Meet Ramona Strugariu from Romania
The 2010s have been a turbulent, but also extremely fruitful, period for Romanian democracy. This civic mobilization produced much more than a series of reshuffles of the same old faces. In a process that can be described as creative destruction, the unrest on the streets of Romania’s big cities spawned new movements that grew into parties – mostly liberal – and gave rise to fresh political faces. One that stood out belongs to Ramona Strugariu.
She is a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) from the Renew Europe Group and a law graduate with more than a decade of experience in the NGO sector. She ran for office on the ticket of the liberal PLUS (Freedom, Unity, and Solidarity Party) fraction, a movement born on the squares of Bucharest in 2018.
The Colectiv nightclub fire – a tragic event that shook Romania in 2015 – was the turning point for Strugariu, after which she started thinking about politics. “[It] revealed the absolute incompetence of the ruling party and the government, the weakness of the medical system, and the fact that if we do not make profound changes, the consequences will be absolutely tragic,” she says.
“And that was my wake-up moment, when I realized that, ok, as a member of civil society, you can make a difference by offering prompt support for a specific community for a limited time. But if you want to change things systemically, you need to take the next step and get into politics. Because systemic changes happen only with political will.”, the politician adds.
Now that the USR-PLUS coalition has risen to become a formidable political force represented in the European Parliament, Strugariu is taking this sort of attitude to the European level. “This is the ultimate battle to fight: for these values, for the fight against corruption, for the independence of the judiciary. And this is a message I have been repeating constantly – that democracy is not a given. It is not something that just happens and we can continue having it without doing anything, nor is the EU a given that can easily be preserved,” she warns.
She says that she had faced her fair share of misogyny but does not let the pain take overwhelm in these moments. What keeps her going is her perception of the responsibility she has. “I didn't care. I truly believe in my own head, my two hands and two feet, and in everything I stand for and was fighting for, and I don't do it for myself. I am representing people now, it is a huge responsibility,” she says.
Her message to women is simple and concrete – be more self-confident. “Let’s just do the things that are worth doing, and actively encourage other women to take a lead. Self-confidence is so important – women don't have to look at themselves through the mirror of a certain culture or past prejudices. They should be looking at the mirror, seeing themselves today, and looking at the future because they are building it.”