This International Women’s Day, Ukrainian women marched in Kyiv to demand gender equality. They marched at a time of rapid progress for Ukrainian women.
Following the 2019 parliamentary elections, the percentage of women elected increased from 12 to 21 percent. And despite barriers to women’s candidacy -- such as limited resources and violence against women in politics -- women now make up 30 percent of nominees for local elections.
For democracy to deliver for citizens, it must be truly inclusive and represent all citizens. That is why NDI is proud to partner with the governments of the United States, Canda, Sweden, and Great Britain to support Ukrainian women in their fight for gender equality in politics. By training women running for office, among other programs, NDI is bolstering support for women’s equal representation in political life.
And these programs are working. Ukrainians are now voicing their support for women’s equal participation in politics to a national audience. In December 2019 the Third Ukrainian Women’s Congress brought together more than 600 leaders, political party members, women candidates and activists in Kyiv with NDI support. From First Lady Olena Zelenska to Speaker of Parliament Dmytro Razumkov, Ukrainian decision-makers expressed their support for gender equality. NDI is also working with celebrities to raise awareness on sexism and ongoing inequalities. Ukrainian rap stars Alina Pash and FREEL brought gender equality to smartphones across Ukraine through their NDI-supported song and music video “Ne Pyly” (Don’t Nag) about women’s roles in Ukrainian society. Both rappers are now national ambassadors for women’s equality through NDI’s “Face to Face” public information campaign.
Ukraine has also seen progress on the local level this year. The Equal Opportunities Caucus, the gender caucus in Ukraine’s parliament and the Ukraine Women’s Congress, a non-governmental organization, organized the Third Regional Women’s Congress in Mariupol with NDI support in June 2019.
In December 2019, NDI partner Faith Hope Love became the first Ukrainian civil society organization to organize a regional multi-party conference centered on equal representation in political life. In more than 100 local councils and legislators have established gender-focused caucuses, which are integrating gender sensitive practices into their budgeting and management.
Despite important progress, there is still work to be done in order to reach full gender equality, not only in Ukraine, but worldwide. At the current rate of increase in women’s representation in the Ukrainian parliament, it will take over a century to reach equality. That is why ahead of International Women’s Day, NDI launched the Changing the Face of Politics campaign to achieve political parity by 2030. Ukrainian women are leading the way and are motivating each other to participate in their country’s democracy. Maryna Matkovska, an activist from Kirovohradska oblast, who will be running in the October 2020 local elections for the first time, received a wave of applause from the audience at an NDI event after her closing phrase: “We lack confidence when we don’t have experience. So let’s gain this experience. Let’s run for office!” NDI will stand alongside Ukrainian women as they do.