In Moldova, a woman mayor is breaking stereotypes

UN Programme “Women in Politics” by Dorin Goian

9 March 2016. At 31, Aliona Chircu is one of the youngest mayors in Moldova.

She is also the first ever woman mayor in the history of her native village, Greblesti, Straseni district.

But the road to success hasn’t been a straight line for Aliona. On the contrary, it was often filled with hesitation and self-doubt.

Aliona is not alone in her sentiments.  Research shows many women in Moldova are not active in decision-making because they lack the confidence to succeed in politics.

A survey from 2015 shows that 22 percent of women feel they “lack the character” for politics. 28 percent don’t believe they have enough political experience.

But something inside Aliona started to shift during a recent leadership training.

Delivered by the Centre for Continuous Electoral Training, she had a chance to explore leadership from a gender equality perspective. She went through exercises that helped her focus on empowerment techniques, develop managerial skills and think about gender-responsive budgeting.

At one point, Aliona was required to conduct an orchestra, choir and a rock band on a stage in front of over 1000 people.

“It was a life changing moment,” Aliona says. ““I always had leadership skills. But the trainings taught me to discover them.”

Aliona credits the seminars supported by the UNDP and UN Women joint programme “Women in Politics”, financed by the Government of Sweden, initiative for giving her the confidence to run in the local elections and the skills to lead her community.

She went through a fierce battle with a male candidate – but eventually she won, with a narrow margin of 44 votes.

Since she was elected mayor, Aliona’s life has done a complete 180. Between working to attract new investments to her village, renovating the house of culture - a historical edifice – and preparing a sports field for children, Aliona has her hands full.

She has begun to make headway into some of her community’s major challenges, but she has also become a role women for women in her community. During her meetings with citizens, she encourages women to be active in social and economical life, to work and to get involved in solving problems of the community. By renovating the kindergarten, she hopes to remove the burden of caretaking on women so that they can also develop professional skills outside of the home.

“I am always telling to women to do what they love and to be active. If they like to create, then I encourage them to launch a small handmade business. Don’t stay at home. Accomplish your dreams.”

Aliona is showing Moldova a different face of politics, and she is forging a new path for the women of her community. She may have her hands full, but her efforts certainly seem to have paid off.

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