First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska took part in the practical conference "Implementation of the Gender Equality Strategy in Education by 2030: Moving Forward" held in Kyiv. The event was dedicated to assessing and enhancing the implementation of the Gender Equality Strategy in Education in Ukraine.
The conference was held with the participation of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, the Office of the Government Commissioner for Gender Policy, with the support of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Ukraine and the Embassy of Sweden. The event also brought together educators, including the leadership of regional and city departments/offices of education and science, representatives of NGOs, international and donor organizations.
The practical conference aimed primarily at reviewing and enhancing progress in implementing the Strategy through presentations of national promising gender-sensitive educational practices and relevant international experiences. Additionally, it involved direct dialogue with the government and educational influencers.
"We have to admit that in our society, there is still not a very good understanding of what gender is and why gender equality is important for everyone. People may perceive our event as something about women. But we always have to patiently correct that notion: no, it's not just about women. It's about us. It's about all of us. Every person. About your sons and daughters. About their future. Because it is about equality in general. Equality in opportunities and self-realization. Without coercion," Olena Zelenska emphasized.
"Given that gender-related issues are still widely debated in our society, as a ministry, we've decided to lead by example and show that gender equality isn't just about slogans; it's about necessary policies and significant practical steps. These steps make our education system more accessible and contemporary – actions that ensure equal opportunities and maximum development for all participants in the educational process, from students to teaching staff and educational institution leadership," stated Ukraine's Minister of Education, Oksen Lisovyi.
The conference presented the experience of educators from all over Ukraine in the fight for gender equality.
Commenting on the speeches, the First Lady noted that these are typical problems for Ukrainian educational institutions.
"All of us adults remember that during craft classes, girls were sewing and cooking, while boys were crafting. But there were always boys who wanted to learn to cook, and there were always girls who wanted to handle more than just kitchen utensils. Because it's interesting and useful in life. However, it was inaccessible for years. And this shows how school influences not only knowledge but also entire lives," said Olena Zelenska.
According to the First Lady, Ukrainian education is facing new questions about maintaining equality due to the Russian invasion.
"That's why our conversation is so important today. Because this is not even a legislative issue. It is a worldview issue," Olena Zelenska is convinced.
The First Lady expressed her gratitude to all educators who continue to teach children and the youth despite the enemy invasion.
"I am sincerely grateful to each of you, dear teachers and lecturers. You have already overcome so much, mastered so much, that ensuring equal treatment and providing equal opportunities to your students is something you can definitely handle. We have a chance to raise a generation of people who are confident in their abilities, conscious that they are capable of achieving anything, regardless of gender, diagnoses, or challenges they have faced in life," said Olena Zelenska.
"UNFPA supports the promotion of gender equality in education in cooperation with the government, international partners, and civil society. The implementation of the Strategy is a significant achievement for all of us. To overcome challenges and leverage opportunities, we need to focus on achieving gender equality, which is a cornerstone of human capital development in Ukraine. It is important to consider gender aspects that transform the education system, encompassing the collection of gender-sensitive data, the elimination of gender biases, and discrimination among the educational, parental, and student communities," explained Massimo Diana, UNFPA Representative in Ukraine.
The conference on the implementation of the Strategy, namely its current tasks and challenges in implementing gender policy in the modern educational field, was one of the steps to ensure equal rights and opportunities for women and men in education, prevent and counter any form of discrimination, implement inclusivity practices as the basis of fundamental rights and priorities in the context of European integration, as well as to overcome the consequences of hostilities and rebuild Ukraine.