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Women play key roles in Ukraine protests, civil society

Ukrainian women have played essential roles in the protests that drove President Viktor Yanukovych from office, says Indiana University Bloomington anthropology professor Sarah Phillips, the author of two books on contemporary Ukraine.

"Women have been especially active in work related to provision of medical services, food preparation and distribution, and information gathering and dissemination," she said. "Women have also ‘manned,’ so to speak, the barricades in Kiev, and women have organized themselves into self-defense units in Kiev and Ternopil."

Sociological surveys show that 47 percent of those active in the Maidan protest activities are women, Phillips said. Highlights include:
-- Member of parliament Lesya Orobets wore a bulletproof vest to parliament in late January to protest the fact that police were firing on protesters, drawing world attention to the escalating violence.
-- Physician Olga Bogomolets, now a likely candidate for minister of health, has coordinated and supervised much of the Maidan-related medical care, and members of feminist groups have staffed 24-hour hospital vigils over injured protestors.

-- Women are using social media for vibrant discussions of the roles women play in society and politics. One Facebook group is called “Half of the Maidan: Women’s Voice of Protest.”

"In Ukraine we have seen civil society, broadly defined as the self-organization of society, in vibrant action as citizens of different backgrounds and political commitments have worked together," Phillips said. "EuroMaidan stands for social and political change, and for many women who have played immensely important and active roles in the protests, it represents a chance to change the gender culture of Ukraine -- traditionally a patriarchal society with strong gender role stereotypes. Let’s hope that these women’s voices, in all their diversity, continue to shape reforms in post-Maidan Ukraine."

Phillips is the author of "Ukraine: Women’s Social Activism in the New Ukraine: Development and the Politics of Differentiation" and "Disability and Mobile Citizenship in Postsocialist Ukraine." She can be reached at sadphill@indiana.edu. For assistance, contact Steve Hinnefeld at 812-856-3488 or slhinnef@iu.edu.

3/14/14



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