Until February 24, I was an ordinary student, studying at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, working in the field of communications in a legal business, but that, it would seem, such a distant and frosty day has changed the lives of all Ukrainians to “before” and “after”. And I am no exception.
On February 24, I woke up to a call from a friend. We hadn’t communicated for over six months, so I immediately understood that something had happened. Until the last, I and my family hoped to stay in Kyiv. That evening, a column of tanks was moving along Brovarsky Avenue in the eastern direction. This roar still haunts me. The next day we left for one of the small settlements of Cherkasy region, far from the big cities, where we stayed until the end of April. Just there, one night, finally tired of my own inaction and inability to help people around me, to share other people’s pain and loss, in social media I came across an announcement of recruitment of new members to Young Leaders of Peacebuilding network.
Development of a network of young women
At that time, the network had already existed for several years with the support of international donors, uniting women from Luhansk and Donetsk regions, and from the end of 2021 to the beginning of 2022, the activity covered women and girls in almost all regions of Ukraine. The project became a real outlet for me. Here I have found like-minded women.
Closer to the summer, the talks began about the institutionalization of the network’s activities through the registration of a separate NGO. Together with two other members of the network, I accepted the offer to lead it, setting myself the goal of promoting peacebuilding and the involvement of women in decision-making processes.
Since then, we have participated in the revision of the National Action Plan for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 Women, Peace, Security for the period up to 2025 for Luhansk region, joined the study of the main challenges faced by young women and girls in the context of the armed conflict, under the auspices of Internews-Ukraine we have taken part in the Conference on Localization of the Agenda of Women, Peace, Security in Ukraine through the participation of youth, organized by UN Women in Ukraine. Also, in the fall, two of our network members had the opportunity to participate in mediation trainings in Hague at Clingendael Institute.
Agency of Ukrainian women during the war
In the conditions of war, unfortunately, the representation of the classic patriarchal myth about the division of society into “protectors” and those who need protection is exacerbated. In this context, women’s agency is questioned and reduced to the socially imposed role of a victim. However, girls and women have been taking their agency even since the beginning of the full-scale invasion to a qualitatively new level: today, young women play a variety of roles, contributing to the restoration of local communities, caring for the injured, holding leadership positions in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, performing housework and caregiving for children and the elderly.
Ukrainian society now faces the task of preserving and increasing its achievements in the field of gender equality, including debunking myths and stereotypes, and destigmatizing the role of women in governance, peacebuilding, and at the front after the Victory. This is what we will focus on in our further activities, both within the network or public organization, and on a personal level.