In the words of Karyna Starodubtseva: “I am proud of my university, which has resumed its work from scratch so that every student can realize their dreams”

Karyna Starodubtseva is a Bachelor of Law student at the Volodymyr Dahl East Ukrainian National University, Severodonetsk. Today, more than half the world’s population is under 30 years of age. Students and youth are the new generation of leaders and changemakers, and it is critically important to understand their priorities as we shape the gender equality movement to change the world. Karyna as a young feminist leader was nominated to be a voice of students’ community to advocate for a more inclusive and accessible learning environment at her university. She is a passionate and committed activist bridging the gap for youth with diverse background amidst conflict. Created by UN Women, the HeForShe solidarity movement in Ukraine has launched the HeForShe University Tour. This is a chance to listen and learn from students about the issues and opportunities they see when it comes to achieving gender equality

Date: Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Karyna Starodubtseva, student of Volodymyr Dahl East Ukrainian National University, Severodonetsk. Photo: Personal archive
Karyna Starodubtseva, student of Volodymyr Dahl East Ukrainian National University, Severodonetsk. Photo: Personal archive

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Due to the harsh realities of the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine, my university has been relocated from Luhansk to Severodonetsk. For several years now, our university has been housed in buildings that previously belonged to the Severodonetsk Chemical-Mechanical Technical School, but these facilities are not suitable for all students.

The university lacks the infrastructure needed for all students to be able to access all the learning opportunities. For example, our buildings have several floors, but none of them have an elevator. The university cannot overcome these problems on its own. Last year, the medical center closed, the dining room is small and is located on the second floor. In my opinion, all this affects students’ equal rights to education accessible for all.

At the same time, the university administration is making great efforts to implement the principle of inclusiveness: Our institution uses a dotted Braille and has ramps, for example. To make the educational process more accessible to all students, including those that are less mobile, we use the e-learning system called: ‘Electronic Campus’. This online education platform came in handy both after our university was relocated in 2014 and during COVID-19 quarantine.

Many ideas for change are generated by active students who participate in the Debate Club and volunteer in the non-government organization, Women's Initiative Foundation, which works on the issue of gender-based violence.

Despite all the difficulties, the University was the first among the displaced institutions to receive a significant grant for reconstruction. With this support, the administration found the new premises, started repairs, and most importantly, saved teachers' jobs and opportunities for students, and this is very important. I am proud of my university, which has resumed its work from scratch so that every student and every teacher can realize their dreams and feel part of a big family.