A teacher in Moldova learns to lead, changing her community for the better and inspiring others

Ludmila Ţurcanu, a local teacher in Pelinia, helped improve the lives of her students and now has her sights set on local leadership, after participating in the UN Women supported “INSPIR-O!” (Inspire it) Mentorship Program. Ludmila joined 27 other participants from seven localities with zero female representation on local councils, to learn leadership, public speaking and project writing skills.

Until recently, 406 students at the local school in Pelinia, a remote village of northern Moldova, had no toilets inside their school building. Like many buildings across the country, there was no sewage system installed, leaving students to brave all sorts of weather just to  use the bathroom. The lack of running water also meant the basic outdoor facilities were often unhygienic.

After participating in the UN Women supported mentor program, Ludmila, along with four other female teachers and a student decided to change this situation.

Children were becoming ill because the facilities were cold, dirty and with no running water, the students were unable to wash their hands. “It was a serious issue,” Ludmila explains. “If we want healthy young women and men, we must create the basic conditions for them.”

The group of women lobbied their local council to first install running water through pipes connected to a nearby aqueduct. The pipes were extended, also enabling a nearby health centre to get water on tap. But finishing the project required significant funds and further support from local authorities to install the sewage system.

The group raised funds and convinced the public authorities to cover the costs of the sewage system and water pipes. “We insisted that the problem of sewage also had to be solved by the local administration and eventually they agreed,” says Ludmila.

Other costs to build the facilities were met from school and community funds, and the construction materials were bought with a grant from UN Women.

The toilets located outside the school building. Photo: UN Women/Ramin Mazur

After building the new toilet facilities, the next challenge was teaching students how to use them. Many children were unaware of how to push the flush button, or that water for washing their hands was available. “It was challenging at first, but after several discussions about hygiene and behaviour, the children understood how toilets should be used,” Ludmila explains. “Their reactions have been positive.”

11th grade student, Carolina Parea is grateful for the new facilities. “Now I don’t have to endure the cold, the rain or the wind just to go to the bathroom,” she says.

Students of the local school in Pelinia. Photo: UN Women/Ramin Mazur

Ludmila believes the mentorship program changed her life, and the lives of her students, for the better.

“I am different since doing the ‘INSPIR-O!’ Mentorship Program,” she says. “I am more confident and have my own opinion, when before I was shy about speaking in public … even my husband has noticed the change in me. Now I have more ideas and notice that people have a positive attitude towards me.”

Ludmila is also more active in both civic and political life, attending all local council meetings. She even has a new goal – to become councillor in the village, and maybe even the Mayor. “We need more women to change our local community for the better,” she says.

She is challenging others, especially women, to follow in her footsteps and become involved with positive local change. “It’s time to get involved,” she says. “I was born, raised and live here and I want to bring the change. I think if there were more women in decision-making roles, then we would have more power to make the right decisions in favour of the community, and not for personal interests,” she concludes.