Executive Summary of the Report on Implementation of the Gender Equality and Non-Discrimination Policy of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union in 2020

Starting from 2016, the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union (UHHRU) keeps on implementing the Gender Equality and Non-Discrimination Policy in order to apply the principle of gender mainstreaming[1]throughout its operating activities and at one’s workplace (e.g. hiring process, working relations, wages, composition of decision-making bodies, etc.), as well as in the course of implementing specific programs and projects. For this, UHHRU’s Gender Advisor prepares annual Action Plan on the Policy’s enforcement, monitors its implementation, which results in release of the annual subject-matter report.

The 2020 Action Plan was aimed at implementing the awareness-raising activities on gender and non-discrimination, developing cooperation with non-government actors dealing with gender issues, counteracting the gender-based discrimination, in particular, in the political sphere etc.

In addition, in May 2020, an anonymous online survey was conducted among UHHRU employees regarding their thoughts on gender issues in general and UHHRU’s Gender Equality and Non-Discrimination Policy in particular. Similar surveys had been conducted before: in 2015, 2016 and 2018. Some of the questions present in the fourth questionnaire (for 2020) are repeated, to detect any shifts that might have developed over 2 years. As the fourth survey shows, the majority of UHHRU employees are familiar with the Gender Equality and Non-Discrimination Policy adopted more than 5 years ago and consider it an essential part of UHHRU’s activities. Almost two thirds of the employees deal with issues related to gender equality in their work. This involves first and foremost working with organizations that specialize in such issues, working on related projects, as well as advising the public regarding equal rights and opportunities. Furthermore, the level of UHHRU employees’ involvement in gender issues has remained almost constant. In 2020, the vast majority of respondents – 27 out of 33 – did not experience any discrimination. However, sometimes there was bias based on age, political views, region of origin, gender or health. In light of the pandemic and quarantine, it would be appropriate to pay more attention to the issue of balancing work and private life, which is very relevant and stressful for a number of employees. Perhaps, some quarantine-related rules and the option, or lack thereof, to work from home should be approached on an individual basis. Some noteworthy ideas on gender issues proposed by respondents concerned relevant strategic litigation.

In 2020, work continued on the annual anti-award for sexist remarks Tse Yaytse (It’s an Egg!), as well as on the specialized project “Women human rights defenders who change Ukraine”, being a series of interviews with female human rights activists from all over the country working in different spheres of human rights protection and representing various organizations (including UHHRU). By the end of 2020, totally 81 interviews with female human rights activists were published.

From November 25 to December 10, 2020 lasted the annual international campaign “16 Days Against Violence“ aimed at drawing attention to the importance of ensuring gender equality in the world and combating gender-based violence. The special project “Women human rights defenders who change Ukraine” interviewed lawyer Halyna Fedkovych, who shared her experience with providing assistance to victimized women.

UHHRU public reception offices operating in various regions of Ukraine received 13,008 applications over the year, with 6,399 (49%) of those coming from women. 77 applications were from victims of domestic violence. In addition to defending women’s rights, PROs protect the rights of the LGBT community (as part of the project “Creating a legal network to protect the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS, representatives of key communities of PLHIV and people with tuberculosis”). The violations that these groups face are often related to gender identity.

In 2020, UHHRU continued strengthening ties with organizations specializing in protecting women’s rights and combating sexism. Thus, on April 8, 2020, UHHRU joined the appeal of the Civic Alliance “Women’s Political Action” to the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, demanding to step up police response to domestic violence incidents during COVID-19 quarantine. Another important task involved the preparation and dissemination of a letter in support of Government Commissioner for Gender Policy Kateryna Levchenko.

Much of our gender expert’s attention was focused on the activities of the Association of Women Lawyers of Ukraine “JurFem”. On July 10, 2020, she took part in an online presentation held to disseminate among UHHRU employees the manual “Ask JurFem Lawyer: answers to difficult questions amidst the pandemic”, which was created by the Association based on the results of their online marathon #AskJurFemLawyer.

Work with the media also continued, meant to draw attention to issues of gender inequality and sexism. Thus, on May 10, 2020, Tamara Martsenyuk spoke on Ukrainian Radio about the Education Ministry’s sexist social advertising related to quarantine. Her comments on the matter were also published on the anti-sexism website Povaha (Respect). In addition, a number of other journalists were provided with expert commentaries and assistance in finding experts.

It is worthwhile to continue supporting such cooperation with women human rights defenders and journalists, as joint research and media projects provide excellent opportunities for implementing not just the state, but our own gender policies as well.

At the same time, similarly to the previous years, at the end of 2020, the issue of ratification of the Istanbul Convention[2] and increasing the visibility of anti-gender initiatives remains topical in Ukraine. For this reason, these issues should be taken into account in human rights activities in 2021.

Full report in Ukrainian is available here.


[1]  Gender mainstreaming means integrating a gender equality perspective at all stages and levels of policies, programs and projects.

[2] The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (2011),

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