President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy and First Lady Olena Zelenska began a visit to the United States to attend the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City on September 17-21. The 78th session of the UN General Assembly officially opened on September 5.
On the first day of the visit, Olena Zelenska took part in a high-level event on the sidelines of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly, "International Equal Pay Day 2023: Standing up for Equal Pay - Celebrating Achievements and Understanding Challenges", where she spoke about the situation with pay for Ukrainian women.
“Since the beginning of Russian aggression, our women have lived through everything, felt all the risks and challenges, and have taken on responsibilities in all spheres. It's not just about the refugees who are evacuating children and elderly relatives to safe places. It's also about the doctors because most of them are women. Teachers who continue to teach are mostly women. We have a very powerful volunteer movement, and most of its activists are women as well. There are more and more women in military service, around 60,000, although it is voluntary for them. At the same time, women have become more vulnerable, losing their jobs and businesses. Women used to run most of our small businesses – and they were the first to suffer. Very often, their shops, salons, and firms were burned down along with the cities they were located in,” the President’s wife pointed out.
She emphasized that these challenges are compounded by a pay gap - women are paid less than men on the same positions. This trend, which is typical for the whole world, is a problem in Ukraine as well.
“To combat this, Ukraine joined the European Biarritz Partnership for Gender Equality. Just a couple of figures. If in 2015, the gender pay gap was 26%, in 2021, we reduced it to 18%,” the First Lady noted.
She emphasized that the fight for equal pay continues even during the war.
The President's wife discussed the importance of raising this issue with Prime Minister of Iceland Katrín Jakobsdóttir and heard commitments to bridge the gender pay gap by 2030 from UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous, ILO Director-General Gilbert Houngbo and OECD Deputy Secretary General Ulrik Vestergaard Knudsen during the panel discussion.
“The state made a fundamental decision – to develop and improve even during the war. Despite the war. Last Friday, the Ukrainian Government approved the National Strategy for Overcoming the Gender Pay Gap in Ukraine until 2030. Does it look ambitious for a country at war? Yes, it does. We want to turn our trauma into growth. We continue to work towards equality during the war. But an important additional component is victory. So that our women can return from emigration, so that they can work, and earn decent wages in their homeland, so that new businesses can open – we desperately need victory,” Olena Zelenska emphasized.
It is not only a legal, but also a moral obligation of the state to give Ukrainian women justice and confidence, she emphasized.
According to the First Lady, the Ukrainian delegation has many important meetings planned. In particular, Olena Zelenska will meet with the WHO leadership, take part in the event "Fighting for the Future: Ukrainian Children in War," and in the UNESCO event "Building Peace and Resilience through Culture: The Intersection of Culture, Crisis and Sustainable Development," dedicated to the preservation of Ukrainian cultural monuments.