Women's Empowerment in RomaniaWomen’s empowerment remains a crucial international issue, with each nation facing its own set of challenges. Significant progress has been made in improving gender equality over the last fifty years, but setbacks still remain regarding women’s empowerment in Romania.

After the collapse of communism, Romania began the slow process of democratization, which triggered many economic, political and social transformations, all with varying outcomes regarding gender equality.

In 2009, a financial crisis occurred throughout the country, resulting in financial assistance packages from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, the European Commission and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

During this time, continuous changes were made in legislative provisions involving employment and the work-life balance of Romanians. This posed an issue, especially with the dissolution National Agency for Equal Opportunities between Women and Men in July of 2010. Between 2008 and 2010 the unemployment rate increased by 1.2 percent for men and by 1.8 percent for women, exposing the labor market as favorable to men.

According to a recent report, many laws still make it difficult for women to get a job, start a business or fully participate in the economic life of Romania. Discriminatory rules remain utilized in the country which ban women from certain jobs, limit their ability to make legal decisions and even restrict access to capital from women-owned firms.

Despite these changes, there are many crucial efforts being made to increase women’s empowerment in Romania. The International Finance Cooperation (IFC) through its Banking-on-Women Program has established a loan agreement with Garanti Bank to help Romanian women run their own businesses. Since launching in Europe, the Middle-East and North Africa in 2011, the Banking-on-Women Program has provided over $130 million to six banks for lending to women entrepreneurs.

The labor market segregation is also closely linked to the educational system. Unfortunately, many women in Romania have been greatly deprived of receiving an education. Traditional female domestic roles are still upheld by society and even taught in the school system. Textbooks promote a male-dominated world, leaving girls feeling inferior. Many women do not see the connection between education and getting a job, therefore girls are often taken out of school in order to marry or help with household chores.

Location also impacts the connection between women and education. Around 68 percent of women in urban areas are gaining a secondary education, while only about 42 percent of women in rural areas are receiving a secondary education.

Furthermore, evening attaining a university degree does not help women outright. Despite large numbers of women graduates and high qualifications, women are not equally represented in decision making or professional levels.

To combat this, the Educational Priority Areas (EPA), in partnership with UNICEF and the Institute for Education Sciences, targets disadvantaged communities to increase women’s access to education. With an emphasis on quality communication between schools and parents, and schools and authorities, this project trains teachers with inter-cultural approaches to education while creating a curriculum that will keep students interested and informed.

In addition, UNICEF has helped set up a number of education centers with girl-friendly educational programs. By changing the curriculum and textbooks to accurately represent a balanced gender perspective, this project seeks to decrease the school dropout rate and promote education for everyone, especially women. Since knowledge is power and education drastically alters the economy, this is a positive step towards women’s empowerment in Romania.

With these work and education efforts being made, women in Romania stand a chance to gain their own independence and positively improve the Romanian economy.

– Kailey Brennan

Photo: Flickr