Simona-Maria Chirciu, Bucharest, Romania, SSH Blog Correspondent
March is the first month of Spring and it means change and the rebirth of nature and other good things and good vibes. Even though I am having a very, very bad cold, I had the great opportunity to talk about sexual violence, consent in relationships and street harassment at some events and to meet young people determined to do something about street harassment this month. So, I didn’t have to wait for International Week against Street Harassment (April 2-8) to get things started!
Many times I feel kind of lonely in this fight against street harassment because in Romania there are so many problems regarding gender-based violence and human rights fight in general, so activists are trying to do their best on what hurts us the most: domestic violence (which is a BIG problem in our country) so they are burned out when it comes to other forms of violence like street harassment. But sometimes, like in this month, I feel so good because people are writing to me about their wish to get involved or congratulating me for doing alone this hard job.
On 7th and 8th March, the only NGO fighting for Roma women’ s rights in Romania – E-Romnja Association (www.e-romnja.ro) organized a nice event on intersectional feminism and invited me to hold a workshop about sexual violence, the importance of consent and sexual harassment. The attendees were Roma women from Roma communities in Romania and human rights activists. It was again an interesting occasion to question my position as a white feminist activists and to see how can I present important information about gender-based violence but without hard or academic concepts because traditional and vulnerable women may not understand this ”high” language.
Gender-based violence is a problem affecting women across all the country. Roma women are more vulnerable than non-Roma women because they are very discriminated in the Romanian society. Authorities (especially Police and politicians) are ignoring them because their way of thinking about Roma minority is full of negative stereotypes so their actions are most of the time against Roma minority human rights so E-Romnja Association is trying to empower Roma women to find their voice and to speak up and out about discrimination and violence.
After this, I was invited to a radio station – Bucuresti FM (Bucharest FM) to talk about International Week against Street Harassment. The show was live on the radio and online as well. I was so excited to see that there are people interested in this matter. The hosts were a woman and a man and they were so kind and truly interested about street harassment. I talked about how street harassment looks like in Romania, why this is a form of violence, what we can do about it and what I’ve planned for the big event in April.
One day after the talk at the radio station, I had a very interesting meeting with nine students from Computer Science University from Bucharest. The meeting was organized by my colleagues from ANAIS Association – a NGO helping domestic violence victims, they were the ones informing me about this meeting and asked me to get involved as I am a researcher and activist on street harassment. I said, “Wow! This is sooo nice!”
The final-year students want to create a mobile application where people can put their testimonials about street harassment experiences and a pin on a virtual map. The conversation with them was a nice one. I asked one of the male students why they are interested in this topic and he said that he knows this is happening on a daily basis and that this is so wrong. So, in the next weeks I will support them to create this online application. I’m so excited and grateful for being able to help them in this process.
Moreover, I set up a meeting for 25th of March with people from Bucharest interested in getting involved in International Week against Street Harassment to see what they want to do together between 2-8 of April.
It’s such a nice life to be an activist even though is hard but when you see your efforts are creating something that in time is getting bigger and bigger, every struggle seems much easier. I am happy seeing young people getting more interested in this matter so I think that the the International Week against Street Harassment this year (is the fourth year doing this in Bucharest, yeey!) will be a nice way to link people together and to bring more awareness on street harassment!
I know everyone can do a tiny action to bring awareness and to help creating safe public spaces for everyone so I hope people will get involved this year also! So let the preparations begin!
Simona-Marie is a Ph.D. Student in Political Sciences, working on a thesis on gender-based street harassment in Romania. She is an activist and organizes numerous public actions (marches, flash-mobs, protests) against sexual violence and street harassment against women. Now she is part of an working-group trying to improve by public policies the situation of young homeless people in Romania. You can find her on Facebook.Share on Facebook