From where I stand: “We must start by uniting the people because together we’re stronger”Natalia Slavinskaia, 42, is a community mobilizer from Komysh-Zorya, a small village in the conflict-affected Zaporizhzhia region, south-east Ukraine.
I am not a big city person. I love my village. I was born here and I want to stay here. But I see that there are not enough quality services, so people have to move to big cities. I want to help in changing this for the better.
I started to do community mobilization for empowerment because I want changes. We have a lot of problems in our decentralized community. There were two suicides in the village last year.
[We] need a lot of psychologists, family therapists, and to create some infrastructure for youth, like dance or reading clubs, etc. [We need to] ensure accessibility of public spaces for people with disabilities. Even if there are just two or three people – they should be visible. There are safety issues – such as no lighting in some places – the usual problems of small cities – and health issues. We need to teach women to do [regular] breast examinations. We need to support young mothers, fight gender-based violence, create safe places for children and help the elderly...
I am far from the authorities and access to information is really problematic. The authorities are doing a lot – but they do it from their own perspective. There is no dialogue with people, no knowledge of what people actually need. [At the same time,] people from vulnerable groups don’t know their rights. There is a need for information, support and legal aid.
We must start by uniting the people because together we’re stronger, with all our diversity and inclusivity. First, we need to see each other as human beings and be able to live in harmony. The rest is easier to fix.”
Together with 32 other local mobilizers, Natalia Slavinskaia participated in a UN Women-led training to support women and men in local communities in identifying their needs and engaging in dialogue with local authorities for these needs to be included in local development plans and budgets. She has since created three local self-help groups in her community to help women and men, including the most vulnerable, initiate changes to improve their lives. The initiative is part of a programme implemented by UN Women, the Ukrainian Women Fund as part of United Nations Peacebuilding Programme and funded by 10 international partners: the European Union, European Investment Bank and the governments of Canada, Denmark, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden and Switzerland.