Summer camp at the “EmpowHER” Academy – an innovative initiative by young women, for young women
Young people are agents of change, and UN Women encourages their engagement in actions aimed at promoting the importance and need to achieve gender equality.
To contribute towards these changes in society, the “EmpowHER” Academy, an innovative initiative carried out by young women, for young women, organised a summer camp from 5 to 11 August, where the participants discussed gender equality, discrimination, the role of women in society and preventing gender-based violence.
For seven days, the participants were involved in developing and co-creating initiatives that will be implemented in different regions across Moldova. The camp put on trainings that combined presentations with creative content, interactive activities, and discussions that provided participants with ample information on promoting gender equality, preventing gender-based violence, and empowering girls.
With support from their mentors, the participants worked in groups to develop four project ideas that will be implemented by December 2022: two projects on preventing gender-based violence, one project on promoting intersectionality (the prevention of discrimination), and one project on encouraging girls to work in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). To spread this information more widely and among Moldova’s younger generation, the participants of the “EmpowHER” Academy plan to facilitate trainings on gender equality in their communities by June 2023.
“We want to inspire and empower other young women to get involved in activism and support them in developing community projects”, says the young founder of the “EmpowHER” Academy, Milena Rusu, with enthusiasm. “These trainings put on by young women, for young women are very efficient, and the individual support offered to each activist from the “EmpowHER” Academy will contribute to their development”. Milena says the Academy’s team is very proud of the selected applicants. “Both in their free time and in group activities, the girls were inseparable”, she added. “They shared personal experiences and developed solutions to community problems together”.
“EmpowHER” Academy’s co-founder and manager, Nica Gojan, spoke about the importance and impact of carrying out this initiative. "Through our efforts, we will offer young women across different regions the opportunity and resources that we did not have, the information that we had to find out on our own because of painful personal experiences or the experiences of those around us”, Nica says. “This project comes to the aid of the educational system”. Nica wants young women to assert their rights and not tolerate inequalities. “Too many things go unnoticed in our society, from predetermined gender roles to violence”, she says. “We know our rights, but we allow them to be violated”.
The team mentors played a special role in the camp’s activities and considered the facilitation of trainings a complex process of learning by doing. “It was a great experience. I really enjoyed sharing my knowledge and observing how the participants assimilate and ask questions”, says Daniela Moraru, mentor of the team ‘Intersectionality (Prevention of Discrimination)’. “It’s impossible to put my emotions afterwards into words. I overcame a fear and fulfilled my dream of giving training in front of an audience”, Daniela shared.
“We have created a community of participants and mentors who represent the society that we aspire to have, free from patriarchal prejudices and vices”, says Evelina Sopivnic, mentor of the team ‘Prevention of Gender-Based Violence’. “We had the opportunity to use knowledge about feminism and the oppressive system to develop the localities, within which there are acute gaps in the level of intersectional equality”, she said. “We have worked hard, and I am proud to have known and initiated into feminism young women who could surely change the rhythm of gender equality movements in Moldova".
For the participants, getting involved in the “EmpowHER” Academy camp was an opportunity to socialize and establish new friendships, but it was also the first step in their initiation and development as agents of change. Becoming more aware of girls' problems and challenges in society inspired them to develop project ideas to reduce persistent inequalities.
"One of the most serious problems among young people in Moldova is sexual bullying. The lack of information and resources, especially in the Romanian language, and the stereotypes rooted in the education system lead to sexual violence being normalized in schools”, says Alina Rusu, a member of the ‘Prevention of Gender-Based Violence’ team. The team made plans to create an animated video in the next three months for young people between the ages of 12 and 18. “It will be recorded by the team members themselves and broadcast in Romanian, English, and Russian”, Alina says. “We will focus on the regions in the center of the country – Anenii Noi, Strășeni, Ialoveni, Durlești – the regions that our colleagues come from".
The young participants also launched a project to prevent and combat discrimination against social minorities by creating a board game called "Who Am I?" The game’s players will be able to experience the challenges facing discriminated minorities in society, thus empathizing with the situation of the characters. "We are going to create the game between September and November, and starting in 2023, the activities and trainings will be organised among teenagers from Bălți and nearby regions", says Ecaterina Mândru, a participant from the team ‘Intersectionality (Prevention of Discrimination)’.
The participants also addressed the topic of promoting girls in STEM by developing a project idea that has practical utility. "My team aims to create an online platform to support young women interested in STEM”, says Ana Lopată, a ‘STEM’ team member. “Through this platform, we want to show them that they have many opportunities and that their dreams are achievable".
Nighina Azizov, a Program Analyst for UN Women Moldova’s Ending Violence against Women Programme, highlighted the importance of carrying out education initiatives for youth that are adapted to age and context. "On the one hand, survivor-led discussions, such as peer-to-peer efforts, are one of the tools that allow more and more young people to talk about their experiences of violence and discrimination”, she says. “On the other hand, they also provide more useful information about the first signs of violence and how to prevent phenomena and behaviors that limit fundamental rights”.
The EmpowHER Academy is organised by Feminismd through the Spark Fund Grant, with tax sponsorship from the GENDERDOC-M Information Centre, support from UN Women, and financial support from Sweden. The concept of the EmpowHER Academy was developed with the help of Girls in STEM.