Prevention of VAW (violence against women) is a significant step for a modern society and social cohesion. Statistics indicate that Romania, a deep conservative and traditionalist country, although it took steps to promote women rights and gender equality, it is still waving between supporting policies and the collective mentality that justifies VAW and GBV (gender based violence). Whistleblowers warned that all over the world Covid-19 pandemic created a context that escalated VAW, as some women were isolated with their abusers.
Young generation’s mentalities are formed and educated mostly around high-school period and educational environment. In the same time, it is considered that art is an extension of the society’s beliefs and an influence factor for future attitudes, including stereotypes. In the educational system, we need to create education tools to deconstruct stereotypes and rethink an inclusive, violence-free society, of course after collective research. Gender equality is a necessary condition to achieve growth and social cohesion and a key element in the prevention of VAW (violence against women).
Statistically, in Romania over 60% of the population accepts domestic violence, and domestic violence is mainly about women. There is a National Agency for Gender Equality (Agentia Nationala pentru egalitate de sanse intre femei si barbati). Its website mentions a working Committee for fighting against domestic violence.
To best achieve the objectives of this brief research, I’ve decided that it is best to put myself in the shoes of a victim and try to navigate the Agency’s website as a potential female victim of violence, who would be looking in a hurry for information and help. From this point of view, navigating the website it turned out to be unfriendly, as clear information doesn’t show up fast, it is loaded with long presentations, but lacks of easy to read-easy to find practical tools.
But, if one is taking his/her time, the site is fine for data, either to help someone in need or to educate on the topic of VAW, as it contains the legal framework on the topic, some info about shelter locations in each county, responsible institutions to offer support etc. There is also a “Romanian Network for Prevention and Combating Violence against Women” (Rețeaua pentru prevenirea și combaterea violenței împotriva femeilor), but its role is consultative for advocacy and lobby, it doesn’t offer victim support.
Gender is socially constructed, influenced by culture, customs, education.
High schools are a crucial place where future generations shape their identities. In some of them, Art history is often taught as a cross-cutting subject. Hence, Art can be an entry point for talking about gender stereotypes and violence, helping students to deconstruct and rethink a new, fair, inclusive, violence-free society. Fine Arts are the expression of the society they are embedded in. Looked from a gender perspective, art, and specifically visual arts (paintings, sculptures, and in recent years, photography and street art), has contributed to the shaping and reproduction of gender roles. Too often, art mirrored in the collective view the unequal relations between men and women, depicting women just as a mere ideal body, in need of being protected or at the complete disposal of the male, as if to justify violence against them. For the same reason, art has an intrinsic power to rewrite the collective perception of men’s and women’s relationships.
However, teachers often lack the skills and knowledge to address these king of issues. Little to no practical inputs are provided to them in order to enhance their competences to use art as an educational tool to support their work. It is therefore urgent to build inclusive educational curricula and develop innovative and creative practical tools to tackle sensitive issues like gender equality or gender based violence (GBV).
Implementing cooperation between schools, museums, NGOs, cultural associations, policy and decision-makers involved on gender equality and prevention of GBV and those focusing on education might help society at large on the long term. Multiple objectives would be targeted and reached:
- Foster the understanding of how gender is constructed and gender stereotypes are reproduced in society;
- Increase the knowledge of how art has shaped gender roles and how it can foster gender equality;
- Increase the awareness on the potential of art education as a means to improve quality education and reinforce young students’ interest for social issues;
- Prevent violence against women/girls at all ages trough awareness on different forms of GBV of teacher, students and all stakeholders involved;
- Empower young girls and boys by enhancing their critical thinking when it comes to analyze social and cultural challenges;
- Enhance the competence of artists to use art as an educational tool, increasing their opportunities for employability and civic engagement.
- Promote new gender-sensitive art in the EU.
Therefore, there is a need of promoting art and creativity as innovative tools to increase the competences of teachers and students to re-think gender roles and stereotypes towards a more equal and inclusive society, free of GBV and discriminations.