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Uprising Opens Doors for Ukrainian Women

  • Al Pessin

Ukraine's protest movement, that led to the ouster of the government last week, involved many women in both traditional and non-traditional roles, and some of them hope it marked the start of a revolution in women's status.

Independence Square has been crowded with protesters and their supporters for months. The men who guard the barricades against police assault are hailed as heroes, and those who were killed are honored as martyrs.

Women joined the effort, mostly in support roles - preparing food, passing bricks, and delivering sandwiches and tea to the men on the barricades.

"The guys are just sitting there and pretending they are very important, very cool. And the women are really working," said Nina, a security volunteer, who hides her face to stay safe. She broke out of the old stereotypes to stand guard with the young men.

"I know how to cook. I know how to clean. And also I know how to talk. And I know how to think, how to organize and how to fight," she said.

Nina is one of a growing number of women who are using the opportunity of this uprising to make a revolution in their own lives.

Not far from Nina's location, Aleksandra Nazarova is taking a shift guarding a government office to be sure no documents that might contain evidence of corruption are removed.

"The only option for me is to inspire other women to be as active as they want to be in every place they want to be active," she explained.

Many of the women in non-traditional roles are part of the Women's Brigade, formed last month to assert their right to work alongside the men.

"With the former government, we always fought for women's equality and equal representation. If we don't succeed now to have a totally different reality, then for a lot of women this whole fight was senseless," said Nina Potarska, one of the organizers of the Women's Brigade.

Women of all generations have been supporting the protests in whatever ways they can. And at the Women's Consortium of Ukraine, Chairwoman Maria Alekseyenko says that's what is important.

"Most important now was for women to realize that they can make their own decision on how to participate. And it was important also for women to understand they should participate in all activities that concern their life," she said.

On Independence Square, the now three-month-long political rally continues, watched over by a huge portrait of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. But she is the exception. Most Ukrainian women have more traditional roles - something that may change more rapidly now for the country's new generation.
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