more than 42,000 women involved in the armed forces, who often do not have equipment suitable for the female anatomy. Feminism MD from the Republic of Moldova spoke about how she promotes the benefits of feminism for girls and boys, both affected by gender stereotypes that limit them. Fundația Comunitară Sibiu, Asociația de Poveste, Consiliul Tineretului din România and A.L.E.G came up with examples from their own activities aimed at encouraging leadership, education, and political participation of young people. The national focal point of the EU Program for Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values presented the funding opportunities for the next 4 years, and at the end, those present worked on concrete solutions and project ideas to combat problems such as addictions and unhealthy lifestyles , the perpetuation of inequalities and the lack of civic involvement of young people.

On Saturday October 7, Promenada Sibiu hosted the Living Library – an event where the books were personalities from Sibiu, but also from Bucharest, Chisinau, Kyiv and Marburg, with new initiatives, which passers-by could borrow to listen to their stories about how they change the world through engagement and activism. During this event, the participants spoke with Mihaela Noroc, the Romanian who traveled to more than 100 countries to photograph the diversity of women and who has been living in Sibiu for several years.

The festival ended on Saturday evening with an event dedicated to creative arts – Creative Arts for Equal Rights, which combined the exhibition of hand-made products with creative workshops, followed by a performative poetry show (spoken word) on the outside terrace of the mall , supported by Corpul Poetic, the atmosphere being colored with music by The Eclectors.

The workshops that preceded the festival were also hosted by Promenada Mall: Follow your heart and Choose your words, where passers-by could create messages with the help of volunteers. On October 4, we made our messages about equal rights seen in Ziarul Orizontal, responding to the invitation of the artist Dan Perjovschi, and then we talked about the history of the movement for women’s rights in a workshop that brought together Romanians and Ukrainians, mostly girls and women, but also some male participants who concluded that feminism liberates them from harmful pressures and stereotypes.

Partners: Teatrul pentru Copii și Tineret „Gong”, Promenada Sibiu, Consiliul Tineretului din România. Financiers: International Rescue Committee and Global Fund for Children. Sponsors: SIMPA Sibiu, Xixo and Ice Coffee.