Ending the Gender Gap in Ukraine
Women in Ukraine have been fighting for gender equality in the country for more than a decade. Although there are currently no countries in the world that fully support women’s rights, the Ukraine government is making great strides in improving women’s conditions. The authorities have passed the Verkhovna Razredka, a civil code with substantial elements designed to improve women’s position and empowerment. The measures were introduced to ensure that women would be better able to secure equal access to real estate, education, employment, justice, and political representation.
The programme analyst for the European Women’s Lobby, Katarina Kopytian, says that women living in the western Ukraine have been fighting for gender equality for far longer than the Ukrainian authorities realise. “It seems they are still stuck on the old age-old ways of thinking when it comes to gender equality. They want men to be the ones pushing women into high places and preventing them from having a successful life. This is completely backwards,” she said. “The authorities know that the future of women in Ukraine is undoubtedly bright, but they need to start getting onto women’s minds and make them realise their potential.”
As part of the programme, the survey also asked oblasts (men who are married or not living with their spouses) about women’s issues in the country. Overall, most oblasts said that they didn’t feel that their status was being threatened in any way. However, some oblasts did see a decline in personal status for women, with some claiming that they were being pushed down the social ladder at a faster rate. Most of these women were women belonging to the vulnerable groups mentioned above. This was the case particularly in cities like Odesk, Lviv, and Rivne.
The survey also went further to ask whether women faced a greater risk of being subjected to the Rupture of innocence (Ruptured innocence, as it is known in the UK). The majority of oblasts thought that this posed a higher risk of suffering infanticide or losing a child through abortion. However, when looking at regions of the country where women have higher levels of literacy, they were more likely to see a rise in Rupture of innocence. There was a marked difference in the responses from the more or less urban and rural parts of the country.
The report concluded by observing that the lack of awareness on gender equality and Rupture of innocence among the younger generations poses a challenge for gender equality in Ukraine. The main causes cited were a lack of educational opportunities for girls, insufficient opportunities for women to earn, and abusive relationships. According to the experts, one way out of this was to improve education and employment opportunities for women in Ukraine. They proposed several measures to achieve this, including the establishment of educational, health and social programs concentrating on empowering women. Such programs should be supported by donors to make them sustainable over the long-term.
On the whole, the report highlighted that the situation on the ground was quite alarming. More worrying was the lack of awareness on gender issues in society at large. This needs to be changed so that society does not become susceptible to further violence against women and girls. According to the experts, there are several ways to improve the conditions of women in the Ukraine. Among these is promoting family-based programmes providing educational, healthcare and employment opportunities for women and girls belonging to vulnerable groups.