Since late November, Ukrainians have assembled in the capital city to protest current government regime. Despite the traditionally patriarchal society, women have been a powerful presence and political voice for change.
What started as peaceful protest of President Viktor Yanukovych’s failure to sign a major trade agreement – and his ultimate rejection of the European Union – has spiraled into violence. An estimated 50,000 Russian citizens came together to protest government action in a non-violent peace march earlier this month. Standing in solidarity with Ukrainians, the streets of Moscow were filled with a unifying message: “Hands off of Ukraine“.
Experts say more than half of the anti-government demonstrators in Ukraine are women. Their significant participation takes many forms. Women have recognized the power of accurate information; they are taking a stand against “the narrative of war” by funding a Maidan newspaper publication and assisting journalists. Young feminists staff hotlines and volunteer at makeshift medic centres. Women are providing practical support, preparing food for protestors at the barricades and gathering donations of medical supplies.
However, Ukrainian women continue to mobilize in new, essential ways – having formed a Women’s Brigade early last month. This “Female Squadron” trains women in self-defense, how to handle riots, and how to avoid arrest. Its main goal is to fight the discrimination of women – allowing both men and women to stand watch at barricades. Participants are diverse, ranging in age and background.
Prior to the current protests, Ukraine was known mainly for its radical feminist movement FEMEN. Today, the women of Ukraine are taking an active role in shaping their nation’s future.
Read the Statement and Call for Peace [English Translation]: Russian Feminists Rise Up for Peace in the Ukraine, WILPF, 20 March 2014
Read the 2011 Ukrainian Women’s Fund Report “Women’s Participation in Politics and Decision-Making in Ukraine: Strategy Paper” for background information on the status of women.
Stay informed about the peace process – join the “Euromaidan International – Support Ukraine” Facebook page.