Transforming women’s leadership in times of war: new challenges and perspectives

22.09 2023

The role of women’s leadership, the public authorities’ contribution to the victory and the crucial place of women in this process – these topics were the basis for the seminar “Transforming Women’s Leadership in Times of War: New Challenges and Prospects” on 22 September 2023 as part of the three-day Richelieu Forum.

More than 200 representatives from 60 central and regional authorities and local governments, academics, representatives of international projects and organisations, Ukrainian and international experts joined the seminar, which aimed to present successful examples of women’s activities in various fields and become a platform for finding ways to unite leaders to develop Ukraine’s resilience and recovery.

The main areas for discussion were identified:

  • Responsible women’s leadership. Stories of resilience and victories.
  • Mentoring as a tool for the formation of women’s leadership in public administration.
  • Successful educational cases of professional training of public servants to ensure equal rights and opportunities for women and men.

The speakers were Ulyana Tokareva, Deputy Minister of Social Policy of Ukraine, Kateryna Levchenko, Government Commissioner for Gender Policy, Kathryn Coppens, Executive Director of the Dr Denis Mukwege Foundation, and Natalia Shamrai, Head of the All-Ukrainian Association of Centres for Administrative Services.

“With the outbreak of a full-scale war in Ukraine, women faced a huge number of new challenges, but they survived and became a strong rear guard. Women’s leadership has become one of the most powerful tools of survival for the whole country. Our event aims to bring together leaders from different fields to develop resilience and sustainable recovery of Ukraine,” said Yuliia Lykhach, Director of the High School of Public Governance.

With the outbreak of full-scale war, local self-government representatives have taken on a partial military function. This is not only a completely new role, but also an additional responsibility, the ability to work in stressful and often difficult circumstances, as well as the demonstration of leadership and courage on the ground.
The participants learned about the activities of women leaders whom they would like to emulate, especially during the war, during a thematic panel. Alla Kadyrova, head of Rudnia village of Velykodymyr community (Kyiv region), Yana Litvinova, head of Starobilsk city community (Luhansk region), Liudmyla Kostiuk, head of Kochubeiv community (Kherson region), Svitlana Garnadko, head of Petrivskyi starosta district (Dnipro region), Tetiana Kozyrska, chief of staff of Kherson regional state administration, Natalia Dziilo, head of financial support department of Kherson regional state administration shared their stories of resilience and victories.

Despite the military aggression, shelling, and sometimes even threats to their own lives, women leaders in the communities remain on the ground: they accept wartime challenges, organise volunteer movements, manage the reconstruction of the destroyed, help the victims, and stay in touch with the community 24/7.

During the forum, Victoria Pokatis, deputy editor-in-chief of the business publication and author of the book Unbreakable, presented the publication – 30 stories of Ukrainian women who, since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion, have actively shown themselves and stood up for their communities.
Galyna Meshcheryakova, UN Women Programme Officer, Latica Tomasic Kikert, strategist, trainer and teacher of adaptive leadership, Olena Yena, Head of the Women Leaders Programme at the National Democratic Institute, and Khrystyna Kit, Head of the Association of Women Lawyers “Jurfem”, discussed mentoring as a tool for developing women’s leadership in public administration.

Educational cases on professional training of public servants in ensuring equal rights and opportunities for women and men were presented by Yulia Lykhach, Director of the Higher School of Public Administration, Natalia Shcherbak, Head of the National Training Centre for Prevention and Combating Gender-Based Violence, Natalia Chermoshentseva, EU4GenderEquality project expert: Reform Support Service project, Fedir Dunebabin, representative of the Dr Denis Mukwege Foundation, Olha Kostenko, Project Manager of the HELP (Human Rights Education for Lawyers) for Ukraine, including in Time of War project.

The seminar participants had the opportunity to view the photo exhibition “Border Guards: Family and War” – 20 stories of fear, sadness, despair, separation, struggle, boundless love, loyalty and hope, as well as the exhibition-document “VIKNA” of the National Centre “Ukrainian House” and the photo exhibition “Flash. Ukrainian Photography Today”, which featured photographs by leading Ukrainian photographers taken during the war.

The event was organised by the National Agency of Ukraine on Civil Service in cooperation with the High School of Public Administration, the Centre for Adaptation of the Civil Service to the Standards of the European Union, with the support of UN Women in Ukraine, the EU for Gender Equality: Reform Assistance Service”, the United Nations Population Fund, and the National Democratic Institute.

The video broadcast is available here:

Link to gallery: