In the words of Anastasia Suslov: “Change begins with your own story and extends to the entire community”
More and more young men and women across Moldova are choosing to promote human rights, using their skills in various fields of activity. So too did Anastasia Suslov, a young activist who decided to do an internship at UN Women Moldova through the UN’s Diversity Internship Program. We invite you to discover the story of Anastasia.
"My name is Anastasia Suslov. I am 20 years old, and I am from Bălți. I am visually impaired. I am a human rights activist, and in the last year I have focused on the rights of visually impaired people, implementing several actions in this regard. This experience helped shape my personal values and subsequently my professional path. Now, I am studying at the School of Journalism in Moldova and doing an internship at UN Women Moldova.
Journalism came into my life by chance. At the age of 18, I started a podcast about human rights in Moldova. It happened in Bălți, through a local news platform. Working on that podcast alongside professionals, I fell in love with this activity.
As a human rights activist, I was trying to get a sense of feminism and gender equality issues. In 2019, together with other young women, I initiated the March 8th feminist march in Bălți. It was a new experience for this city, because protests, marches and strikes are not practiced in Bălți, especially when they are organized by women and in support of women. It was very bizarre to walk down the main street in the city, where some political parties were handing out tulips and roses to women, and we were saying, “We don't need flowers; we need equal rights.” But back then, I didn't really understand what feminism and gender equality values meant, and I think I went there more instinctively. I realized that I am a feminist after several discussions with people who also declared themselves feminists and after certain experiences that were not really positive happened to me and my friends. Then, I started collaborating with various NGOs and gradually formed the beliefs I have now.
I was happy to have the opportunity to do an internship at UN Women in a field that is interesting to me and in which I can be useful.
To start, I wrote an article based on an interview I did with a member of the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova, who is working together with other specialists to draft a law on psychologists that will be submitted for approval. It was a very interesting experience, as I managed to apply my knowledge gained. At UN Women, I feel accepted and included in all activities.
Over the past year, I have also managed to take a series of actions to support visually impaired people. In March, during World Glaucoma Week, I launched a photo exhibition on the experiences of a girl with glaucoma and more specifically on my own personal history with this condition. The exhibition reached three localities: Chișinău, Bălți and Cahul. It also reached the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova. Another interesting experience took place this summer, when we shot a documentary film about how a person with visual disabilities perceives a cultural event.
In Moldova, people with visual disabilities face various challenges on a daily basis. Many aspects could be touched upon here, but I will limit myself to a very small example. In my hometown, there is only an acoustic traffic light for visually impaired people, which is installed by an economic agent. Coming to Chișinău, I saw some traffic lights of this type, but they are not enough. Chișinău is a bit more accessible than other localities in Moldova, but it also has many impediments at the infrastructure level that could traumatize people with disabilities, like stairs and curbs that are not adapted to everyone's needs. And if we talk about making reasonable accommodations, it should be said that more accessible infrastructure would not harm the state budget, because such actions do not require large resources. For example, one accommodation would involve marking yellow paint on the edges of stairs, curbs and door handles. It would look very aesthetic and vivid. It would not only give color to the city but also help visually impaired people move independently. These are very simple but necessary actions. I believe that if we want a European future, we need to make these changes. A city becomes European when you can see people from various groups on its streets, and that includes people with disabilities.
One of the lessons I learned is to accept your feelings and emotions as they are and learn from each experience. And if you set a goal, accept that you won't be able to make a change overnight. Be consistent in what you do and allow things to happen step by step."
Now, I'm working on a few concepts in parallel, but in the future, I'd like to write. To write more often, more consistently, more efficiently. I believe that through stories, through reported experiences, we can bring about change in society. Each of us grew up with fairy tales. Each of us loves fairy tales. If we learn anything from a fairy tale, we can also learn from the story of a survivor of violence, a feminist, a man who has overcome gender stereotypes. I believe in solutions journalism, not fact-telling journalism. Journalism in which we come with a story as well as a solution that can have an impact on the entire society.
Anastasia Suslov is one of seven interns from underrepresented groups working at UN Moldova during the fifth cycle of its UN Diversity Internship Program. She is involved in the programme "Elimination of Violence against Women," as well as communication activities. In addition to working on activities within UN agencies, the interns benefit from a series of informational and empowerment sessions on various human rights topics, including visits to institutions and organizations in the field.
The UN Diversity Internship Program, initiated by UN Moldova in 2016, aims to support the inclusion of people from underrepresented groups, who face discrimination in social, economic, public and political life.
Discover more about Anastasia by visiting her Facebook page.