In the words of Olena Nebeska: “I want everyone to know the importance of their human rights”

Olena Nebeska left home in Luhansk just days after the conflict in the eastern Ukraine started in May 2014. She left behind everything, including the six enterprises she managed, and moved to the small village of Bobrovo, with a population of 350. A UN Women training helped her learn more about her rights as a citizen and act upon them. Following the training, Nebesna mobilized women and men in the community and they created of 24 self-help groups and three civil society organizations in the village and neighboring cities.


Olena Nebeska left home in Luhansk just days after the conflict in the eastern Ukraine started in May 2014.
Olena Nebeska left home in Luhansk just days after the conflict in the eastern Ukraine started in May 2014. Photo: Vitaliy Shevelev.


My life took a dramatic turn after the conflict began. Back then I did not realize that my move from home would be a one-way trip. I felt certain that my state would protect me. Everyday after fleeing my home, I was waiting for the moment when I could go back to my regular life, but nothing changed. Therefore, I decided that I could use my experience and skills to change my situation and help people. I didn’t think much about human rights before because I thought I had them. Now, I want everyone to know why human rights are important so they can protect themselves.

The conflict transformed me, and my values have changed completely. All my life I used to work for financial security. Now I work for the people in the community and only now am I headed in the right direction. Twenty-four self-help groups have been formed with my support. Women who joined the groups have already created three non-governmental organizations in their villages; while others are in the process of developing their organizations. I regularly collect information from the members of my community to bring their issues to the public hearings in the city hall. Our community is in the grey zone, so we have a lot of problems with lighting in the streets and infrastructure.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, all of us face whole new challenges. My community, as well as adjacent villages, are totally isolated from the external world. All transportation channels in and out are closed. The only one way to leave the village is by private car. As in many other places, isolation increased the level of violence against women, children and elderly people. Now we are collecting information about COVID-19 challenges and problems, including the violence cases, to share it with local authorities.”

SDG 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions

Olena Nebeska 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. This initiative is being implemented by UN Women, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Population Fund and the Food and Agriculture Organization. Her work contributes to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16, which promotes peaceful and inclusive societies.