Women will rebuild Ukraine


An interview with Iryna Vereshchuk, Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine, Minister for Reintegration of Occupied Territories and the First Lady of Ukrainian politics by Dr Bianka Siwińska, Chair of the Perspektywy Education Foundation   

 – What will be the role of Ukrainian women who are currently in Poland, but also in other European countries, in building the future, strong and safe Ukraine?

–  We are really counting on our wise, enterprising, and well-educated women, who know very well what the future of Ukraine should look like. New technologies and central position of the human-citizen, along with democratic values, will form the basis. We will build Ukraine in such a way that our children are safe and have plenty of opportunities for development. And in all of this, we are putting a lot of hopes in our women – their competencies, their patriotism, their wisdom. And we await them in the country.

– You built your career in a very male world, starting with military studies, technical studies, the rank of lieutenant-colonel, a spectacular political career – all by today. Do you think that a world in which women would have more to say would be better? Wiser? Would there be less wars?

–  There would definitely be less wars. In general, I believe that if women had more to say in former decades, in the 20th century, everywhere where key decisions are made, the world would be completely different. Many women work as teachers, doctors, librarians, or in non-governmental organisations, but – and I am not speaking just about Ukraine here – there is not enough of them in managerial positions, where the decisions are made that influence on people’s fates. In science, business, politics, or technologies.

– What would women change?

– My personal experience shows that where there are more women, where they make more decisions, the discipline is stronger, implementation better, there is more understanding and empathy. There is also more responsibility. I am certain that our time will come. The time when women will take power into their own hands. It is happening already. It is a trend that cannot be turned back, and it is a worldwide one. Around me I see my female colleagues who are not afraid to fly F-35s, command fleets, like in the USA, women performing jobs often called male… in IT, engineering, STEM, there are more and more women there too. Also, your example… I have you’re your story, I have met women from your vicinity, I have read your reports that show what is not all right yet, but also that everything is possible, you just need to want it and work hard. The world is changing, and it is us, women, who are changing it.

– How would you encourage the Ukrainian women to participate in our multiscale project, “Incubating Freedom – Adapting Women to Digital Economy,” within which we want to educate in technology 30 thousand Ukrainian women staying in Poland in 2 years?

– First of all, I do not think I need to encourage them. They will definitely want to participate. I can see they are very active, they speak out, they are not afraid to take responsibility and stand up to the situation. Ukrainian women really like to join in, to change reality, and they know very well what they want. Even if they are in a difficult situation now, when fate forced them to flee their homes and temporarily stay here in Poland, I know hundreds of examples of Ukrainian women who became full participants in local societies. They actively join the community life, they volunteer, they gather people around them, they become the hubs of human communication. I often hear praise for them, I hear good opinion about our women from the local and central authorities – about their activity and engagement… And I think they will join this project with passion, wanting to gain new knowledge, new skills, but also to change their job and place of work. Because it is important.

– Why is it so important?

A woman should feel independent, self-reliant, also financially. Respect for oneself often starts with financial independence, and I am sure that this project will enable gaining just such independence. Technology gives power. These are competencies that will build the future, post-war Ukraine. We really need them. Therefore, I really support the participation in the “Incubating Freedom” project, I advise anyone to grab the chance to change their fate, which, unfortunately, has been really hard for us recently.

– What would you like to say to the Ukrainian women currently staying in Poland?

– My dears, I know you would like to return home, that you are counting on our speedy victory. I know that you are waiting to return to your native Okhtyrka, native Lugansk, Donetsk, Kharkiv or Yalta. I know you want your children and families to feel family warmth, to have the comfort of living in their own homes in their own country. And although all the circumstance are favourable for it to happen very quickly, I was the government representative who asked you to not return to Ukraine in winter. And I did this on purpose, knowing that it would be very hard to ensure proper conditions for you, and most of all to ensure the safety and comfort for you and your children. I asked you to wait until Spring, and then return to rebuild our Ukraine. We are waiting for you impatiently.

– Meanwhile, we survive the winter together. Thank you very much. Slava Ukraini!