Sunday, November 30, 2014

Country Overview: Romania

The last of my European destinations. Even just a weekend in Romania opened my eyes to a new side of the problem of sexual exploitation. I had the incredible opportunity of living in a shelter there, which I will introduce in a later Organization Spotlight. For this post, though I want to introduce the country as a whole.

Romania is a fascinating country, due mostly to its recent history. It's revolution against communist control occured in 1989. The influences of communism are still largely felt. Something about the dreary fall weather seemed to add to this feeling while I was there.

The Basics

Romania has a population of over 19 million. Its capital city is Bucharest. The official language is Romanian, and the currency is the Romanian leu (I was pretty tired of changing currencies by the time I leave Eastern Europe). Most of the citizens identify as Romanian Orthodox. The country joined the European Union only recently, in 2007. Most people know the country of Romania because of the frightful legends of Dracula.


Romania and My Project

While Romania is a source, transit, and destination country for trafficking, the major role it plays in this problem is as a source country. A significant portion of the trafficking victims in other European countries are Romanian women. The government's actions do not meet minimum international standards for combatting trafficking, making it a Tier 2 country. The country has decriminalized prostitution this year, and the results of this action are yet to be seen.

In the last 5 years, the government of Romania has identified many victims, but has provided no funding whatsoever to NGO's providing aftercare, nor has it made moves to establish any government-run shelters for these victims. Fortunately, there are many organizations in the country doing work to help restore victims, but their resources can only extend so far.
Many organizations have begun the large task of prevention as well. This is extremely important in a source country. Young children, especially orphans must be made aware of the warning signs for trafficking. The ladies you see below are wonderful volunteers I met who do just that all over Romania.
During my time in Romania, I hoped to answer these questions:
  1. How do the organizations providing aftercare on the ground find support?
  2. Where are most of the victims rescued - within Romania or from other European countries?
  3. What kind of partnerships are necessary in order to raise support and rescue girls in other countries?
  4. What could the government or inter-governmental organizations do in order to assist the small NGO's doing good work in the country?
  5. How do students respond to awareness campaigns?
First Impressions

A novel I am reading right now labels Bucharest as "Paris of the East." I have to be honest, I didn't quite see it. It does have its own set of charms, though. I didn't take nearly enough pictures, because the cold kept my gloves on during my explorations, but I certainly enjoyed them.

I did find it hard to understand, though, how poverty and inequality could coexist within a city's limits with Burberry and Louis Vuitton stores. The area where I lived was in quite stark contrast from the center of town, where sparkling fountains and malls donned the streets. Even so, the areas just outside of the city that I was privileged to visit made the area I lived seem extremely comfortable. I suppose I should be used to this type of income inequality by now, but it always seems to strike me as odd.




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