The Veteran: “In the Defender’s Day it is important to remember about those who keep defending us all”

The 14th of October is the Ukrainian Defender’s Day. The security and defense sectors are traditionally considered as a men’s deal, the place for men’s strength, knowledge, and energy. But life changes quickly and the number of women in the armed forces and police in different countries keeps increasing. Women also have a more significant impact on piece-making processes.

There are 27 thousand of women soldiers in the Ukrainian armed forces. The statistics state that 9916 women soldiers have the status of a participant in hostilities. There are 949 women among senior officers of the Ukrainian army. Women perform military service and work in all forces of the Ukrainian army, but most of them are at units and formations of the Ground Forces and the Air Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

The Ministry of Defense of Ukraine published 2 decrees in 2016 that expanded the list of professions and positions for women in the Armed Forces of Ukraine by more than 160 items. In the system of Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine in March 2019, there were 24,5% (more than 70 thousand) women, almost 8 thousand of them work in State Emergency Service, 4 thousand in National Guard, and 11 thousand in the State Border Guard Service.

«The Ukrainian Defender’s Day should be the day of great honor and our endless gratitude to women and men who stand for us and our independence everyday side by side. Let’s not make this day the other one marketing celebration for masculinity when people congratulate everyone – regardless if they have any experience in security and defense. After all, heroism, courage, and resilience are traits that have no gender», – says Maria Ionova, the People’s Deputy of Ukraine, and Co-founder of the Ukrainian Women’s Congress.

She informed that the inter-fractional parliamentary association “Equal opportunities” appealed to the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine with the request to consider the bill №2325, aimed to change the name of the day into the Day of Men and Women Defenders of Ukraine.

«It is important to honor the role of everyone no matter of gender in the protection of territorial integrity of our country – it brings us closer to piece and stating the values of equality and respect in the society», – adds Maria Ionova.

Kateryna Prymak, a veteran and Ukrainian defender, who was a member of the medical evacuation brigade at the front at war in 2014-2015, knows a lot about the protection of territorial integrity and the war.

She is the deputy chairman of the Women’s Veteran Movement and the coordinator of several more projects – from mini-films about female defenders who were killed in the Russian-Ukrainian war to educational online courses for female veterans.

«We consider this to important that women had enough tools to return to life without war. That’s why we organize different educational courses, psychological aid, training about personal balance, and – what is the most important – female veterans’ meetings, where one can find someone who truly understands them – women who went through war or are still soldiers. One of our main tools is the Women’s Veteran Movement itself, where girls can perform their social activities and implement their personal ideas and projects to help the others», – tells Kateryna Prymak.

According to her, a particularly important part of her work is the advocacy of the rights of women soldiers and veterans. Kateryna Prymak says that the army is not ready enough to provide combatants their rights and even some basic needs.

«The situation is a bit more complicated for women because they are still not provided with enough uniform and underwear. Currently, we are working on advocacy of quality of medical care and service for women and men considering their gender needs. The most complicated part of the communication with state institutions which are totally not ready for changes», – she adds.

Kateryna Prymak tells that the Women’s Veterans Movement has lots of activities including patriotic upbringing, changes in medical care for the defense sector which influence the health of every female veteran and requiring changes in the recruiting system.

«In the Defender’s Day, it is important to remember about those who keep defending us all and those who were killed in the war. We’re a cool nation which never gives up – enemies have been trying to get rid of us for centuries but we’re still alive and we get stronger after every battle. And please remember that presenting socks to boys at schools on this day is a moveton», – says Kateryna Prymak.

In the memory of all women who were killed in the Russian-Ukrainian war the Women’s Veteran Movement with the Support of The Ukrainian Institute of National Memory has created a set of videos. In these videos, the members of the Women’s Veterans Movement tell about their killed sisters in arms, about their common life, education, military service, and war experience. They do not just recollect some facts but try to explain the reasons for their choice to protect the Ukrainian people even at the cost of their own life from the point of view of women who went through the war.

Yaroslava Nykonenko

Natalia Khoruzha

Sabina Halytska

Yana Chervona

Iryna Shevchenko

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