2nd generation WAVE Youth Ambassador from the Republic of Moldova, Alina Cebotari, conducted an interview with Irina, a young local activist, for the WAVE Youth Ambassador series THE POWER OF YOUTH.
Have you ever thought about how and if young people can make a change? We did it and we are firmly convinced that young people are contributing to important changes every single day. Today, on the eve of the International Youth Day, we are pleased to share with you the experience and message of Irina, one of those young activists who care about our society’s well-being and who can inspire us, our colleagues, friends and the society as a whole.
Irina is a 17 years old girl from the Republic of Moldova. Earlier this year, Irina finished high school and is now ready to start university. She loves reading and being informed. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she has experimented a lot with food and learned that cooking is yet another activity she likes a lot. These are things, she says, that calm her down and make her feel good. Her biggest dream at the moment is to go to university and be good at doing her studies. Today, Irina will share with us her thoughts, feelings and experience as a young activist wishing to live in a world free from violence.
– Irina, when did you understand that you want to take a stance against gender-based violence?
The moment when I decided to take action against violence against women was when I realised that women are very much affected by the prejudices and norms imposed by the society in which they live. One of the persons who inspired me was my mentor in human rights and activism, Lilia Potîng, with whom I learned many new things about the reality of violence against women in the Republic of Moldova. Thanks to her, I also learned what everyone can do in order to prevent and combat this phenomenon. Later, I read the book “Burned alive”, a book which shocked me and made me think a lot. I think that those, who say that violence is not dangerous or that it does not exist, should read this book, because it is a good wake up call to the reality of the world in which we live.
– In your opinion, what are the important aspects in combatting violence against women?
The way society sees women is very important. A woman is not a sexual object or just a housekeeper staying at home all day long, cleaning and cooking. A woman is not a beautiful accessory for men. Women can participate in important decision-making processes in society, they can lead an organisation, a political party or a social structure. Women and girls need to be encouraged, because they can be leaders and make decisions. They are not just gentle and cute, but also strong and brave. I think it is very important to stop the phenomenon of violence against women, so that women and girls can live in safety, so that they can feel free. It is important to fight against gender-based violence so that women are not harassed when walking down the street in a skirt, because the transparency of the blouse or the colour of their nails is never an invitation for sex.
We must also be aware that domestic violence has dramatic consequences for future generations who grow up with trauma and frustration. It is essential for people to understand that violence leads to violence and that violence destroys people and societies. It is important to understand that sex should not be a criterion which makes a woman vulnerable. Last but not least come the obligations of the state in combatting violence against women. It is vital that when a woman goes to the police and says that she has been assaulted, beaten or humiliated, effective measures are taken.
– Can you give an example of a project/activity, aimed at raising awareness about the phenomenon, in which you were involved?
I took part in the campaign 16 days of activism against gender-based violence. In this context, we decided to go to high schools and inform the youth about the widespread problem of violence against women in the Republic of Moldova. We tried to raise awareness and make them understand that violence is never acceptable.
– How does your everyday activism look like?
I think my daily activism is in the attitude I have. I try to discuss with friends or acquaintances and explain that violence is never acceptable. My everyday activism relies also in my openness and tolerance. Moreover, when it is possible, I try to help people.
– If you woke up in a friendly world, how would this world look like?
A friendly world is a tolerant world, where everyone’s life matters. For me, it would be a world based on the value of respect.
– What is the message you would like to share with the youth who want to get involved and be part of the change?
The message that I would like to share is that everyone can make a change and the desire to do so is already an important step, they are basically already in the process. Change comes with small things and details are essential. I encourage everybody to use a language that does not incite to hatred and discrimination, to be courageous and believe in what they do. Not all of us are or will become country presidents, parliament members or international institutions’ representatives. However, this does not mean that one person is less important than another or that nothing depends on us. It is all of us, students, volunteers, activists, regardless of our profession, who can make a change. It is the attitude which defines us.
We express our gratitude to Irina for her everyday activism, her availability and enthusiastic participation in this interview and wish her all the best for the future!
Author: 2nd generation WAVE Youth Ambassador from Moldova, Alina Cebotari