In the words of Vitalina Romanenko: “I am proud of myself. I am a strong woman.”

Date: Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Vitalina Romanenko, a domestic violence survivor and self-help group leader, shares her personal experience to empower and support other women, Pryvillia village, 2021. Photo: UN Women
Vitalina Romanenko, a domestic violence survivor and self-help group leader, shares her personal experience to empower and support other women, Pryvillia village, 2021. Photo: Vitalii Shevelev/UN Women Ukraine

Vitalina Romanenko (28) is from Pryvillia, a small town in the conflict-affected eastern part of Ukraine. Her story is similar to that of many women in rural Ukraine. She got pregnant and married the father of her child. Unemployed and financially dependent on her husband, she had no choice but to hope for the best, even when he started to drink and resort to violence. After several violent incidents, Vitalina finally decided to start over. She found a new job and built a career. She also became a leader in a local women’s self-help group, which thanks to her story, is now creating a resource centre for women suffering from domestic violence.

“I waited for my husband to change once the baby was born. The situation improved slightly when our daughter was born. He was happy, and I thought that the dark times were finally over. But that lasted just a couple of days. The situation worsened dramatically when I found a job. My husband, on the other hand, was unemployed back then, and we were living with his parents. I was constantly accused, both by my husband and his parents, of coming late from work and being a bad wife and mother. One day, we had a terrible fight. My husband’s father was drunk, and his mother didn’t like that I was just playing with my daughter and not helping around the house. His father grabbed my hair and dragged me through the living room, I cut my arm with a nail. They refused to help me to stop the bleeding. They took away my phone, so I wouldn’t call the police. Eventually, my daughter and I managed to escape and stayed with my colleague for some time. Since then, I have not returned to my husband.

In 2019, I joined, and later led, a self-help group created through the community mobilization for empowerment (CME) programme implemented by UN Women Ukraine in eastern Ukraine. Thanks to my story, women in my self-help group developed a project to open a hub for domestic violence survivors so that women in need could have a safe place to stay. I am proud of myself and what we do with my colleagues. I am not ashamed of my story. I am a strong woman, and I am sure that I’ll be alright.”

Vitalina Romanenko strengthened her knowledge of human rights and gender equality and developed advocacy skills during Community Mobilization for Empowerment trainings organized by UN Women in conflict-affected eastern Ukraine. With Vitalian’s leadership, her self-help group’s project on creating a resource centre ‘Hope’ to support women suffering from domestic violence through the consultation and psychological help was supported by UN Women Ukraine’s small grant programme. Her work contributes to Sustainable Development Goal 5, on gender equality and women’s empowerment.