Committing to becoming agents of change at HeForShe Congress in Ukraine

At a UN Women organised event, men and women talked about what it meant to be a man and how to change attitudes to promote gender equality in the Ukraine.

Date: Friday, July 6, 2018

(left to right) Polina Rubis, DJ, Elizaveta Godovikova, Inventor, Nikita Shulga, co-founder of eco-project, and Lev Shurov, singer, HeForShe advocate, spoke about gender stereotypes perceived by generation Z at the HeForShe Congress. The discussion was facilitated by Violeta Vanchuk, Marketing Director of Luxoptica. Photo: UN Women/Volodymyr Shuvayev
(left to right) Polina Rubis, DJ, Elizaveta Godovikova, Inventor, Nikita Shulga, co-founder of eco-project, and Lev Shurov, singer, HeForShe advocate, spoke about gender stereotypes perceived by generation Z at the HeForShe Congress. The discussion was facilitated by Violeta Vanchuk, Marketing Director of Luxoptica. Photo: UN Women/Volodymyr Shuvayev

On July 6, more than 600 guests attended the HeForShe Congress, Ukraine’s first gender equality speaking event.

Organised by UN Women Ukraine in partnership with the media company WoMo and Ekonomika+ and held in Kyiv, the HeForShe congress drew local and international business, media, sports, religion, politics and development leaders to speak what gender equality meant to them – and to commit to being agents of change to promote it in the Ukraine.

(left to right) Michael Basset, Associate Director, Governance, Compliance and Risk at The Conference Board of Canada, Marie Yovanovitch, United States Ambassador to Ukraine, Judith Gough, Ambassador of the United Kingdom in Ukraine and Nataliya Mykolska, Counsel, Deputy Minister of Economic Development and Trade/ Trade Representative of Ukraine and Mariana Kaganyak, Head of Export Promotion Office discuss economic empowerment of women. Photo: UN Women/Volodymyr Shuvayev
(left to right) Michael Basset, Associate Director, Governance, Compliance and Risk at The Conference Board of Canada, Marie Yovanovitch, United States Ambassador to Ukraine, Judith Gough, Ambassador of the United Kingdom in Ukraine and Nataliya Mykolska, Counsel, Deputy Minister of Economic Development and Trade/ Trade Representative of Ukraine and Mariana Kaganyak, Head of Export Promotion Office discuss economic empowerment of women. Photo: UN Women/Volodymyr Shuvayev

Initiated by UN Women, HeForShe is a global solidarity campaign that invites people – particularly men and boys – to make a visible, positive statement for gender equality. Since its Ukraine launch by UN Women in March 2018, HeForShe Ukraine has developed strategic partnerships and participated in popular events across the country to promote gender equality.

At HeForShe events, men and boys pledge to become agents of change for gender equality. To date, more than 4,000 people attended HeForShe events and offline activities in Ukraine, and 1,157 Ukrainians have pledged to HeForShe and to campaign for the changes necessary to achieve gender equality on heforshe.org.

After welcoming remarks by Anastasia Divinskaya, Head of Office UN Women Ukraine, participants got down to business with a day-long series of interactive panels that included sometimes frank discussions following presentations on:

  • Women in the digital world
  • Equality and diversity in cultural relations
  • Why don’t women win in motor racing
  • How to destroy conservative gender stereotypes in large corporations
  • Gender-neutral education
  • Women in business
  • How Ukrainian teenagers see gender equality
  • Export promotion and the SheExports platform
  • Roma human rights
  • A Ukrainian Orthodox Church perspective on gender
  • Politics and feminism

Participants discussed why gender discrimination was widespread in the Ukraine, with gender norms narrowly defined, and what could be done to change traditional patriarchal views that are reinforced in school curricula and the media.

Serhiy Babak, doctor of technical sciences, vice-champion of Ukraine on ring races. Photo: UN Women/Volodymyr Shuvayev
Serhiy Babak, PhD in Technical Sciences, vice-champion of Ukraine on ring races. Photo: UN Women/Volodymyr Shuvayev

“Stereotypes are rooted in our families and deepen at school. We often hear, ‘Don’t cry, you’re a boy, and must endure this’, but sometimes you want to. Why must I endure something If I don’t want to?” said Serhiy Babak, PhD in Technical Sciences.

Heorhiy Kovalenko, Ukrainian Orthodox Church priest and president of the Open Orthodox University of St. Sofia argued for a fresh look at Scriptures: “God created a man? The Bible’s first chapter says, ‘God created man in His own image; male and female created He them.’ “

“The biggest mistake is when a woman starts copying men. The advantage of women is that they can do better than men in many situations, and that they do it differently,” said Mykhailo Tsarev, Executive Director of EastOne Group, an international investment holding.

Speakers proposed ways to change the discrimination and persistent gender inequality in economic opportunities that have limited women’s income and access to decision-making, education and employment opportunities.

“The strength of men and women is in our differences, in diversity, in the possibility of partnership and cooperation. That’s the formula for the future,” said Liliya Mlynarych, President of the Koktebel Jazz Festival.

Michael Basset, Associate Director, Governance, Compliance and Risk at The Conference Board of Canada. Photo: UN Women/Volodymyr Shuvayev
Michael Basset, Associate Director, Governance, Compliance and Risk at The Conference Board of Canada. Photo: UN Women/Volodymyr Shuvayev

Michael Basset, Associate Director, Governance, Compliance and Risk at The Conference Board of Canada: “Corporate boards remain pale, male and stale old boys’ clubs. You need three women to change any company. One woman will be seen as a formality, two an anomaly. Three women, though, produce corporate dynamics.”

For some, gender equality is about equality of opportunity – and sharing in household responsibilities.

“Gender equality is as simple as this: Everyone needs an equal chance to pursue their goals and dreams,” said Dmitry Shurov, lead singer in the band Painoboy. In March 2018, Shurov became Ukraine’s first HeForShe advocate. He is often joined at HeForShe events with his teenage son Lev Shurov, where together they speak about fatherhood and men sharing equally in domestic and child care work.

Kameran Asaad Khudur, SIDA Programme Director of U-LEAD with Europe, Embassy of Sweden in Ukraine: “There is no quick fix to gender equality. Start working on it in your own home. Housework is not a woman's job. Anybody can make a bed or clean the floor. It’s not anyone’s specific duty.”

Some participants stressed how new technologies could empower women.

“Women feel confident in new technologies. The digital age is a women's era,” said Andriy Tsymbal, Managing Partner, KPMG Ukraine.