Dominique is a human rights activist from Romania. She has dedicated her teen years to empowering her generation by amplifying their voices. She has worked with several organizations, including UNICEF in Romania, to advance and redefine reproductive rights, gender equality and youth participation in an Eastern European state. She also advocates for the rights of LGBTQ+ people.
In her spare time, Dominique does investigative journalism and organizes community events about reproductive rights and gender equality for high school students. She enjoys taking walks, especially during autumn, and loves having community meals.
This World Children’s Day, we celebrate Dominique’s efforts to create a world where "inclusion is more than belonging,” with an illustration by Alex Haekel Abdurrahman. Here, Dominique reflects on her advocacy journey, what inclusion means to her, and the world she aspires to create.
Content warning: this blog post includes mentions of sexual abuse and other forms of violence.
Children get promised safety all the time – they get promised candy, playtime, big dreams and big toys. They get promised superpowers and get told the boogeyman does not exist. Only to get shot in school, only to get mocked by adults, only to close their eyes and feel the unwanted touches, only to get killed for being themselves, only to be bullied into depression.
There is a general feeling of loneliness and hopelessness youth feel when the burden of the systems we live under becomes too much to bear. But we have a good cry, and we channel the anger we feel into community change. We vow to ourselves that no child will go through what we have been through again and alone.
This year I marked five years of activism and I realized how I slowly moved from high level work to community work. I do not deny that meetings with decision makers are vital, but, at the end of the day, community is where you get your power from.
Inclusion plays a vital role in giving us the courage to share our stories. With the help of F-SIDES, the first national feminist film club, my team and I brought the safe spaces they were creating in big cities to the small town we were born in. For eight months we met monthly to discuss topics such as bodies and the state, work and globalization, and women in power, and to watch related film. The meetings soon became a place where we would bond over our experiences. They became a place of collective healing and of finding ways to organize for change.
Getting older feels like a normal thing to expect, but we know this is not always the case for queer people. While we try to save each other from dying again and again, our existence is always determined by external factors we have little control over – which party is in power or the bias of the doctor that treats us. When I was part of the student council in my hometown, I dedicated my time to building a support network for children who were part of the LGBTQ+ community. We were able to integrate gender identity in the peer-to-peer lessons we were holding annually as part of the World’s Largest Lesson because teachers were often too busy to pay attention to our curricula. We also had designated support persons inside the council who would mediate the relationships with queer youth.
Inclusion is more than belonging, inclusion also means challenging the biases we grow up with. Romania is known for its high rate of teenage mothers and, many times, there is a deep social stigma that pushes them away from community support. To tackle this, I partnered with Iele Sânziene, a feminist NGO in Romania, and with their help I teach Comprehensive Sexual Education. We seek to also empower children to become promoters of information on reproductive rights in their communities. Many of the teen mothers have been victims of sexual violence.
Alongside Context.ro, a team dedicated to investigative journalism, and helped by Centrul FILIA and Girl Up România, two associations fighting for female empowerment in my country, I started looking at an overlooked side of sexual abuse – that which takes place at schools. Since children spend up to eight hours at school, it is one of the main environments where cases of sexual violence can be identified or prevented. To gather information, we’ve spoken to experts and survivors alike, and organized protests to ask the Education Ministry to pass clearer legislation when it comes to this issue.
Resistance and rebellion are embedded in our youth, but we wish for a world where we wouldn’t have to trade childhood to fight for our existence. We wish for a world where “there would be no revolution, nothing to be fighting for,” as the song Chelsea by Phoebe Bridgers says, for we have everything we ever needed. A space of freedom, where we will keep each other safe.