How to mobilize thousands of people to get involved in preventing domestic violence
June 30, 2022
In just four years, Gagauzia, the region where violence was denied as a social phenomenon, has taken a leading role in its prevention and has become a role model for other localities in the country. The change took place with the support of UNDP Moldova.
"If you asked me about the problem of domestic violence 10 years ago, most likely, I would have said that this phenomenon does not exist in Gagauzia region. Not because it did not exist de facto, but because it was silenced," says Svetlana Georgieva, Director of the first Center for Rehabilitation of Survivors of Violence in Gagauzia region. Svetlana has contributed to the fact that prevention of violence has become a priority not only for the authorities, but also for people in the region.
The attitude towards the phenomenon of violence began changing in 2018, with the launch of a global pilot project of UNDP in Gagauzia, part of a global initiative implemented in 7 countries: Bhutan, Lebanon, Indonesia, Iraq, Moldova, Peru, and Uganda. Having selected for a pilot one specific locality - Chirsova village, compactly populated by ethnic Gagauz and Bulgarians, the project’s initiators aimed to develop an effective mechanism for preventing violence, which may be later replicated by other villages or towns in the region.
Multidisciplinary team as a key to change
Employees of several public institutions in Chirsova were the first agents of change, who mobilized and formed a multidisciplinary team: police officers, social workers, teachers, doctors, and other specialists. With UNDP's support, team members were trained how to act in all cases of risk to the lives and security of victims of violence and their children.
"The activity of the multidisciplinary team in our locality aims to improve the lives of the villagers, to reduce violence and conflicts between people. We aimed to unite the locality, to make our citizens friendly," says Ana Neicovcena, director of "Licurici" kindergarten nr. 2 from Chirsova, member of the local multidisciplinary team.
Based on the experience of Chirsova village, in 2021 similar teams were established in ten other localities of the Gagauz autonomy. This year, with the support of the Government of Romania, similar teams will be launched in ten other villages and towns of Gagauzia region. Thus, the community mobilization against violence will scale up and cover a large part of the communities in the region.
Tatiana Terzi, a social worker in Tomai village and member of the multidisciplinary team, says that her own work and that of her colleagues implies permanent involvement.
"The goal of the multidisciplinary team is to identify difficult situations that occur in vulnerable families. If these families are at risk, they are continuously monitored," says the specialist.
Natalia Grau-Iachimova, senior officer, Comrat Police Commissariat, said that the most difficult decisions related to the protection of victims should be taken via consensus: "We gather colleagues from several areas and discuss one problem or another and everyone shares his/her point of view and, subsequently, we take the decision. Thus, it is much easier to help people who have found themselves at risk."
Vitalie Frecauteanu, Project Coordinator at UNDP Moldova, mentions that the work of the teams becomes more and more efficient
"Specialists know how to identify victims of domestic violence in their communities, they know what services exist and how to provide them to beneficiaries, and, respectively, how to refer victims to existing services."Vitalie Frecauteanu, Project Coordinator at UNDP Moldova
Community mobilization is precondition for success
Each newly involved community in the project elaborates a participatory Anti-Violence Action Plan. Every man or woman in the village can express his/her opinion about modalities to protect the victims or what the authorities can do to effectively prevent this phenomenon. Once developed, the action plan allows local authorities to allocate and attract resources for the operation of the services the community needs. The areas of intervention are tailored to the needs of the victims – legal, social, educational assistance, employment, etc. At the same time, they also include prevention activities – information campaigns, thematic lessons for children and adults and other actions. At the end of each year, the members of the multidisciplinary team assess how the provisions of the action plan have been implemented.
Turning point: opening of the Regional Center for the rehabilitation of victims of violence
In parallel with capacity development at the local level, the project’s team worked together with the local authorities in the region to establish the first Center for the rehabilitation of survivors of violence in Gagauzia.
Gagauzia’s authorities offered a building for the Center, which was technically examined and then fully renovated. UNDP, with the support of the Republic of Korea, allocated $90,000. The Executive Committee of Gagauzia contributed with about $85,000.
At the same time, to supplement the institution's budget, a fundraising campaign was conducted, to which dozens of men and women from the country and from abroad contributed. A charity performance based on the real stories of survivors of domestic violence was organized as part of this campaign.
Some journalists, bloggers and singers organized a charity fair and donated the money for the future Center in Gagauzia region. The total amount of donations is MDL75,687, money transferred to the Center's account, used to purchase household appliances for the Center, such as washing machine, refrigerator, etc.
"It took us two years to renovate it, and now the Center is located in a building of two floors, of about 500 square meters. The institution can simultaneously accommodate up to 20 people, women and children, for a term of up to six months. Each woman is offered a separate room, equipped with everything necessary. There is also a playroom for children, and a room where the tenants can spend their free time," says Svetlana Georgieva, Director of the Center.
The building is also accessible for people with disabilities, with an access ramp at the entrance and adapted bathrooms inside, while access from one floor to another can be provided with the help of a special device.
A community center is located on the first floor, designed for women and men from disadvantaged groups, as well as for people who need counseling or support.
Irina Vlah, Governor of Gagauzia region, said the opening of the Center is one of the most important actions to prevent domestic violence.
"A lot of efforts need to be made to inform the community/society about the fact that this Center exists and what services it can offer. We have allocated a budget for the current year and I hope that this project will be successful, women will be informed. I hope that we will work together to stop violence in society," she mentioned.
Valeriu Topciu, mayor of Tomai village, Gagauzia, said the institution is a real lifeline for the authorities, who previously had no solution where to shelter women who faced domestic violence.
"Now, since this Center opened, we are sure that effective help will indeed be provided. Children or women accommodated in the Center receive much-needed support. Our efforts were not in vain," the mayor says.
Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, the institution has accommodated over 120 refugees, women with young children being treated as a priority.
According to Vitalie Frecauteanu, Project Coordinator at UNDP Moldova, this service complies with the national requirements and standards for the assistance of survivors of domestic violence. "It is very important that we managed to involve the regional authorities through their subordinated structures and institutions. The fact that the Government has taken on the financing of this service talks about the political will and the identification of sustainable solutions to this problem."