Stories

135
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Nataliia Novitska 36, is Project Manager at the NGO “Positive Women”, which provides assistance and information to women living with HIV across Ukraine, even amid the Russian invasion. It is among the organizations supported by UN Women's Peace and Humanitarian Fund (WPHF).
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In the first days following Ukraine’s full-scale invasion by Russia in February 2022, everyone was impressed by the unity of Ukrainian men and women. Many businesses and ordinary citizens donated their cars for humanitarian needs, prepared food, organized volunteer initiatives and helped financially. Now, many companies have resumed commercial activities and continue to volunteer support. Anna Zavertaylo is co-owner of the Zavertaylo bakery and the Honey Pastry Café in Kyiv. She is one of the entrepreneurs who, since the first days of the war, redirected her business to support local people and the resistance.
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Karima, 21, is a young university student who is passionate about helping others through teaching. Despite her young age, she has multiple years of teaching experience in Afghanistan. Now she wants to find ways to continue educating Afghan women given their exclusion from education within the country. Karima participated in a design thinking workshop for young Afghan leaders organized by UN Women to identify existing capacities, needs and solutions to support women’s empowerment and gender equality, and influence peace discussions in their home country Afghanistan.
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Adelah*, 27, is a former Afghan school teacher now pursuing her dream career in information technology. She is developing an app that connects Afghan women with gynecologists abroad. Adelah participated in a design thinking workshop for young Afghan leaders organized by UN Women to identify existing capacities, needs and solutions to support women’s empowerment and gender equality, and influence peace discussions in their home country Afghanistan.
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Zuleika*, 22, is a young Afghan activist who has initiated several social projects supporting Afghan women refugees. She advocates for women’s freedom of choice and strongly believes in the power of women supporting women. Zuleika participated in a design thinking workshop for young Afghan leaders organized by UN Women to identify existing capacities, needs and solutions to support women’s empowerment and gender equality, and influence peace discussions in their home country Afghanistan.
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Olha Svitlychna, 29, from Mariupol, Ukraine. At the age of 24, she applied and was appointed as a Human Rights Commissioner by the Head of the National Police, where she set up a police hub and an Expert Council on Innovative Ideas. Later, she took a position as Head of the Department of International Cooperation at the Donetsk State University of Internal Affairs.
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Elena Gorgan, 54, is a beekeeper and founder of ApiHerb, a small business producing honey and beeswax products, natural herbal teas, and plant-based cosmetics in Puhaceni village, Moldova. Originally from Odessa, Ukraine, she took part in a project supporting local women producers in business development for sustainable growth, implemented by Sweet Mary and UN Women Moldova and financed by the Government of Sweden. Recently, Gorgan showcased her products at an exhibition and conference organized in Chisinau in the lead-up to the Regional Women’s Entrepreneur EXPO 2022.
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Elisa Melkonyan, 40, is woman living with cerebral palsy (a motor disability causing muscle weakness), from Gyumri, a city in northwestern Armenia. A beneficiary of the Agate NGO for nearly 15 years, she was among the 32 women and girls with disabilities who took part in a handicraft training offered by the NGO under the “EU 4 Gender Equality: Together against gender stereotypes and gender-based violence” programme in December 2020. Following the training, Elisa sold some of her crafts online. Agate also offered Elisa a job as an assistant teacher at its Independent Living Resource Centre, which provides informal education opportunities for children with disabilities.
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Vivia Gurgenishvili, 30, is an entrepreneur and mother of three from Veliskikhe, a village in Eastern Georgia. Currently living in the capital, Tbilisi, Gurgenishvili is the founder of Dino, a small company that produces eco-friendly wooden furniture and toys from clean and certified raw materials with a focus on child development.
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Bohdana Korop, 37, is an economist, teacher and head of the non-profit organization Center for Creativity and Intellectual Development in Ukraine. She helps coordinate rural women in the Chernivtsi region under a UN Women project “Advancing Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment through Decentralization Reform of Ukraine”.
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With more than 20 years of experience helping women from vulnerable groups across Ukraine, Lyubov Maksymovych heads the NGO "Women's Perspectives", whose work has become more relevant and necessary than ever since the country’s full-scale invasion. In February, her team created a temporary shelter for internally displaced people that has already hosted nearly 600 women and children.
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Ramiye Şalja is a woman from the rural municipality of Mamusha who is renowned for spearheading initiatives to support rural women from her community. Seen as a role model and a change-maker, she has received UN Women-supported trainings which will further her efforts.
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Tina Milovanović is a third-year student at the Faculty of Political Sciences in Belgrade. She is also one of the 25 young leaders of change participating in the UN Women Youth against violence initiative, launched in May 2021. The initiative engages mostly young people who are leaders and influencers from various spheres of public life. Through training and social media campaigns, they help prevent violence against women and girls by transforming negative social norms, raising public awareness and keeping a spotlight on sexual violence, abuse and harassment, especially against girls and young women.
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Anastasia Perepylytsia, 44, is no stranger to displacement. In 2014, she had a stable job in finance and lived a normal life together with her husband and two children in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine. But when the Russian army invaded her hometown, she had to flee with her family to Zaporizhzhia, a city situated on the banks of the Dnieper River in the southeast. When the war began in 2022, she had to leave again, relocating to Novovolynsk in western Ukraine. At first, she struggled to find employment, information or psychological support—until she came across UN Women’s ‘Community Mobilization for Empowerment’ project. Now, she is using her experiences of displacement to help others in similar situations adapt.
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Ender Baykuş is a former journalist and photographer, based in Ankara, the capital of Türkiye. His perspective on gender equality changed when his path crossed with UN Women as a photographer. While taking pictures at different trainings and workshops, Baykuş has gained a better understanding of gender equality and women’s empowerment. Now, he shares what he has learned with his family and friends and speaks up against gender inequalities. He is proud of being a gender equality advocate and calls on everyone to be part of the change.
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Anna Mazur is a founder of the Ukrainian career platform Happy Monday and the NGO Professionals of the Future. This summer, her team conducted research on the current state of the Ukrainian market: how many women are actively looking for work, which positions are most in demand, and which skills are necessary for success. With the support of UN Women, Mazur launched a career and psychological assistance project for Ukrainian women.
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As a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have fled to the Republic of Moldova, looking for a safe shelter. Those involved face many challenges, including maintaining psychological balance. For this reason, many psychologists and psychoterapists have started organizing mental health sessions. One of these specialists is Elena Biceva, President of the Moldovan Association of Gestalt Therapy and Psychodrama, who organizes mental health sessions for public servants involved in refugee crisis response. She explains the role of psychological counselling in crisis situations, as well as how to prevent emotional burnout.
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Larysa Denysenko is a journalist, attorney, human rights activist and co-founder of the Association of Women’s Lawyers of Ukraine “JurFem”. Before the war, Denysenko and JurFem mainly advocated for women’s leadership in legal professions, provided mentorship and supported strategic court cases related to domestic violence and gender-based discrimination. Now, this has extended to representing the interests of those who have survived conflict-related sexual violence allegedly perpetrated by the Russian military in Ukraine.
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Ayşegül Küçükafacan is the founder of the Sil Baştan (Start from Scratch) Association for Combatting Violence Against Women and Child Abuse in Balikesir, a city in northwestern Turkey. Due to financial difficulties, she was about to close the association, however a small grant provided by UN Women under the Strong Civic Space for Gender Equality project funded by the European Union, changed the course of things for Küçükafacan. Now, her association continues to combat violence and abuse against women and girls and support those who are subjected to violence.
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Media Development Foundation is a non-profit organisation that supports media organisations in Ukraine. Since the first days of the Russian military invasion, they set up a media assistance coordination center in Chernivtsi, a city in southwestern Ukraine, and assisted with transportation, housing and safe working conditions for journalists and newsrooms across the country.