Ukrainian women in the United Nations: the experience of disclosing human potential

The impossible is possible!

Under this motto the project “Ukrainian Women in the UN 2018” began in September 2017, and ended in April 2018 See our Facebook page.

I want to express special gratitude to the Supervisory Board of our organization for the opportunity to have my idea to be realized under the ICAI umbrella. Also, I am grateful to Martin Gilbraith for technical assistance in the implementation of the project and to all ICAI members for the kind words of support that I have received from you. Without that, the impossible would not be possible.

The project “Ukrainian Women in the UN” was a logical continuation of the Women’s Partnership Forum, which was implemented in Ukraine in May 2017 on the basis of the ToP facilitation. The Forum gave birth to 6 projects from 11 working groups, which continue their work today without my participation in them. See photos.

One of the projects “International Effective Forum” was implemented by the NGO “Association Diya (Movement)” in Odessa in September 2017, where I facilitated the panel “Gender Equality”. During the reflection on the beach with a glass of champagne, we thought that we could do everything together to ensure that the results of the Forum were effective. “Let us go to the UN?” I said. “And let’s go!”, said the rest.

Six months later, the first extended independent delegation of 17 women took part in the 62nd Session of the United Nations Commission on Women’s Affairs (CSW62). This is the world’s largest platform, which gathers active women from all over the world for the period of two weeks every year in March. This year, about 8,000 women, who organized about 450 own events, took part in its work. As part of the work of the Session, we all talked about rural women and girls, about the opportunities for their development and about effective practical tools for implementation. Also, a topic was raised about women’s access to the media in rural areas.

Our delegation organized its own event “Transformation of Ukraine: New Opportunities for Women in Rural Areas”, where 12 short reports on our own successful work experience in Ukraine were made. Our task was to change the image of the Ukrainian woman, who was presented to the world not as it is in reality. We showed a strong, successful woman who is not afraid of difficulties and is open to effective interaction and partnership.

At our event we gathered a small representative office (up to 80 people), which consisted of delegates of various countries. In previous years, the Ukrainian events were attended by representatives of the Ukrainian diaspora (up to 60 people).

Our delegation began working with the audience directly at the registration of the 62nd session of the UN. To be able to do that, we had developed and brought 1000 flyers with a big question on them “Why Ukrainian women?”.

I approached everyone, got acquainted, voiced our mission, goals and tasks and invited to our event. While I reached to the end of the hundred-meter line, I realized what steps can and should be done to bring peace into Ukraine. Also, for recruitment to our event, we had one day “Advisory day”, the first day before the beginning of the session.

Our event was opened with a short film about the legendary 40-meter flag of Ukraine, which the women of Kramatorsk sewed to raise the spirit of the townspeople during the separatist riots in the city. We acquainted the world community with the appalling situation of mined agricultural lands in the Donbas, which will require at least half a century of human life to be demined. See youtube. The stories about women who had to leave their homes to escape shelling and make serious but successful steps in the peaceful territory, building their own business and a new life for their family. Outlined the prospects for micro-finance of women in rural areas and the development of women’s private entrepreneurship there.

We showed the opportunities that the reform of decentralization for women in the OTG (new amalgamated communities) has opened. We showed successful examples of women’s association and identified the problem of intrauterine development of the child. And cultural projects of women’s business, developing the infrastructure of the village. See youtube. In the final report, it was said that the happiness of a woman is the success of the country.

Our delegation was chosen in such a way that it represented a “mini model of Ukraine”. Women from Kiev, Irpin and Cherkassy (Center), Lviv (West), Kramatorsk (East), Odessa (South), Crimea (annexed by Russia). We all, women leaders, first met in this project. We recognized each other, cognized and marveled at our inability to do the right things in relation to each other. It was difficult, very difficult and sometimes, just unbearable. But that high mission with which we went to the UN (to show the world another Ukrainian woman), helped us to go through all these difficulties. In front of me was not the task of being the leader of the delegation, and I was not tasked to form a monolithic team that would jointly make changes in Ukraine. I set the task to study in practice the facilitation leadership and create conditions for the personal growth of each participant. And we successfully coped with these tasks.

Apart from us, a governmental delegation consisting of five women participated in the session. The delegation was headed by Ivanna Klimpush-Tsintsadze, Vice Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine, People’s Deputy of Ukraine of the 8th convocation. The delegation arrived for one day only, made a 12-minute report and left for Ukraine. We, on the other hand, had the opportunity to actively study the thinking and experience of women from all over the world for 2 weeks. And this already gives us significant advantages of our own development before representation of official government bodies. We have collected a huge number of contacts that need to be processed into real results of joint use in Ukraine. For example, I met several large international organizations that develop women in rural areas and financially support their projects, which have never been in Ukraine. We opened a dialogue about how they can start their activities in our country.

Outside the session, our representatives took part in the event, which was organized by the former head of the Ethics Commission at the office of the President of the United States. We also build a bridge of friendship with the World Federation of Ukrainian Women’s Organizations (WFUWO), NGO Razom for Ukraine, the official representation of Armenia in the UN. Our delegation visited Washington, where it was greeted by the Ambassador of Ukraine of the United States Valery Chaly and his wife Lyudmila Mazuka in the Ukrainian embassy, where George Washington signed the deed to the land where the US capital later appeared. There we talked about the possibility of opening a program to develop women’s leadership in Washington.

The US-Ukraine Foundation, organized in the early 1990s by five US congressmen with Ukrainian roots, gathered a group of Friends of Ukraine from among those who help Ukraine be successful for acquaintance and dialogue. Nadia Okonnor, the head of the Foundation, organized a meeting of our delegation with Mercy Captchur, Congresswoman with 35 years experience and Head of the inter-factional association of the US Congress on the Ukrainian issue. We had a 90 minute opportunity time to try to understand how to make state decisions based on the problems of ordinary citizens. For us it was an invaluable experience, which launched a completely different processes in the head of each of us. See US Ukraine Foundation.

Of course, we all came back home feeling different. Each of us got an understanding of what kind of knowledge, competencies, and skills we lack. We returned back home with the understanding that we live in illusions here in Ukraine. We are all under the influence of a closed and toxic space that forces us to compete with each other. This isolation is fueled by the toxic media and the targeted policies of our “big brother”.

Most people in Ukraine live with the confidence that Ukraine has a bad reputation in the world. Our trip proved that it is not so. Ukraine and Ukrainians are loved and very respected for what they are doing in their country. If 25 years ago no one in the world even knew where Ukraine is on the world map, today everyone knows.

It was very important for the women of our delegation to see the solidarity of the work at the 62th Session of representatives from African and other countries, the way they fill the halls where events and their work formats take place. It was very important for us to understand at what level of modern knowledge women of other countries are. We realized that the problems of all women of the world are the same, and we must unite efforts to overcome them. And that our, Ukrainian experience is unique, because no one knows how to live and survive in a constant crisis and increase all food prices twice every two years. And wherein stay as a human and be positive towards other people.

We conducted an action to deploy the 40-meter Ukrainian flag under the UN and the White House. Also, our trip was accompanied by a collection of copies of Ukrainian historical flags, kindly provided by the National Museum of Ukrainian History. The new UN Educational Center kindly provided us with a room for the session of our strategic planning. See Facebook.

The project consisted of three phases of preparation. The first – preparatory, lasted 5 months. The second – the main one, lasted 2 weeks. The third is the final phase, work with the media has already shown how we all grew professionally and how our thoughts and ideas formed that are beginning to be realized in Ukraine. See youtube.

Benefits for ICAI

What benefits did ICAI receive as a result of the project? First of all, this project was aimed at the realization of our mission – the development of human potential. Also, I see direct methodological participation and support of ICAI in the SCW63 organization. I have already sent my proposals on changing the format of some of its parts. At the closing meeting, you could hear a lot of statements about the fact that we are able to create excellent documents, but we do not know how to implement them. See Women’s Advancement. And we all together have to do something about that.

The delegation included representatives of the city of Kiev (Natalia Kaplun, Tatyana Sosnovskaya, Olga Pasko, Julia Gerzanich), Odessa (Natalia Delieva, Elena Palashek, Svetlana Kudryavtseva, Oksana Sokolova, Ilona Zgurov), Kramatorsk (Svetlana Chepeleva, Anna Aladieva), Lviv Zvezdnaya Oleynik), Cherkassy (Marina Guryanova), Irpenya (Olga Ivanova), Donetsk (Inna Mikhno), and the Crimea (Tamara Makarova).

This post was written for ICAI’s monthly bulletin the Global Buzz, June 2018.