Women at the Forefront of Community Activism in Eastern Ukraine

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Thursday, July 29, 2021
Maryna Kryva (middle) and women activists renovate a room at the House of Culture in Myrne, where they get together to discuss, learn, and socialize.
Photo credit: NGO Myrnyi Svitanok

Located less than 20 kilometers from Russia-led separatist forces, life in the town of Myrne in eastern Ukraine continues despite the ongoing conflict, and local residents remain optimistic about the future of their community.

Maryna Kryva is one of these forward-looking residents. She is an activist, leader, trainer, mother, and founder of the local women-focused NGO, Myrnyi Svitanok

Despite the ongoing threat, Maryna has dedicated herself to improving her community by promoting women’s engagement and activism. She founded Myrnyi Svitanok in 2017 to gather like-minded residents to improve life in their community.

Myrnyi Svitanok has since undertaken 16 local initiatives. Maryna’s group improved the community’s infrastructure by installing street lighting and renovating the House of Culture. They also organized community social gatherings, handcrafting activities, lectures, and discussions, and provided mutual psychosocial support to community members. 

Maryna, who says that she has never overlooked a learning opportunity, recently joined a training program offered by the Mariupol-based NGO, Berehynia, thanks to USAID support.

USAID’s DG East activity supports civic organizations like Berehynia to strengthen other citizen groups and their community-building efforts in eastern Ukraine. DG East focuses on women’s initiatives because women traditionally represent a driving force for local development, especially in rural areas. In several frontline communities, women’s groups like Maryna’s use USAID’s support to implement ideas that contribute to their economic and social development.

Berehynia received a USAID grant to train women civic activists, including those representing smaller regional NGOs like Myrnyi Svitanok. The training program showed Maryna how to hone her leadership skills, communicate effectively with authorities, and engage with other community members, utilizing the best tools and resources available.

Today, Maryna is teaching other women what she learned. Her circle of women activists, aged 35-70, has grown from 15 people last year to 22 today. The team has put together an annual plan, including community-led activities that range from discussions around healthy eating and mastering computer and social media skills - to advancing women’s rights and overcoming domestic violence. Maryna and her colleagues dream big: one day they would like to have a culinary studio and a yoga class. 

“We will not stop our activism, and we will continue to learn. I choose to remain optimistic about our future here and believe that our joint efforts will yield good results,” Maryna explains.

Last updated: September 23, 2021

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