A hromada knits the community together

Pride takes various forms – for Nataliia Khalimon, it comes in the shape of bright yellow containers for plastic collection.

The 47-year-old head of the Kulykivska hromada points at the forms in the courtyard of the administration building explaining where they will be positioned and how the collection will work – as part of the plans for more sustainable waste management in this community of about 15,600 people in Chernihiv Oblast. She is patently satisfied, and rightly so.

“They are all locally manufactured, meaning people are vested in the process. It is not parachuted on us,” she maintains. “Now, the hromada has its own modern garbage truck. It is a long journey, but this is a beautiful land. We cannot just litter it. We need to take care of it.”

A career teacher turned school director, the mother of two has been at the helm of her community for nine years. In 2010, she was elected as a member of the rayon council.

“Of course, it was an additional burden,” says the trained historian in a calm but purposeful voice. She remained her village’s school director for an additional five years, before leaving to become head of the rayon council in 2015.

“I always wanted to support my community, I never wanted to be a politician,” she says, adding how natural it felt when it happened nonetheless.

Multi-tasking comes naturally to her. Not only did she masterfully balance the two roles of school director and member of the rayon council – later on,she became a successful head of the hromada. Under her stewardship, her school was also recognised as one of the ten best village schools in Ukraine. Moreover, with her, the rayon won an all-Ukrainian local self-government award in 2016 for transparency and accountability of local self-government. She also raised two sons, now in their early 20s.

“We have a saying in Ukraine: women rest by doing housework,” she adds smiling, only half-jokingly though.

 

Local administration is like education

 

Education has long been considered a female profession in Ukraine. School teachers tend to be women. But her background as a teacher and school director had great advantages, Khalimon says. The same skills that enabled her to thrive in those roles have also helped her as the head of Kulykivska after the hromada was formed in 2017 – it is about management and dealing with people. “Adults can be like children,” she says, “although sometimes children can be easier!”

Her mindset geared towards learning also shows in her approach to advance the knowledge and skills of her new administration. Working together with Chernihiv Local Government Development Centre of U-LEAD with Europe, the training syllabus for herself and administrative employees encompasses a broad range of topics from gender-responsive budgeting to improving the local education system and communicating their hromada’s successes to others.

Another important issue for her is waste management. One of the hromada’s key projects is to establish waste sorting, starting with plastic and glass. Not only does that involve the provision of separate containers and liaison with recycling companies. It also requires people to change their behaviour, sorting their waste and disposing of plastic and glass separately. In development jargon, it demands awareness raising campaigns. To Khalimon, it’s just another form of education.

Her years of experience as a school administrator also helped during the negotiations to form the hromada. “Out of 15 villages, each one wanted to become the leader,” she recalls. Her job in knitting together the community required hours of patient negotiation, listening and educating people about the benefits of amalgamation.

Those benefits are significant. Once she became hromada chief in 2017, she found herself in charge of administering an annual budget of UAH 120 million. Yet even that sum is not enough to meet the many needs in the community – hence the importance of transparency in deciding what to fund. Each village council proposes ideas, which are then subject to a public vote on the hromada’s website. As well as recycling, other projects include road repairs, street lighting and cleaning of wells and drilling of deep water bores.

Transparency, she notes, is key to excelling as it is central to maintaining people’s trust.

“There is no difference between the type of transparency you have to establish as as a school director and the type as administrator – you know you cannot squander it. One of my favourite lines of poetry is from Lina Kostenko [one of Ukraine’s leading poets]: ‘Please be afraid to cheat people’s souls / because if you fail, it will be forever.’”

 

The power of local investments

 

The decentralisation reform has been a life changer for small communities – the main factor being that most of the money gathered locally stays local. Almost half of the hromada’s total budget comes from own revenues.

Companies like Kolos, which produces a wide range of meat products, and Kulykivka Milk, a dairy maker, have their headquarters in Kulykivka, the town where a third of the whole hromada’s population live. Both sell around the country and employ a local workforce in the hundreds.

“Land lease provides an additional injection to the budget and industrial crops like rapeseed are on the rise,” Khalimon explains, referring to the vast meadows carpeted with the rapeseed’s beautiful yellow flowers. The administration is also looking for an investor for an asphalt plant that would be able cater to the hromada’s infrastructure needs.

Speaking in an office teeming with flowers – a long-time passion, she says – Khalimon stresses how women have qualities that make them well suited for roles in local administration, where much of their work is focused on improving the community’s quality of life.

 

 

Juggling budgets is one of them – traditionally men are considered the family’s breadwinners, but once the money gets into the house it is managed by the women.

“Women look ahead,” she concludes. “Women are more focused on the future.”

 

Kulykivska Amalgamated Hromada at a glance

Oblast

Chernihiv

Size

862 km2

Population

15,570

First election

29 October 2017

Number of settlements

16

U-LEAD support

Participation in 74 events since October 2017

 

U-LEAD paragraph:

A multi-donor action of the European Union and its member states Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Poland and Sweden, U-LEAD works with all levels of government to support the implementation of regional policy and decentralization reforms in Ukraine. Working to ensure multilevel governance that is transparent, accountable and responsive to the needs of the population, U-LEAD is implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida).

Tags:

hender

Область:

Чернігівська область

Громади:

Куликівська селищна об’єднана територіальна громада

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