Note: This post spotlights the strength and courage of women of Moldova in honor of Peace Corps’ “Sharing Culture from Around the World” Day.
Peace Corps volunteers typically put a great deal of emphasis on their ability to learn the local language and integrate into the local culture. As a rather loquacious individual, learning Romanian came easy to me, but understanding and accepting some of the cultural nuances in Moldova was more difficult for me, especially as it related to traditional gender roles.
After a three month training period, I found myself working at a domestic violence center in the capital, Chisinau. The NGO ‘Association against Domestic Violence – Casa Marioarei’ requested the help of a Peace Corps volunteer after losing funding and keeping the shelter open for over a year on the backs of volunteers. I began my assignment with Casa Marioarei by trying to understand before trying to be understood. After the first several months, I started to realize that my colleagues and I were able to speak the same language. The universality of domestic violence brought us together in the same fight that is being fought around the world.
Although our ideas about feminism might be different, it was evident early on that these women were driven by their fundamental belief in women’s rights. They founded the Association in 2000, with the support of the former First Lady, Antonina Lucinschi, and raised enough money locally to repair an old kindergarten to serve as the domestic violence shelter. Since the shelter’s opening in 2004, the women of Casa Marioarei have provided services for over 10,000 survivors of domestic violence throughout Moldova. The work that they do is similar to what you would find in many domestic violence shelters in theUS, which is nothing short of amazing. They hold support groups, organize parties for the children at the shelter, and fight vigorously for each survivors legal rights.
Over the last 18 months, I have watched the Casa Marioarei team grow tremendously and learn from each other, from me, and from their international sisters. Ultimately, though, I believe that I have benefited the most from our time together. These women have inspired and prepared me to pursue a career dedicated to advancing women’s rights; for this, I will be forever grateful.
Shelby Knox summed up my experience with a thought she shared on a panel at Stanford University last year: “In every room, when…stories (about women fighting for their rights) were told, we all left feeling less crazy, less alone and more pissed off and that is what feminism is. It’s hearing your pain and your struggles in another persons voice and suddenly realizing there’s nothing wrong with you and there’s nothing wrong with her, but there’s something wrong with the world that’s trying to make you think that there is.”
The women of Casa Marioarei see that there is something wrong with their world in trying to make women believe that domestic violence is acceptable. Every day, they take a stand against this belief. Their courage, tenacity, and dedication has motivated me to join the fight to end violence against women. What I do from here, I credit to these women and this experience. Thank you, Team Casa Marioarei!