June 2016—Oksana Yurynets was one of only two women elected to Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, in by-district races in 2014. By gaining the skills to become a political leader, she challenged gender stereotypes and broke new ground, and Ukrainians elected a new Parliament that looked markedly different from previous legislatures.
In the wake of the Euromaidan Revolution, or Revolution of Dignity, in October 2014, Ukrainians elected respected journalists and reform leaders in addition to the ever-present political cronies and self-serving businessmen. Women’s representation increased to 11 percent (47 members) of Parliament, up from 8.6 percent before the election, due in part to the more prominent role that women played within the civic society groups that led to the revolution.
Yurynets, who hails from Lviv, won a seat in a by-district, single-mandate race, by which 50 percent of Parliament is elected. Other members are elected through a proportional, or party list, method.
With USAID support, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) works to give Ukrainian women leadership skills in the political arena through the Strengthening Political Processes in Ukraine project.
In 2012 and 2013, Yurynets participated in USAID-funded trainings and consultations on advancing women’s political participation. She credits USAID’s implementing partner, NDI, with allowing her to realize her abilities as well as the roles women have played historically in Ukraine.
“NDI training events provide an opportunity to better understand my capabilities,” says Yurynets. “They reinforce long-held Ukrainian traditions of women leadership: Since the times of the ancient Trypillian culture and Kyivan Rus, Ukrainian women have not only been mothers and wives, but also politicians, executives and diplomats.”
Yurynets first entered regional politics in 2010 when she was elected to the Lviv Oblast Council. Then, in October 2014, she won a seat in Parliament. A USAID focus group characterized her as “a prominent candidate who contributed significantly to raising the visibility of women candidates.”
Yurynets believes that her parliamentary campaign was successful because of her civic activism representing the interests of thousands of citizens in Lviv oblast during the Euromaidan protests in late 2013 and early 2014. Together with hundreds of activists, Yurynets led the charge to challenge the relegation of Ukrainian women to a supporting role.
Today, Member of Parliament Yurynets continues working to promote women’s participation within the Petro Poroshenko Bloc. She also continues to engage voters in her district and works to pass reform-oriented legislation to bring about the change that she and her fellow citizens stood for in the frosty streets of Lviv during the wintry days of the Revolution of Dignity.
USAID’s Strengthening Political Processes in Ukraine program works to make political processes and actors more representative, transparent and accountable to citizens. The program, which runs from 2009 to 2016, is implemented by the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the International Republican Institute and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems.
Last updated: September 20, 2016