KYIV – The United Nations Economic and Social Council elected Ukraine to the Executive Council of U.N. Women for 2022-2024. Beginning on January 1, 2022, Ukraine will be among 17 states leading the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (U.N. Women).
“The election of Ukraine to the governing body of U.N. Women was a confirmation of our state’s consistent adherence to the strategic course on ensuring equal rights and opportunities for women and men at the national and international levels,” the press service of Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
The last time Ukraine was represented in the Executive Council of U.N. Women was in 2011-2013.
“As part of the Executive Council, the Ukrainian side will continue to strengthen women’s leadership and promote women’s participation in political processes, particularly in the context of the implementation of the ‘Women. Peace. Security’. program,” the foreign affairs ministry statement said.
Ukrainian diplomats also said that the main goal of Ukraine’s membership in the organization will be to improve the efficiency of the U.N. development system’s operational activities and provide assistance to member states for recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Ukraine having been elected to the U.N. Women Executive Council for 2022-2024 means that the international community is paying attention to Ukraine and wants us to have a seat at the table in coordinating equality and human rights protection efforts in Eastern Europe and the world,” Maryna Prykhodko, the U.N. representative for the World Federation of Ukrainian Women’s Organizations said.
Ms. Prykhodko, who is also a board member of Razom for Ukraine, said that for Ukraine the news also comes with an added sense of authority on behalf of different U.N. structures in the region.
“U.N. Women solidifies its relationship and cooperation with Ukraine and Ukrainian women, successfully adding the voices of Ukrainian women in their strategies and effectively representing more women around the world,” Ms. Prykhodko said.
“Undoubtedly, for Ukraine to fully take advantage of its time on the Executive Council of U.N. Women, Ukrainians – both men and women – around the world will have to work together,” Ms. Prykhodko said.
“The international Ukrainian community has much to offer Ukraine in its new role in U.N. Women, including but not limited to resources, history, and established conduits of information. Any long-term planning for reaching gender equality amongst Ukrainians should include those Ukrainians living outside of Ukraine,” said Ms. Prykhodko, who is an active member of the Ukrainian community in New York City.
Volodymyr Beglov, a human rights activist from Lviv, said that Ukraine’s membership in the U.N. Women’s Executive Council will benefit both Ukraine and the international organization.
“We will strengthen our position in this context, and, for our part, we will at least speak louder about our own experience of fighting for women’s rights,” Mr. Beglov said. “We also have many unique, important cases that we are obliged to address, from research in the field of women’s history to the experience of Ukrainian women at the frontline of the war.”
Mr. Beglov, who is the chairperson of the Educational Center for Human Rights in Lviv, believes that progress has been made on gender equality in Ukraine, though there is more still that needs to be done.
“Fortunately, the issue of women’s rights in Ukraine has been increasingly demythologized in recent years. I notice that for an increasing part of society, ensuring gender equality and condemning sexism is the norm, not a matter for a long discussion,” Mr. Beglov said.
“But this is not enough. There is still a lot of work. Needless to say, we have not yet ratified the Istanbul Convention [on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence],” Mr. Beglov said.
Ukraine signed the Istanbul Convention in 2011 but has not yet ratified it. In June 2020, in response to a petition, the presidential office stated that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy would submit a bill to parliament to ratify the Istanbul Convention.
The convention provides mechanisms to combat gender-based violence. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation seems to have gotten worse. According to the National Police, there were 174,386 cases of domestic violence reported in Ukraine over the course of 10 months in 2020. There were 114,00 cases throughout all of 2019.
Asked about how she views Ukraine’s progress on gender equality issues, Ms. Prykhodko also noted that progress is being made.
“Ukrainians and Ukraine are becoming more progressive as they reach the goals of European integration and carry out long-awaited reforms. One of the areas where societal change has been more successful since Euro-Maidan is, in my opinion, that of gender and women,” Ms. Prykhodko said. “Outdated stereotypes and gender roles are on their way out as the younger generations of Ukrainians seek to step out of the confines of Soviet and post-Soviet mentalities.”
But Ms. Prykhodko also noted that more work needs to be done and there is a danger of losing momentum in the fight for gender equality in the country. And there is an added concern that Russia will take advantage of the issue to sow further discord and division in Ukraine.
“As Ukraine is yet to ratify the Istanbul Convention and Ukrainian women are yet to be represented equally in government and be given equal opportunities in personal and professional spheres, there is growing disenchantment,” Ms. Prykhodko said.
“With the Russian propaganda machine successfully spreading anti-gender messaging in Ukraine as yet another part of its outright assault against Ukraine, a good percentage of Ukrainians don’t quite see how gender equality can improve their lives. Hopefully, with Ukraine being part of the U.N. Women’s Executive Council, there will be many opportunities to have this discussion on the national level,” said Ms. Prykhodko, a U.N. representative for the World Federation of Ukrainian Women’s Organizations.
The World Federation of Ukrainian Women’s Organizations (WFUWO) is a United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) accredited NGO in the U.N. with consultative status. WFUWO acts as a voice for Ukrainian women on the international stage through the critical international body of the United Nations.
“We bolster the image of Ukraine and give Ukrainian women agency, so the international community hears them. Through our activity in the U.N., we often partner with various U.N. structures and women’s organizations to enhance our work in the gender sphere and share the experiences and history of the Ukrainian women’s movement,” Ms. Prykhodko said.
The WFUWO delivers statements and briefs wherever and whenever Ukraine is concerned and leads delegations of Ukrainian women at various assemblies, such as at the annual U.N. Commission on the Status of Women.
The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women was established by the U.N. General Assembly on July 2, 2010. The goal of U.N. Women is to accelerate the achievement of the U.N. goals in the field of gender equality and the empowerment of women, in particular by implementing policies, global standards and norms in this area by providing technical and financial assistance to member states in the implementation of these norms, strengthening effective partnerships with civil society and the like.
Ukraine was also re-elected for a three-year term to the Executive Board of the U.N. Development Program (UNDP), the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) and the U.N. Office for Project Services (UNOPS).
Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said that it is among 30 countries on whose territory significant projects are being implemented with the support of the U.N.
“Our state is especially interested in the U.N. operational activities being effective and result-oriented, eliminating duplication and avoiding gaps in the interaction of agencies in the host countries,” the ministry said.
It also added that U.N. agencies in Ukraine will continue to assist the government in its efforts to overcome the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Ukrainian society over the next few years.
Other areas of enhanced interaction will occur in the development of democratic governance, sustainable economic growth, employment, green energy and modern technologies.
“These projects are being implemented within the framework of the partnership between the government of Ukraine and the U.N. for 2018-2022 with a budget of $667 million,” the Foreign Affairs Ministry said.