Meeting of the First Step to Success Program participants in 2014

Ukrainian Women’s Fund brings young female leaders together!
Traditional annual meeting of the Program contest winners -2014 and five days’ school for developing organizational capacity for the network participants – winners of the years 2006-2013.

On May 29 Kyiv hosted the opening ceremony of the ninth meeting for the First Step to Success Program winners. Simultaneously the five days’ school was organized for the Program winners in the years 2006-2013. Combination of these two events became a unique opportunity for exchange of experience between this year winners and experienced activists, which created an extraordinary atmosphere and mood.

As usual, the girls had an intensive three days program: meetings with successful women, round tables in Verkhovna Rada committees, master-classes and trainings, interesting walks and excursions. In fact, each day is scheduled minute-by-minute.

For 2014 winners the first day started with the training on gender sensitivity in civic space, which was conducted by Natalia Orlovska, practical psychologist and expert on gender issues. Constructive conversations, practical exercises and explanations by professional gave opportunity for participants not only to understand the notion of gender, but to feel its influence on personal examples. Re-understanding the causes of gender discrimination gave opportunity to see all negative consequences of misunderstanding and rejecting the concept of gender equality by the society.
«Till now I haven’t even thought of the fact how many things are combined in the notion of gender, and how it is important for contemporary society. The training has changed my mind. Now I know that stereotypes concerning women‘s social roles are only historical labels that suppressed the right to self-assertion. And first of all we have to dismantle these stereotypes in ourselves to achieve the set goals.» – Kateryna Filyuta, participant from Volyn region, shares.

At the same time in the next room participants of the five days’ school, who became the Program winners in previous years and by now have already created own

organizations or plan to do it in the nearest future, plunged into a chain of 15 master classes and trainings. This day they had a chance to learn about possibilities of collaboration wi

th Microsoft Ukraine and got advice of Olga Vesnianka – a journalist, human right activist and free lance trainer

Later all participants of this year Program had opportunity to communicate with Verkhovna Rada People’s Deputies Olga Belkova and Lilia Hrynevych. The meeting took place in the Committee on the Rule of Law and Justice, where activists could feel the atmosphere of political life. In general conversation was rather fruitful, Deputies willingly told their success stories, gave practical advice and convinced girls that women have enormous potential to influence society processes. As Olga Belkova said: «While men speak about big things, women do small ones and thus change the world»
The first day was completed by friendly dinner, where participants could get acquainted better, discuss ideas, share own impressions.

May 30, 2014
The second day supposed less fruitful agenda. Simultaneously in two premises young participants had the following master-classes:
–    Civil society initiatives and collaboration with mass media;
–    Civil society initiatives and social networks;
–    Education in the sphere of human rights and youth’s participation in developing youth policy;
–    Interactive presentation “Ecology. The facts of human influence”;
–    Using international experience while working on projects.

This day each of “newcomers” had a special task – to present own project. Besides, all participants had meetings with Olesya Bondar – Director of Ukrainian Women’s Fund, Marta Kolomayets and Tetyana Lyakhovetska, as founders of the First Step to Success Program. Iryna Danylevska, the founder of the Ukrainian Fashion Week became the special guest of the event.
«From my own experience I can tell that communication with such famous and successful women raises self-esteem, inspires, becomes an incentive for more active behavior notwithstanding of all barriers. Each of us girls got a certain lesson, found supporters, colleagues, the team, which will help to change things for the better».
Prepared by Ruslana Boandarenko (the First Step to Success Program winner 2014)

Besides, this day the girls presented their projects, which brought them to the meeting of the First Step to Success Program winners. Traditionally the projects considered diverse social problems. Each of the girls is inspired and full of spirit and readiness to act. And the shot of enthusiasm, which, undoubtedly, each of them found in this project, will give them more strength and desire to change the world for better starting from own small local community. This their victory is not the first, but far from the last step to great achievements.
Prepared by Viktoria Biryukova (winner of the First Step to Success Program – 2007)

This year fifteen participants from different regions of Ukraine had opportunity to present their projects. Their ideas, on experts’ opinion, were the most creative and socially important. At that the spheres of their implementation were extremely diverse: business and politics, help to orphans and educational programs for school children, youth media and popularizing ecological culture, social assistance for pensioners and many other interesting things.

May 31, 2014

For the contest winners of the year 2014 it was the last day of this meeting, but at the same time it can be one of many days of common movement for the girls who stay active and will continue their collaboration with Ukrainian Women’s Fund and the First Step to Success girls’ network.

Young leaders who joined the program for the first time had opportunity to study at the training on the basics of planning and writing project proposals. Thanks to Larysa Makdyuk the training contained not only lecture, but practical tips and best practices, which the girls worked out in small groups thus acquiring new experience.
In the end of this day the girl were invited to visit Pinchuk Art Center, where they could get acquainted with works of contemporary art. But before that, after the training completion Olesya Bondar, Director of Ukrainian Women’s Fund, presented the mini-grants program for this year winners, told about possibilities to collaborate with the UWF and how the relationships between the network and the First Step to Success program will look like. The Program emphasizes: we are open to collaboration, to proposals from girls about new projects and initiatives, we are ready to provide consultative, methodological and financial support for young active leaders, who are ready to join young women’s movement of Ukraine.

The three days’ meeting elapsed as a one day filled with new acquaintances, new impressions and new hopes. The team of Ukrainian Women’s Fund sincerely wishes new victories in leadership space and civil society activism to each of the contest winners.

«I hope for further fruitful collaboration. Thank you for the First Step to Success and for everything you do for women of Ukraine» Stefania Vakulenko (Kyiv)

The third and the forth days of the five days’ school of raising organizational capacity for participants of the First Step to Success Program of the years 2006 – 2013 from morning to evening were filled with trainings, seminars and master classes. During two days the girls exchanged experiences, ideas, even stood for own positions in discussions.
On May 31 the talk was about “Gender. Gender roles. Gender aspects of work in civic space”. To conduct this part of education Natalia Tarasenko and Olga Sozonik (2008 Program winners) joined the meeting. Olga showed the participants the problem of “gender roles” in non-standard art-therapy manner, and Natalia reminded the basics of gender theory in action in civic space. A certain gain was the “engagement map”, which the participants compiled in compliance with their readiness to engage in common initiatives to improve situation of gender equality in place”.

Unexpected event for the participants was discussion meeting “Displays of feminism in contemporary society” with Natalia Monakhova, lecturer at the Chair of cultural studies of Drahomanov National Pedagogical University. Some of the girls agreed with the expert, some of them could not accept her rather categorical position, nevertheless, the discussion succeeded and continued at coffee break. There were different ideas, but the essence was the same: “We are all women, representatives of civil society. We protect women’s rights and advocate values of gender equality choosing the most appropriate for us form of activities”.

June 1, 2014

This day more attention was paid to the issues of organizational development, strengthening capacity of civil society organizations, which the participants represented or were planning to create. Thanks to flexible approach of the trainer Tetyana Lytvynova for rather short period of time the girls were able to discuss majority of issues they were interested in, and namely: what are the strategies of organizational development; how to keep to leadership position; efficient team-building, work with team, involving “the right” people, etc. Master class on ITC for strengthening efficiency of civil society enriched the girls’ knowledge and experience in possibilities of IT-technologies.

Besides above mentioned topics during all four days participants themselves conducted master classes; the girls presented own finding, exchanged advice and suggested certain tools and opportunities for further development. The list of suggested topics and materials will be given in a separate entry. And here we would like to thank all girls who were willing to share own experience and findings with the First Step to Success network.

June 2, 2014
Meeting with representatives of UN agencies in Ukraine

On Monday representatives of UN agencies in Ukraine together with the participants of the First Step to Success All-Ukrainian Youth Program conducted a round table during which they discussed the importance of supporting women’s initiatives, assisting women’s participation in political life of the country and necessity to response to acute challenges of today.

Ms. Nuzhat Ehsan, representative of UN Population Fund in Ukraine noted that «to solve important gender gigues in the country it is very important to hear women’s voices in Ukraine and to provide for equal involvement and integration of women and men in Ukrainian society at all levels».

Natalia Karbowska, Board Chair of Ukrainian Women’s Fund, in her welcoming speech told that for the UWF it has become important to support not just women’s movement, but young women’s movement, stressed the necessity to involve young non-indifferent and initiative women to development of gender balanced society.

Youth Program participants, who represented different places of Ukraine (Lviv, Zhytomyr, Mariupol, Poltava, Kakhovka, Kyiv, Odesa and others) told about their projects and their vision of what they can do, how they can influence on solving problems on the level of local and interregional initiatives.

Oleg Voronennko, Program Officer of UN Population Fund explained the importance of globally agreed initiatives, such as Millennium Development Goals or CEDAW Convention. Besides, he emphasized: «UN is engaged in solving global problems, assists in negotiations, etc. But what really changes the world is action. I want to thank you for the fire in your eyes, for desire to act and to change life. May God give you strength in that!»

Through encouraging gender equality as a driving force of economic compatibility and social provision, UN system in Ukraine works to support civil society, private sector and governmental institutions in Ukraine to ensure political, social and economic integration of women.

“Women in Ukraine have a great potential for development of their leadership and ensuring wider representation in central and local governmental bodies, – Ms. Alessandra Tisot, United Nations Resident Coordinator said in her speech. – I often visit UN websites and see very strong women-leaders there, but on the level of Ukrainian parliament or government the percentage of women is very low”

Addressing to young women-leaders and answering their questions Alessandra gave some advice:
–    It’s necessary to break the wall! Go outside!
–    See opportunities in any problem!
–    Always look for connection with a wider context. Men will try to make you “come back to Earth”, but you should passionately work where you like. But always compare issues with the big picture.
–    Use links and have proofs, refer to researches and operate facts.

Ukrainian Women’s Fund expresses its gratitude to all companies and organizations that supported the First Step to Success Program in 2014 and contributed to development of civil society activism ion the new wave of girls and women of Ukraine.

Mama Cash
Coca-Cola Ukraine
UN agencies in Ukraine
Fulbright Program in Ukraine
NGO “League of Interns”
Microsoft Ukraine