This month, as part of the Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening (CEPPS)’s International Women’s Day celebration, we will be highlighting our global commitment to women’s empowerment and inclusion in political processes by recognizing the essential work of CEPPS partners dedicated to advancing women’s political participation. In this partner spotlight series, we are highlighting some of our local civil society partners around the world who are at the forefront of fighting for gender equality and inclusion.
This spotlight focuses on the work Group of Influence is doing to support Internally Displaced Persons in Ukraine.
I am Tetyana Durneva, Executive Director of the Ukrainian NGO “Group of Influence” (GOI). Our organization primarily engages in human rights advocacy and protection, with a special emphasis on internally displaced persons (IDPs) and internal labor migrants.
For six years since the start of Russia’s military aggression in Donbass and the annexation of Crimea, IDPs (both women and men) have been unable to vote in local elections, leaving them unable to have elected representatives within their new host communities or influence decision making at the grassroots level. Political participation at the local level for this category of Ukrainian citizens was limited at the legislative level until mid-2020. According to a 2019 survey, lack of time was cited as the major obstacle by most of the focus group respondents. However, women and men defined this differently, with women much more likely to cite family and domestic responsibilities as opposed to men, who cited economic and financial responsibilities. Women who had been internally displaced particularly stressed this as a barrier to their participation, citing numerous bureaucratic and administrative processes that they must overcome to settle their families in addition to domestic care work.
During the 2020 local elections in Ukraine, IDPs and internal labor migrants, like myself, were for the first time able to elect their local communities’ representatives. Group of Influence played a lead role in enfranchising IDPs and internal labor migrants by developing a shared understanding of the challenges faced by this category of Ukrainian citizens and placing their political rights and interests at the top of the legal reform agenda. We widely consulted IDP communities throughout Ukraine on the corresponding draft legislation through surveys and conducted focus group meetings in ten cities. GoI also led the highly impactful country-wide advocacy campaign “Every Voice/Vote Matters!” to encourage broad support for legislative reform among policymakers, which was successful in mid-2020. Now Ukrainian women who are internally displaced or who are internal labor migrants are able to influence decision-making at their local community level. We at the GoI, together with our implementing partners, are very proud of this significant achievement!
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and enforced restrictions, the problem of effectively maintaining a work-life balance became even more acute. Many IDPs (including women) either became unemployed or forced to work from home. For the latter, it is an additional burden to arrange their time and personal space in the right manner, since now in addition to the regular household duties, they must now also organize their children’s home education/tutoring. This long-term stress results in physical and emotional fatigue, which can negatively affect the level of civic as well as political participation of Ukrainian women in general, and those representing the IDP or internal labor migrant communities in particular. Our organization works towards eliminating the potential exclusion of these women from decision-making processes by organizing and holding events, like “advocacy for beginners” trainings, online.
Gender equality for me personally, as well as for my colleagues in the GoI, is first and foremost about human rights! It is also about civil liberties, human dignity, and respect for the diversity that each and every one of us brings in.