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Story and Photos by Heifer Ukraine
Heifer Ukraine’s gender initiatives started 12 years ago and are an important component in our program and projects. Twelve years is not nearly enough time to shift the views of all people, and Ukraine doesn’t have a central authority responsible for securing equal rights for women and men. Nevertheless, Heifer Ukraine continues to advocate for gender equity and to participate in forums that support Heifer’s Cornerstones of Gender and Family Focus and Genuine Need and Justice.
To address the disparity in gender equity, we participated in meetings of working groups that had been organized to analyze the situation and to draft laws. We also participated in public hearings, attended public councils on gender issues and attended international, national and regional events. Thanks to the efforts of women's organizations, these questions have been discussed; this is a step in the correct direction, but there is still much work to be done because problems remain.
To discuss these problems, the Committee of Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine’s parliament) on Human Rights, National Minorities and Interethnic Relations in collaboration with the Women's Information Consultative Center, an NGO, and the Parliamentary Development Program II (USAID) held committee hearings and conducted a discussion about providing equal rights for rural women in Ukraine.
Heifer Ukraine’s project leaders, members and heads of agricultural service cooperatives (ASCs) were invited to participate in this event with the financial and logistical support of the Women's Information Consultative Center. Members of local ASCs presented suggestions to the parliament. Halyna Illiash of the Nadiia ASC presented a proposal to members of the parliament about a suggested law on organic agricultural products. Iryna Pavliuk, the deputy director of the agricultural department of Storozhynets’ ration administration in Chernivtsi Oblast, spoke about ways the government programs and charities could cooperate. She spoke from her experience; she had established a milk-processing plant in Panka village supported by Heifer Ukraine. Yulia Vasylevska, chairwoman of Svitanok Oleksandrivky ASC, reported on financial and economic drawbacks of the current legislation on agricultural cooperation. A report on the activities of Heifer Ukraine in the area of ensuring equal rights and opportunities for men and women was presented by Yaroslava Sorokopud, Heifer Ukraine’s training, gender and youth coordinator.
Parliament Member Olena Bondarenko noted the high professionalism of the rural women and found that much more needs to be done in Ukraine to strengthen their rights and opportunities at the national and local levels.
Elena Suslova, chairman of the Women's Information Consultative Center, suggested the rural women join the center, which raises awareness about developing businesses, monitoring the security of rural areas, preventing violence and working as an advocate for rural women. Heifer Ukraine project leaders decided to join the center's project, and a series of trainings will be held for representatives of our projects in Western Ukraine.
Rural women have great hope that they will be heard at the state level and the problems with which they came to the Parliament of Ukraine will be solved by adoption of new and amendments to existing laws.