International Day of the Girl: Letters and stories from Romania

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Illustration by Ina Gouveia

Girls everywhere are already changing the world. This Day Of The Girl (Oct 11) join us by giving a shout out or writing a letter to a girl who inspires you: a young leader, a family member, an influencer, your best friend or even yourself as a teen! 

Check these letters and stories written by these four girls, members of Romania's Children Board.

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Dana Novacescu
My name is Dana Novacescu. I am 19 years old and I am a student at the Faculty of Law of Babeș Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. I love music, dance, theater and art. I strongly believe in the principle of equal opportunities/equality of chances and I am a dedicated advocate for the right of children to participate. I wrote together with the children of Europe and the Romanian Children's Board Members the "Bucharest EU Children's Declaration".

Dana Novacescu, 19

"To all the girls around the world,

Do you believe as well that the challenges and hardships set on our girl shoulders are much bigger than others?

Do you believe as well that, although we don’t want to show it, in order not to appear weak, we cover ourselves in armour and social masks, we keep quiet and conceal ourselves in order not to be noticed by harassers and abusers? That we try to survive, with the lowest personal costs possible and we fight daily in order to somehow successfully face, in accordance with the almighty standards of this world with misogynistic rules and standards, all the traps and dangers that are lurking around every corner of this urban jungle?   

But for me, this solution seems like a flee and a withdrawal in our interior mind, where we isolate ourselves in order to be protected. And sometimes, for many girls, this is also an abandonment. Of our dreams, needs and, worst of all, of our chances and opportunities.

This way we lose ourselves. We ourselves get down from the greatness and the mission which we received at birth as exclusive gifts. To create, to procreate and to renew.

STOP! This would truly be a living nightmare, through which we have to go day by day in the cities and villages we are living in.

I want to tell you something and I bid you to think about it, without even an ounce of fear or doubt.

Every time you’ll feel that the heaviness of the challenges has fallen on your shoulders and bends your knees, I want you to remember, in your heart, Beyonce’s song “If I were a Boy”. But just the superb rhythm of the song, not the lyrics.

Then close your eyes for a moment, brief enough in order to erase from your mind the extremely well-known lyrics of this song and to replace them with yours. Look! These are mine: “I am exactly who I need to be and I will strive for greatness wherever I will be.” I’m sure that yours will be even more inspirational and motivating, in order for you to feel good in your skin and GIRL clothes.

From nature, from your parents and from within you, you have the qualities to astonish, captivate, inspire and convince people to believe in your vision and ideas.

Make them follow you in your mission to renew this world.. And then, if you’re in the mood, make them follow you also while having fun.

But be the leader that also makes them see the world you are constantly dreaming of. They will believe you and they will follow you if they see that your ideas and decisions are based on your convictions and values.

Each time an opportunity arises, one that responds to your needs for development, don’t think twice about it and just take it! If no opportunities arise, search for them, because they won’t simply come to you. Or create them! Who’s stopping you from doing this?

Dedicate yourself to the things that matter, that make you happy and bring you spiritual fulfilment. When you are able to, help those around you to feel the vibration of your happiness. Your willpower will become your path in the years that follow. You are the only one that your success or your failure depends on and the only one who decides if she leaves remarkable trails in her life or stuns herself with “I can’t” and “I don’t know”, fading away.

No struggle is in vain, so fight for your dream with all your skills and abilities. The time you have is enough! You just have to have the will needed for this, as positive results will come without a doubt. 

Believe in yourself! You are the most powerful being on this Earth. The power is within you, not in others, and certainly not in objects or money.

Your power lies in the opinion you have about yourself.

We are girls! Future women and mothers, who are born with the perception of good and the power to create and bring comfort. It would be a complete contradiction of sense and purpose to generate negative energies and to create guiding lines that bring injustice and malice. We have the divine instinct to create and to protect.  

Make your voice heard and use it for truth, justice and solidarity!

Make your opinions known each time you feel that your fundamental values and the ones of the community you live in are breached.

Be the energy and the will that repair a wrong or an abuse, even if you are the only one that supports it and behind you the wave of reactions or contradictory opinions that unleashes against you will frighten you.

I know, the gloom of intolerance, superficiality and commodity can be and really is scary.

Even with all these natural fears of the body and soul of a girl, do not be afraid.

Be the lamp that spreads Light into the dark and gives spiritual warmth in the social frost that seems to numb us all in this pandemic of disease, fear, insecurity and unpredictability.

Always trust that your positive vibration will inspire and motivate another girl’s soul and the soul of others, therefore putting into motion a “live wheel” that moves our social mechanism forward.

Be the spark that lights people in their desire to discover themselves and how strong they are.

Make people vibrate high and they will listen to you and follow you.

We are the leaders that this world desperately needs.

I have faith in you and your power!

Yours fondly, Dana!"


 

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Ariana Ardelean
My name is Ariana Ardelean, 19, but mentally and emotionally both older and younger – depends on the situation. National Olympic in Sociology, Second Year Law student – doing it because it is the one of the rare methods of finding paramount information about the mechanism of society and the only way to gain the legal weapons to fight the crucial problems we face on a daily basis.

My dad used to call me Bellu when I was younger, which I found a few years back that means ‘war’ in Latin. Take that and add it to my actual name, which translates to ‘the holiest’ and you get two quite contradictory notions, so you can say I knew pretty early on that I was paradoxical to the limit. But does the limit really exist?

Ariana Ardelean, 19

 

"To all the girls I’ve met before,

Titans of social implication who work 40 hours weeks since middle school, innovative people who chose to showcase their intelligence through academic competition, girls so extroverted that they dazzle you with their energy or quiet individuals that shine brightest during their favourite season.

Sometimes we feel the world is letting us down – when we run dark scenarios through our mind or further hearing the same old adages even after combating them with scientific truth.

Other times it’s the education system that has us raising our brows – do you still cringe a little when you hear ‘I need some strong boys’ and you interfere “People. You need strong people to lift up these tables."

And then we get home to hear jokes about how marriage is still a girl’s main fortune in life.

And yet you still raise up to the challenge – no matter how large the percentage of people that try to convince you are on the wrong path, you choose to be yourself, you choose to be yourself, with all the high standards and values it entails. You search for opportunities, go where your skills are most needed, submit these applications and get the funds to bring about improvement – because when the world goes up in flames, all the girls I’ve met take their bricks of knowledge, insights, the compassion and the empathy, the social sciences necessary to build a better society and do just that – raise their castle farther away from the fire.

To all the girls,

I have failed you before and I will certainly do it again in the future. I have judged despite telling myself to mind my own business, I had adamant opinions that intervened with your rights, I still have issues flying over my head because I am not empathising enough. My own shortcomings, the rush of staying on top of things or even my regularly checked privilege sometimes lead me to the wrong end of the argument, be it for just a split of a second – but I want you to know that everyday I see the goth girl flawlessly rocking her unapologetic opinions, the hard working medicine student getting involved in social change and that ‘arrogant’ young leader taking back her narrative and I get inspired to be a better listener, a better friend, cousin and stranger.

You do that to me, you do that to your family, to your school and to the world. They say life is a competition – well, I look forward to watching the team you will form, coach.

Always yours,

A."


 

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Dominique Ogreanu
I am Dominique. I savor early mornings, tough mysteries, and solutions that require great thinking. I believe in humans, in our power to do good and in compassion. I fight for social inclusion, preventing domestic violence, and destigmatizing mental health. Stimulated by the hope that a handful of teenagers can change the community, I strive to inspire my colleagues to be involved and contribute to building a sustainable and safe future for us all.

Dominique Ogreanu, 17

 

“If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.” Abigail Adams.

 

We, girls, harbour a great fire within us which social injustice and the increasing inequity of the world adds fuel to. Yet, we are hopeful, we have the belief that change is right around the corner, that we are gifted to transform our society into an inclusive, fair and humane community. Before dwelling any further, I must explain that by the term girl, I am referring to anyone born this way or who chose to identify as a woman. 

My article will be divided into two parts, in the first I will be explaining the risks you are exposed to by walking in the skin of a girl and then I will remind each and everyone of you, dear readers, of the strength we carry deep inside of us, which allows my peers and I to fight for equality. 

The 2030 Agenda sets a high bar for Romania when it comes to Goal 5: Gender Equality and Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities. We have ten years to dispose ourselves of the stereotypes we nurture. Unfortunately, data paints a gruesome picture of our country, as 55% of citizens believe rape is justifyable, 45% consider men to be more capable of ruling and 65% state women should listen to their male partners.

We are raising our daughters in fear of being attacked, groped, humiliated or questioned. We take away their freedom because there is so much hatred towards their gender. We take away their voice, because, suddenly, reality is too taboo to be talked about. Experiences are swept under the rug, because you can’t stand hearing the suffering caused or because the perpetrator was too important to have his authority and account inquired. Everyday, I cover up, I come home before dark, I keep talking to my friend on the phone when I enter cars, I don’t run alone, I don’t roam the streets alone and I still get harrassed. When I speak up, I am interrupted and called names for the “audacity” I had to raise my tone against inequality, against the abnormal normal we have created. 

And yet...I choose to rebel. I remember I am the daughter of suffragettes, I am the daughter of Eleanor Roosevelt, Sofia Nădejde, Gloria Steinem, Angela Davis, Maria Cuțarida and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Simone de Beauvoir, Mary Wollstonecraft, Margaret Thatcher, Benazir Bhutto and Malala Yousafzai. It would be a pity to not use my voice when they fought so hard for me to have one. 

One of the effective ways to prevent misogyny is to teach about feminism and, of course, equality. All you need is yourself, determination and maybe a projector. Walk from class to class in your school and raise awareness on the topic. Make informative posters with breathtaking graphics that catch the eye, start an Instagram page, keep yourself hungry for information. In order to make people riot against injustice, you must not sugarcoat the statistics you present, let them be raw and painful. Let them be a wake up call. 

I am very keen on ending domestic violence and its effects, that is why, I helped by my friends, I’ve created a podcast called Peda Talks in which we address the issue of healing after a toxic relationship, we approach the signs of leaving a harmful bond and we talk about how we can get help after harassment. The purpose of the initiative is to shed a light on this matter which affects more and more people every year. Although it is a major concern, there are little measures taken by the state to ensure the well being of its citizens. 

Another way to get involved in the change movement is to join or partner with an association that advocates for gender equality, like Girl Up Romania, Filia Center and ALEG Romania. Moreover, email psychologists, public persons or reporters willing to spread the message of social justice.

You will face hardships, you will be turned down, but do not lose hope. Think of all the girls who need your projects, think of why you started in the first place and let the rage and disappointment motivate you to do even greater things. 

So, let’s recap the recipe for writing your own story. 

  1. Know your worth!
  2. Find the fuel that keeps your passion burning - that one injustice you can’t utterly stand. 
  3. Choose your path.
  4. Make a statement. Here is mine:

Hi! I am Dominique, I am 17 years old and I am fighting for destigmatizing mental health and preventing violence against women. What are you fighting for?


 

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 Ilinca Murarasu
I am Ilinca, a girl quite keen on volunteering, always willing to get involved and to help others, through any way possible. Even though I am a novice, being a member of the Romanian Children’s Board has made me adore playing an active role in numerous projects and work groups, trying to ensure, along with my colleagues, that child participation is not only a wish, but also a reality. I would describe myself as being truly driven and passionate about life, always eager for “more”, in love with others’ smiles and happiness.

 Ilinca Murarasu, 15

Society changes people. Yes, it really changes them. Sometimes it brings them down. It never gives them the means through which they can recover their wings and fly even higher. I was given the chance to „share” my story with  other people, to describe the unique way in which I chose to live my life, also by motivating those around me. I couldn’t imagine that it would be so difficult. So difficult to acknowledge what makes me unique.. Why?

I tend to look around me, to compare myself to others, to set up barriers and to believe that I will never achieve my goals. Trust. The divine quality that is always taken from us by the society of “similar robots”. In a world of similarities, like a black and white movie, I want to believe that I followed the tougher path, that I didn’t listen to others and that I always fought to become who I am now. And my story begins here.         

Even since I was a little girl I liked talking very much. I was often told I should keep some of my ideas for the days to come, but I always found something new to hold onto. I liked to be a group leader, to listen to everyone’s ideas and, then, to represent them with pride. But most of the time, almost all of them chose a boy to speak in their name, symbolising power and trust. Well, sometimes, you really have to be loud in order to be heard. All of this was happening when I was in primary school.

I began to work harder, in order to gain the others’ trust, to exercise diction at home, when nobody could see me or hear me, to adjust my posture and the position of my body, in order to attain what I desired. And nothing was in vain. I remember that later I was chosen as spokesperson for grades 1-4. However insignificant this achievement may seem, now, by analysing the details of that experience , I realize that it was a first step. A bold step, I could say, because I set myself not barriers, but high targets for my age.      

Years passed on and together with them the time I was saving for myself passed as well. I began focusing on school a lot, I also gave up the sport I was practicing, just to achieve excellent results. However, from the beginning of last year, I realised that participation and active implication can, first of all, help you rediscover yourself, but also to improve yourself.

I have had the opportunity of applying for a membership in the Romanian Children’s Board, a child-led group  supported by UNICEF. Of course, I discouraged myself a lot. I thought that, surely, many other children were much more suitable than me. But it costs nothing to try, right? And I was extremely surprised and happy to find out that I was chosen. A thing which I am trying to build is the trust in myself, although sometimes it doesn’t seem that I am lacking it. But gaining one’s trust has always seemed a wonderful thing. So, I decided to give it my all, so as not to disappoint and to demonstrate that they haven’t made the wrong choice. I began to take interest in fields I’ve never explored before, like advocacy, civic engagement or politics. Yes, I know, not typical for a girl, least of all in the small town where I come from, but this fact didn’t discourage me. On the contrary, it proved to me that I must continue. And so, I did.       

Just like speaking, a skill that took shape ever since my childhood, was my affinity for school. I loved to learn new things, to develop myself and to gradually understand the world around me. I always had an inclination towards scientific domains, being very interested in biology, physics and chemistry. At the same time, while preparing for the Physics Olympiad, I noticed that the boys in our study group understood more easily each information and each method of solving the problems.

I know it took me whole hours to understand the mechanism behind some instruments which I used, sacrificing hours of sleep in order to solve problem after problem, just so I wouldn’t feel inferior to them. I also can’t forget the Olympiad days. Days in which not even six pairs of gloves could hide the tremor in my hands because of all the emotions involved. There were always blockages. I always encountered something that made my brain stop, even just for a few seconds. Suddenly, I couldn’t think of the problem itself, of how to solve it, and instead I was worrying about the others’ opinion of me when I would tell them that I didn’t know what to write. Those were the moments when my legs started moving a lot, my hands were sweating more and more, notching, with my head raised, how the others were taking notes on their draft sheet and on their exam sheet. Of course, they probably hadn’t even reached the subject I had in front of me, but I always thought that way, knowing that others would surely succeed, but I wouldn’t. I was, however, ambitious. I would slap my hands, gently slap my face and continue. The supervising teachers probably always looked at me a little strangely, but at least this way I could regain my motivation. 

Parallel to my passion for the exact sciences, I cultivated a great delight in writing. I felt free when I put my thoughts on paper. I knew I was, in a way, listened to by the piece of paper and the pen, as they were led by me. I also participated in competitions. And also won prizes. Along with these results, of course, external voices always appear and “advise” you to remain in your comfort zone. “But would you not want to dedicate your entire life to writing?”, “Do you not see that you’re really good at it?” were only some of the messages which I encountered. Science was often presented to me as a domain specific to men. They’ve given me a list of physics and chemistry geniuses that were, of course, men.

Why would anybody think of Marie Curie? Or perhaps Rosalind Franklin, Geertruida de Haas-Lorentz? On the other hand, it’s understandable that we don’t have many great names to recall, because women were never encouraged to develop their skills in these areas. However, names that are giving me hope, people that I know and this is enough for me, are for me true models, whose studies and discoveries leave no room for interpretations.   

My first contact with human anatomy was like a lightning bolt that totally struck me. It was extraordinary to realise how passionate I am about such things, so I decided that this is truly my path. Although it may seem premature, I am quite drawn to surgery. “A woman is not strong enough to do this”, “I was thinking that something simpler would suit you better, not something at this level.” They are just words. But these words weigh more than what someone could say in an entire novel. Women shouldn’t complicate themselves, right? The simpler, the better. Not for me, however.

I’ve always liked to have high aims and, despite this, for them to be achievable. Some real aims that could be achieved. There were others who succeeded. Why couldn’t I? And, even if there was nobody else who could do it, don’t choose an already treaded path out of commodity. You must create a track, like a road, to go wherever you want to go.     

And so, from having nothing to say, I ended up farther than I expected. Reading again what I just wrote, I realised that society has never discouraged me directly, has not told me that I would not succeed, but offered me some mediators that would make me discourage myself. However, I also remember those few people, colleagues who, when having the chance, told me that they admired how hardworking I am. And this made me realize that someone somewhere really looks at you, analyses you and can even take you as an example.

Sometimes you may feel worn-out. And it’s normal. Sometimes people will not understand you. And it’s perfectly normal. Don’t forget that you are unique. Don’t forget that at one point nobody will be by your side but yourself. Flourish, develop and love yourself. Someday, you will be thankful to yourself. Fly higher and higher, because you can!

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