By: Lucija Karlovic
An embodiment of strength and resilience the worldwide women’s road to empowerment has never been easy and has shown oppression spanning many years and generations. The last decade however, has seen a global shift in focus on closing this inequality gap and offering women the same opportunities as men.
In Western Europe, this shift is very apparent, with opportunities offered to women spanning broader then traditional roles and expectations.
These traditional roles and expectations are however, still expected and seen in many post-Soviet Union countries, and more specifically, the unrecognized country of Transnistria and the autonomous region of Gagauzia.
In 1991, Moldova gained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This decision resulted in tensions in the autonomous regions of Gagauzia and Transnistria.
Under Soviet rule, modernisation reached these regions through improvement of agricultural production and education. It was to no surprise that they wished to remain under USSR and not a part of independent Moldova.
Their wish for independence from Moldova was received differently in Chisinau. With the standoff in Gagauzia being resolved peacefully in 1992, in Transnistria an armed conflict broke out. A conflict which is still unresolved (Wöber, Lantschner, Palermo, Toggenburg, & Marco, 2013).
Women in Gagauzia
Gagauzia, the autonomous territorial unit of Moldova, is comprised of three towns, 160 000 Orthodox Christians who speak a Turkic language along with Russian. The residents are relatively poor and rely heavily on agriculture to survive.
The residents of Gagauzia are both separated from Moldova through resistance to the Romanian culture and language, as well as amongst themselves, with younger generations choosing to speak the Russian language and live and work abroad.
Women in particular have very little choice when it comes to future prospects if they chose to remain, as many post-Soviet states have few pro-natal policies, this has created an environment where women are expected to remain at home.
Their traditional roles in the Soviet Union were to secure any goods that were scarce under the socialist system. In post USSR Gagauzia, these roles are no longer deemed necessary and many women have now been put into informal flexible work and small scaling trading sectors.
Women from Gagauzia are in high demand in Turkey as foreign workers, due to their upright and respectful reputation as well as having a similar common language, i.e. the Gagauz language is a Turkic language.
They are hired to clean, cook and care for children, handicapped or the elderly. Although often times this is not done legally and therefore susceptible to exploitation in the host countries.
These migrations have ultimately negatively impacted young women in Gagauzia, as a study in 2005 showed that 1% of the total population was forced to work with little or no pay and often families are split up and never at home at the same time.
It has also, however, lead to the empowerment of some Gagauz women in their new countries. They use this vulnerability to their advantage and are often seen with local boyfriends who finance their food and drinks. Domestic Gagauz women also hold a certain amount of power and agency in the households they are hired to care for (Keough, 2003).
Women in Transnistria
In Transnistria, a different story for women exists. Younger women are often seen leaving the region to marry wealthy foreigners, or head west into the European Union to find higher paying jobs as they are overall more educated than men in the region.
They often identify themselves as the last Soviets of Europe. However, they tend to be less concerned about Transnistria becoming part of Russia, or being internationally recognized in comparison to the older generation.
Although more are willing to remain in Transnistria, younger women are still faced with their predecessors conservative mind-set and patriarchal attitudes ingrained in the society.
As a result of these patriarchal attitudes, there have been many reports of domestic violence in both Gagauzia and Transnistria.
In February 2018, a gender-based violence benefit was held which depicted real-life events. This was done to collect funds in order to construct a safe place in the region of Gagauzia for all women suffering from violence.
It also lead to the development and establishment of a two year project set to run from 2018 to 2020. This project called for investment into social, legal, psychological, educational and economic services for women and girls and specifically for violence against women (UNDP, 2019).
Although faced with hardships, similarly seen in many post-Soviet states, women in Transnistria and Gagauzia continue to fight towards a common goal, to continue to empower themselves and future generations.
Even in a country without recognition, most women still choose to remain and contribute to the progress of their community.
Europe, N. E. (2018). Retrieved December 28 December 2019, 2019, from New Eastern Europe: https://neweasterneurope.eu/2018/01/04/transnistria-can-still-dream/
Keough, L. J. (2003). DRIVEN WOMEN: RECONCEPTUALIZING THE TRAFFIC IN WOMEN IN THEMARGINS OF EUROPE THROUGH THE CASE OF GAGAUZ MOBILE DOMESTICS INISTANBUL. 21(2), 73–78.
UNDP. (2019). Retrieved December 28 , 2019, from https://www.md.undp.org/content/moldova/en/home/presscenter/pressreleases/2019/un-spectacol-caritabil-in-susinerea-supravieuitoarelor-violenei-.html
Wöber, S., Lantschner, E., Palermo, F., Toggenburg, G. N., & Marco, D. (2013). Making or Breaking the Republic of Moldova ? The Autonomy of Gagauzia.