In this interview, conducted by Roxana Mironescu for Time for Equality, Irina Sorescu, CPE’s Executive President, outlines the centre’s mission and its ongoing projects, and talks about women’s status and diversity in Romania, gender-based violence, workers’ exploitation, the Genderis Protocol on trafficking, social inclusion for people with disabilities and for people of Roma ethnicity.
Ms Sorescu, what are the main topics that the Centre for Partnership and Equality is currently focusing on? What is its mission?
CPE is aimed at mainstreaming the principle of equal opportunities for women and men into public policies and related practices as an integral part of democratization and of the creation of an open society, in order to re-define the status and improve the condition of women in Romania.
For the past 12 years, we have been working on projects in various gender-related fields such as: gender in education, women on the labour market, prevention on trafficking for sexual exploitation and prevention on violence against women.
In addition to these, in the past few months CPE has also started addressing issues related to discrimination based on one’s ethnicity or disability, which is why we are currently involved in awareness-raising campaigns and long-term action plans for three main sectors: Gender, Ethnicity and Disability.
Would you please describe in a few words some specific projects that CPE has already initiated or implemented in order to achieve its aims and mission?
The Centre for Partnership and Equality has already worked with school teachers, teaching staff in kindergartens, school counsellors as well as pupils, students and their parents in order to promote gender integration and equality within early educational environments. To this end, we have collaborated with a significant number of private and public kindergartens in Bucharest.
Moreover, our pro-diversity and pro-inclusion actions and campaigns also targeted stereotypes that may arise amongst young children based on one’s ethnicity or disability, stressing out that stereotyping impacts on children’s behavioural development.
Targeting both children and their teachers, CPE is currently training teaching staff in kindergartens how to promote inclusion and diversity through the use of appropriate methods such as the Persona Doll approach, the Sand Play therapy or real life case scenarios.
CPE is also running personal development projects for women and girls designed to equip them with skills that are needed on the current job market. Some 120 women from Bucharest and southern Romania will be benefiting from such initiatives in the following months.
The Centre is currently implementing a project co-financed by the European Commission promoting agricultural job rights to end foreign workers exploitation. How does this project intend to fight such exploitation practices?
The project is officially named ”Agricultural job rights to end foreign workers exploitation” (AGREE) and is being conducted as a partnership between organisations from Romania, Spain and Italy to prevent human trafficking and exploitation and also to make sure that relevant European directives are being implemented.
CPE’s role is to conduct research activities and gather data on workers’ exploitation, working closely with Romanian authorities such as the Agency for Safety and Health at Work, with the National Agency against Trafficking in Human Beings, with the General Inspectorate for Immigration as well as courts. We are also involved in networking activities set to engage various authorities and NGOs in this issue.
The AGREE project in Romania focuses on Romanian workers being exploited in their homeland or abroad as well as foreign citizens exploited in Romania. Our research indicates that there are very few registered cases in courts, mainly because, for instance, exploited foreigners working in Romania are generally here illegally.
On the other side, our partners in Italy and Spain are working to inform the public on the selection of commodities that are produced by exploited workers in an attempt to reduce their consumption.
As CPE’s Executive President, you signed the Genderis protocol for the implementation of gender-sensitive anti-trafficking policies and prevention measures in Romania, Italy and Spain. Can you tell us more about Genderis? How is CPE contributing to the implementation of this project?
Societies should acknowledge that there are different power relationships between women and men, and that women face certain vulnerabilities generated by their gender, including the mentality that they sell their bodies.
In each of the participating countries, a number of NGOs are working on a pilot project to prevent gender-sensitive trafficking according to the country’s characteristics. In Romania, we are going to conduct empowerment, personal development and awareness raising workshops for girls who might be at risk. In Italy, our partners will be conducting special training programmes for medical staff who will be able to identify such victims, while in Spain, organisations will run a public campaign targeting consumers of sexual services.
What are the main challenges faced by women living in today’s Romanian society?
The most significant challenges faced by women in Romania arise in their professional lives, when it comes to maternity leave, the lack of appropriate educational establishment for babies and toddlers, employers don’t sympathise with you when you may need a day off or you may be late for work. Maternity is often regarded with a bias, not as something that brings value to the whole society. Also, part-time jobs are basically non-existent.
Gender-based violence is another issue. According to a report published by the European Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), 30% of Romanian respondents claimed to have been victims of physical or sexual violence at least once after they turned 15. 6% of Romanian women have been victims of sexual violence and in 97% of cases the harassment was performed by a male.
The study shows that trust and access to information are real issues preventing women in Romania to speak up.
Could you name three key adjectives to describe a future more inclusive Romanian society?
The public should be more OPEN-MINDED to the idea of gender equality. Men are also affected by inequality and stereotypes. They are not allowed to express their feelings, are encouraged to be aggressive and also face numerous gender-based pressures to succeed in life.
NGOs are trying to create a direct contact with the society, so people should be more ENGAGED and CONFIDENT that gender equality is truly shaping their life story.