Raisa Buga has been an educator for 32 years and is currently a geography teacher and principal of the Dimitrie Cantemir High School in Cornesti town of Ungheni district in Moldova. As a longstanding local resident, she has always strived to promote gender equality in her community, educating several generations in the spirit of equality and mutual respect. The EVA project – Strengthened Gender Action in Cahul and Ungheni districts, funded by the European Union and implemented by UN Women in partnership with the UN Children’s Fund, has supported her with her endeavours. Through the project, Raisa has discovered innovative tools for advancing gender equality, such as positive deviance.
“I live in Cornesti village in Ungheni district. My day begins before sunrise, with a cup of black coffee and the thought – not to miss the school bus. The bus takes me to the gymnasium [secondary school] of Cornesti town, where I have been teaching geography for 32 years, and a few years ago I became the principal there. I grew up in a stable family, with the ambition and desire to make our world better. I lost my father when I was only three years old, and my mother never remarried.
During my childhood, I witnessed violence in other families, at my neighbours’, and when I grew up, somebody told me that ‘men are always the family head’, and this phrase changed something in me. I think both women and men can do great things. I completed my master’s degree when I was almost 40, and I noticed that although men were less involved in learning activities, in the end they obtained the same results as we women did. Besides this, the church always had double standards towards women and men: women were ‘educated’ in a humble way.
Such situations made me determined to create change in my community, to get involved. Thanks to different projects, supported by UN Women, I started teaching gender equality as an optional class. In the beginning, people were sceptical, but the children loved it immediately. The EVA Project helped me discover a tool that I had actually already been using, without realising it – positive deviance. At the beginning, I was surprised to see the way things can work – making a change, focusing on a deviation from the norm! A simple but a grand discovery! Then, I understood that, using this method, I can help many problematic, violent families to be aware of the effects of this phenomenon.
Having analysed families’ that live in harmony and having zero tolerance towards violence, I realised that when the father is more involved in childcare and upbringing, there is less violence and children perform better academically.
Being guided by this pattern of positive deviance, I recently decided to work with a family with two children, which I had known for five years [there was domestic violence in the family which had a negative impact on the children]. Individual discussions with each adult from the family and encouraging the father to take small steps – such as cleaning the mud off children’s shoes, picking them up from the school and checking if they have all the necessary school supplies – brought good results. This father became one of the most caring and responsible parents in the school.
Now we have more and more tools for gender equality education. Within the EVA Project, I discovered two positive practices underway in the European Union. They are related to the prevention of violence and combating it, and I decided to apply them in school. One of them will be dedicated to promoting gender equality, and the other one, ‘silence is not golden’, will raise awareness on violence and encourage people to report it.
Unfortunately, women are still vulnerable because they don’t believe in themselves – they are often afraid to take a stand. To succeed, it is important for them to constantly educate and inform themselves. I have already noticed that girls of my children’s generation can express their views more clearly. This is uncommon for women of my generation, who are often fearful and obedient.
It is important to change the perception in schools, to start with manuals and explain why fathers should not be represented only as mechanics or bricklayers, and mothers as housewives. The EVA Project teaches us how to use innovation to advance the mission of gender equality in villages and towns of Ungheni district via education.”
The EVA project – Strengthened Gender Action in Cahul and Ungheni districts – aims to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment by ensuring the incorporation of gender mainstreaming in local public policies and combating domestic violence affecting women and children in the regions of Ungheni and Cahul. The three-year project is funded by the European Union and runs until the end of 2022. It is implemented by UN Women in partnership with UNICEF.
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