A year after its launch, Ukraine’s first national campaign to promote LGBTQI+ equality is continuing to break barriers and drive change. Launched by six Ukrainian civil society organizations with NDI’s support in May 2020, the Rizni.Rivni (Different.Equal) campaign has reached millions of Ukrainians using a wide range of methods, from music videos to online museums.
Informed by NDI’s public opinion research, the Rizni.Rivni campaign launched its first phase with a music video featuring 15 Ukrainian celebrities singing about equality. The video has been viewed more than 1.3 million times on YouTube and won a 2020 national Jager Music Award for collaboration of the year. Rizni.Rivni also launched the “Museum of Acceptance,” an interactive audio-visual website featuring relatives of LGBTQI+ people from across Ukraine sharing their journeys toward acceptance. This virtual museum’s content has been viewed by over three million social media users so far, and the number continues to grow. Finally, the campaign invited people all over Ukraine to “raise their hands” in an online map to demonstrate their support for the LGBTQI+ community in Ukraine - so far over 25,000 people have raised their hands.
“Art is a universal language for conveying to people the ideas of equality and acceptance,” said Marina Herz of KyivPride, when receiving the Jager Award. “Our victory makes the Ukrainian LGBT+ community even more visible and gives it a voice.”
Subsequent phases of the Rizni.Rivni campaign have amplified these messages of support for equality. This January, NDI’s partners started the #365DaysofRizniRivni initiative, which features LGBTQI+ Ukrainians sharing their everyday lives on the campaign’s Instagram stories. So far, more than 70 individuals have been featured, and the posts have reached more than 108,000 users. To further expand the reach of the campaign, NDI’s partners also recently collaborated with famous Ukrainian designers to produce a Rizni.Rivni-themed fashion collection promoting LGBTQI+ equality. The collection received extensive media coverage, and was featured in dozens of national news publications, including Insider, Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan.
In addition to the national campaign efforts, each of NDI’s six partner organizations designed and implemented their own local Rizni.Rivni activities in their communities, such as by collaborating with small businesses, organizing music competitions, and producing videos highlighting the experiences of local LGBTQI+ individuals.
Despite the progress that has been made, Ukraine’s LGBTQI+ community still receives significant backlash from both domestic and international actors, and is often the target of disinformation attacks. In recent years, a coordinated far-right extremist effort to promote anti-equality legislation has resonated among small segments of Ukrainian society and gained momentum in some local councils. Furthermore, LGBTQI+ individuals and groups are also often victims of hate crime attacks, which are usually not investigated by authorities at all or result in the perpetrators being charged under a less severe “hooliganism” charge rather than as a hate crime.
In light of these threats, the awareness-raising efforts of NDI’s partners remain critical in countering harmful messages and promoting acceptance and equality. By supporting LGBTQI+ civil society organizations, NDI is helping its partners build a more inclusive, and therefore more democratic, Ukraine.
The Rizni.Rivni campaign was developed and implemented by a network of six NDI partner organizations across Ukraine, including KyivPride, Gender Z, Insha, Liga, Sphere, and the Educational Center for Human Rights in Lviv, with support from the governments of the United Kingdom and Sweden.
NDI’s engagement with Ukraine is implemented with support from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).
NDI is a non-profit, non-partisan, non-governmental organization that works in partnership around the world to strengthen and safeguard democratic institutions, processes, norms and values to secure a better quality of life for all. NDI envisions a world where democracy and freedom prevail, with dignity for all.