Supporting Young Women Leaders in Ukraine

Sisterhood and partnership have been important values of the YWCA movement since its founding in the 1800’s. The YWCA story is one of women working together intentionally across international, economic, racial and social boundaries to make their communities better, safer places for women and girls. As our work in Ireland expands and develops we are considering ways of fostering deeper partnerships with the international YWCA movement, so that we can share resources and bring inspiration and learning from our sisters who work in very different contexts. In October 2018 we had the opportunity to do this by financially supporting Victoria Tsarenko from the YWCA of Ukraine to participate in the European YWCA General Assembly in Bucharest, Romania. Below Victoria tells us about her work with YWCA Ukraine and why attending the European YWCA General Assembly was important to her.

YWCA Ireland: Tell us a little about yourself
Victoria: Hello! I’m Victoria Tsarenko.  I am 30 years old. I live in Kyiv, Ukraine and work as a Lease Manager in a commercial real estate business.

YWCA Ireland: What’s your role in YWCA Ukraine?
Victoria: I’ve been a volunteer at Ukrainian YWCA since 2008 and this summer I joined the board. I participate in various YWCA activities that take place in Kyiv that aim to empower women.

YWCA Ireland: What work is YWCA Ukraine involved in?
Victoria: YWCA Ukraine work on such issues as domestic violence, gender equality, young women’s leadership and internally displaced persons. We organise self-defence classes and psychological support for women impacted by domestic violence. We have also coordinated a Gender Equality program in several schools in Kyiv and the surrounding region. Through interactive activities we educated students about human rights and the importance of gender equality for everyone’s benefit. YWCA Ukraine has organised several professional courses for women in the home, for example   computer skills and English classes. We also support women in the home with personal development training to raise their self-esteem, identify their strengths and combat fears.

You may know that there has been a war in East of Ukraine for several years and because of this the country is facing a lot of economic and financial challenges. YWCA Ukraine, like many other NGOs is experiencing financial difficulties and this has an impact on the number of activities that we can do.  Our volunteers support internally displaced people from the east of Ukraine by sharing the information and helping them find shelter and job in the Kyiv. This work is becoming increasingly difficult due to the lack of financial resources.

YWCA Ireland: How did participating in the European YWCA General Assembly benefit you and the YWCA of Ukraine?
Victoria: Despite all the challenges facing YWCA Ukraine we still want to participate in and make a contribution to the YWCA movement. It was empowering to be able to participate in the European YWCA General Assembly, to vote for the board, to meet other YWCA sisters, to share our ideas and to feel true women power. It was my first time attending a General Assembly meeting, so it was a new experience for me. It was very motivating and inspiring to be with all the amazing women expressing their ideas, sharing common issues and discussing the ways every YWCA deals with them. Now I have better knowledge of the governance processes with the European YWCA and will bring this learning back to Ukraine with me.

It was good to meet the European YWCA board members in person, to share the vision and to get the insight of board members on a number of issues. Going forward the YWCA of Ukraine will plan our work keeping the priorities of the European YWCA in mind. In addition to learning about governance I picked up several great workshop ideas which I will use in my work with YWCA Ukraine.

On behalf of YWCA of Ukraine I would like to express our thanks to our sisters in YWCA Ireland for providing financial support to enable my participation in the  European YWCA General Assembly 2018. It is a great honour to be a part of such powerful and supportive organization and to know that nobody is left behind!

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