All around the world, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) partners with civil society organizations dedicated to empowering women and protecting women's rights. In the western Romanian city of Timişoara, APOWER is one organization doing just that. Each November and December, activists on the streets of Romania's cities send a critical message to the world: violence against women and girls affects everyone.
All around the world, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) partners with civil society organizations dedicated to empowering women and protecting women's rights. In the western Romanian city of Timişoara, APOWER is one organization doing just that. Each November and December, activists on the streets of Romania's cities send a critical message to the world: violence against women and girls affects everyone. November 25th, International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women, through December 10th, International Human Rights Day, marks the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. This international campaign, started in 1991 by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership, highlights the link between violence against women and human rights and calls attention to the worldwide epidemic of gender-based violence. In Romania, cities across the country participate in the annual Silent Witness exhibition, a display of hundreds of silhouettes representing women who have died as a result of domestic violence. Activists march peacefully throughout the streets carrying the life-sized silhouettes and signs that read "Stop violence against women" and "Women's protection - a standard for European integration!" Running Timişoara's Silent Witness exhibition is the Association for the Promotion of Women in Romania (APOWER), an organization working tirelessly to change attitudes and behaviors that perpetuate the cycle of violence. APOWER established the country's first crisis hotline for victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse and has expanded its services to offer women free psychological and legal counseling, vocational training and prevention and education programs in secondary schools and universities. Campaigns like the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence and the Silent Witness exhibition have helped APOWER enhance its relationship with local and national governments and motivate elected officials to develop policies and practices that work to end violence against women and girls. Similarly, APOWER has developed civic and voter education programs to inform women of their political and legal rights, and has also held public forums to involve political parties and local leaders in developing sustainable solutions to end violence against women. Most recently, APOWER organized a campaign demanding that the parliament adopt an amendment to Romania's existing domestic violence law, which was lacking key provisions on victims' protection. With limited financial assistance and training on strategic planning and advocacy from NDI, APOWER drafted their own amendment to the domestic violence law and secured more than 8,000 signatures of support, including those of government representatives, before submitting it to parliament. Largely due to APOWER’s efforts, the amendment successfully passed. After garnering funding from the Balkan Trust for Democracy and working with NDI to develop a strategic plan to guide its advocacy efforts, APOWER is now applying its expertise and dedication to ending gender-based violence in monitoring the law's implementation across the country. Though NDI no longer offers direct assistance to APOWER, the Institute will continue to coordinate efforts with the organization as part of its program funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which aims to strengthen women’s political participation in Romania.