The confidence question? Meet the investment lady

22 Jul 2014

 Mayor Elena Josan shows a newly functional water supply network benefiting people from both banks of the Nistru River. Photo: Natalia Costas/UNDP Moldova

By Victor Dragutan & Natalia Costas

Could the problem of gender inequality be compounded by a confidence gap?

A recent article in the Atlantic says yes – evidence suggests that women are less self-assured than men—and that to succeed in today’s world, it takes as much confidence as it does competence.

We thought about this in Moldova, too. Here, men hold most elected offices, and women are acutely underrepresented in leadership positions across most sectors of the economy. 

Tellingly, most women in Moldova prefer a man for president, despite evidence that decisions made by female leaders are often a better fit for the community’s needs (in Romanian).

In the EU-UNDP Support to Confidence Building Measures Programme, we also deal with stereotypes and issues of trust, albeit in a different, post-conflict dimension.

Working to develop confidence between people on both sides of the Nistru River, whose life is affected by the still unresolved status of Transnistria, we’ve come across a number of women who could use a self-confidence boost as well.

These women are doing a great job every day, leaders in business or their community, but give themselves little credit.

While the role of women in all stages of conflict-prevention has been recognized by the United Nations in 2013, we’re also working on our own campaign to help boost their recognition and showcase their achievements. 

The Gallery of Successful Women

The goal of this campaign was twofold: recognize and inspire.

During the last two years, in March, the campaign promoted, in social networks, television, and radio, more than 15 stories about successful women from both banks of the Nistru.

Communities on both banks often face the same problems, and these women managed to provide solutions while working together with people across the river.

The achievements of women like Veronica Stefaniuc, Svetlana Lazar, and others showed us that it is possible to find such solutions - and that their work can inspire other women to do the same. 

One story that particularly resonated with us was Elena Josan’s. Elena is 60 years old and comes from Hagimus, a village located in the security zone, a strip of land along the Nistru river established after the 1992 hostilities.

Despite women being more than half of its 2,800 population, men had always run things in Hagimus.

Heeding the call of other women in the village, Elena mustered her courage and ran for mayor, competing against seven male candidates. Today, she is serving her third term in office. Her fellow villagers dubbed her “the investment woman” as she has attracted and managed significant funds for the community.

Projects spearheaded by Josan include the reconstruction of the village kindergarten and the water supply system, supported by our programme. As she noted in a recent interview:

“Apart from the financial and technical support, the programme opened new collaboration prospects, gave me the confidence, the courage and most importantly the trust of people in the village”,

Two years into the campaign, we’ve learned that one person’s example can go a long way. This year, partner NGOs have developed parallel campaigns, getting women from both sides in touch to serve as role models at both the community and national levels.

And we have also got more women interested in getting involved with something they can relate to, and can deservingly take the credit for.

As women throughout Moldova start to #leanin more and more- we’re heading in the right direction.

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