From where I stand: “I am now ready to create positive changes”

Olena Halkanova fled her home in the city of Pervomaisk after the start of the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine. Now living on the contact line between government-controlled and non-government-controlled areas of Luhansk region, she has become a community mobilizer after UN Women-led training.

Date: Friday, October 18, 2019

Olena. Photo: UN Women/Anna Korbut
Olena Halkanova. Photo: UN Women/Anna Korbut

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During the period of active combat action, my family and I were forced to leave our hometown and start looking for a new place to live. We left everything we had: our home, real estate business. Some of our family members also stayed behind. [At first] we moved to our summer house in Zolote, but soon the battle lines shifted closer and the garden of our summer house became a firing trench. Our city is still occupied by military forces, and although we moved to a safer part, we still live on the contact line, in the grey zone. Living along the contact line is something you can’t become accustomed to. Hearing the small arms, tracked vehicles and blasts at the same time as children’s laughter outside is hard.

The conflict continues, but I am now ready to create positive changes. A few years ago, I started a volunteer group to help the people in Zolote. Since then, we’ve been collaborating closely with local authorities and we are lucky because our community is led by two women who never create barriers for our work. I guess it is a kind of women’s solidarity.

At first, we helped people in our city access necessities such as coal and firewood, but we soon understood that we need to change the strategy and enable them to help themselves in a more sustainable way. This is when I attended the training on community mobilization. Now, I have six self-help groups with 35 participants in total. The next project we want to develop is the reconstruction of the city garden to create at least a degree of normalcy and to show people how they can change their situation by themselves.

Since the start of the conflict, I used to say that all we need is a light suitcase with dinnerware and bed sheets. Few month ago, I caught myself feeling that I want to have my own house again. I still have my suitcase ready, but only because I plan to move to a better apartment, not because I feel scared.”



SDG 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions

Olena Halkanova strengthened her knowledge of human rights and gender analysis and developed evidence-based advocacy skills during Community Mobilization for Empowerment trainings organized by UN Women as part of the United Nations Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme, which is being implemented by UN Women, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Population Fund and the Food and Agriculture Organization.