#CoDYouthLeads: Ioana’s story

President of the UN Youth Association of Romania, Ioana was born and raised in a democratic Romania, but her family members experienced repression under the communist regime. In her story, she highlights how the values of democracy are guiding her in her work and life. 

 “Trust your power to create change and act on it” – Ioana Dospinescu, Romania

As a young person living in today’s Romania, I feel privileged by having the opportunity to be born and raised in a democratic country. My parents made sure to remind me at every step of the way how lucky me and brother are for getting the chance to pursue our dreams without reservations and to speak our mind without limitations, enjoying freedom of opinion and expression – one of the core democratic values of the Warsaw Declaration.

Both of my parents were born in communist Romania and have experienced first-hand the atrocities of the regime. My paternal grandfather had been an advocate against the system, continually questioning the authorities of the days. In a democracy, government institutions should be transparent and fully accountable to the people. Under the communist rule, he was an enemy of the regime to be punished. I like to call him courageous and inspiring. His story, endlessly repeated by my family, has become one of my guiding lights whenever I question my purpose in the communities I get to serve.

Democracy is often taken for granted. Only its absence makes people appreciate its values and importance. Twenty years ago, when the Warsaw Declaration was adopted, I had no idea that now, at 23 years old, I would get to tell my story to young people about how democracy has shaped me as a young adult

At 14, I first started volunteering in my community with a strong sense of idealism. I thought that mountains could easily be moved, and communities easily shaped. I was not entirely wrong. Dealing with social issues within my community, I soon realized the impact that young people have throughout this kind of work. I listened and learned the real problems of my generation. These issues may have escaped my eyesight and so I started acting on creating change and educating children with values that I proudly call democratic. From children in rural areas, children that often choose not to pursue more than eight classes because of several social and financial issues, to institutionalized children, I acknowledged the multifaceted perspectives that shape people’s understanding of democracy.

My high school years led me to desire a career that will equip me to continue contributing to the society I live in, to educate young people about their fundamental rights and freedoms. In less than a month, I will finish law school, and enter a world that isn’t as idealistic as I saw it at 14 years old. I am uncertain about a lot of things, but one thing which keeps me grounded and continues to light my spirit are the universal values that democracy offers us.

When visiting Berlin, I stumbled upon a quote written on the Berlin Wall that said: “Many small people, in many small places, do many small things that can alter the face of the world.” My message to young people? Believe that every single thing you are doing today contributes to a better tomorrow. Trust your power to create change and act on it. Let us, many young people, in many small places, do many small things that can and will alter the face of the world positively.