Female leaders: three stories of women-local self-government leaders

In 2018, Ukraine ranked 65th out of 149 countries in the global ranking of gender equality according to the Global Gender Gap Index 2018. The number of Ukrainian women is critically small in positions requiring political and business decisions. According to the Open Data of the Verkhovna Rada, only 12% of MPs are women.

The Swiss-Ukrainian project DESPRO annually organises the training "Female Leaders of Local Self-Government". Local self-government representatives from all over Ukraine are able to share experience of reforming hromadas and deepen their knowledge of gender equality.

We spoke with three training participants on how women are assuming decision-making processes under decentralisation.

A story of Yaroslava Karkach is on the balance of personal life and professional activity.

Her two children went to school earlier so that she could start a deputy career.

https://storage.decentralization.gov.ua/uploads/ckeditor/pictures/3376/content_1_yaroslava_karkach.png Yaroslava Karkach, City Coucil Secretary of the Novokalynivska AH, Lviv Oblast

"In 2016, at the beginning of the decentralisation reform, we became the first hromada in the Lviv Oblast. The AH centre is located in the city of Novyi Kalyniv, we amalgamated with seven small villages. For them, we have become a model for reforming the garrison into a complete city. As secretary of the city council, I develop social projects and run public pages of the AH.

There is no difference between female and male vision of work in AH. We solve the same problems – lack of schools and kindergartens, subsidies.

As the AH population mainly includes young families of the military aged under 37, the issue of creating good conditions in school and pre-school establishments is urgent.

Men and women of our city traditionally choose service in the Air Forces of Ukraine. Maybe that's why we have an order here and always feel safe.

A woman is ready to take responsibility for her family while her husband is in service. We are considered to be emotional, but this does not apply to wives of the officers.”

Women more often become job searchers. At the same time, women receive 20-30% less salaries than men.*

The story of Vira Severyn is about the importance of deliberate decisions, challenges of destiny and professional ambitions for development. The woman made her way as the leader in a village where she was twenty years ago.

https://storage.decentralization.gov.ua/uploads/ckeditor/pictures/3377/content_2__vira_severyn.png Vira Severyn, Deputy Head of the Mykolayivska AH, Sumy Oblast

"I always want to move forward, learn, get experience. At the time when I was preparing for the election, I had to make a personal choice. I was offered the post of accountant at the plant in Sumy. I replied that I wanted to try to lead the village, although I did not know the language, I did not know the rules, I did not know the current life of local residents. It was a year after I returned from Russia, where I moved with my husband and my daughter, being eighteen years old. A temporary trip to the North then lasted twenty years: we fully settled our lives, but decided to return to our homeland.

With a start of amalgamation process, I was the only woman to be the village starosta. We made a joint decision to elect the village head whose locality is closest to the city as the AH head. Men often believe that women are capricious and do not keep the word, so they say that a female leader is not a woman, but a man.”

A story of Kateryna Romanenko, laureate of the All-Ukrainian Prize "Woman of the 3rd Millennium" in the "Hope of Ukraine" nomination, features the role of professionalism, regardless of gender.

https://storage.decentralization.gov.ua/uploads/ckeditor/pictures/3378/content_3_kateryna_romanenko.png Kateryna Romanenko is the head of the Krasnopilska AH, Vinnytsia Oblast

"Men have never accepted female heads of village councils as equal. When I first ran for election, it was probably the first in Ukraine. Men said, "Are you so small, what can you do?" I came to the post with experience in land management, issued property rights during the new land reform, however, farmers were indignant. I reached working contact with them only after a year of my work, when they saw the results of my work.

Decentralisation filled the villages with life and gave way to skilled motivated professionals.

First and foremost, we renovated the roads, lighting, and provided Internet connection in the village. Health posts’ renovation is not included in the medical reform, but we did it at the AH expense: now we have modern facilities of hospitals and health posts.

For us, the issue of gender is something completely new. The situation in the villages of our hromada is that farmers and machinery owners can earn the most. Women tend to work in less-paid areas – education and healthcare.

As the head of the village council, I register marriages and always say: "Respect your wife as a friend, as a faithful mother of your children."

Photo and text by Ksenia Marchenko


* According to the research of the DESPRO project "Involvement of Women in the Implementation of the Decentralisation Reforms" as of 2017

The full version is available in Ukrainian – please click HERE

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