War, inevitably, is devastating for the most vulnerable in any society: women, children, the elderly, and disabled. Moscow’s war of choice in Ukraine is no exception. With each passing day, the dreadful devastation and deteriorating humanitarian situation in Ukraine remains painfully obvious.
While many aid agencies currently work in Ukraine, the need for aid, nonetheless, remains immense. Therefore, the outreach from the office of Acting Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for Global Public Affairs Elizabeth Kennedy Trudeau to the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America (UNWLA) for a roundtable discussion on global help for and the current needs of Ukraine’s women was welcomed by UNWLA.
Held on Wednesday, September 21, 2022, at the Ukrainian Institute of America (UIA) on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, the roundtable was hosted by UNWLA President Natalie Pawlenko in cooperation with Marianna Zajac, World Federation of Ukrainian Women’s Organizations (WFUWO) First Vice President, and Ukrainian World Congress (UWC) Board Member.
Department of State participants included Elizabeth Trudeau, and staff members Erin Cozens, Lead Special Assistant, and Nick DiNardo, Chief of Staff.
Key discussants at the roundtable were three guests from Ukraine, all attending events in New York City in conjunction with the opening of the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. Discussants included: Kateryna Levchenko, J.D., Government of Ukraine Commissioner for Gender Equality Policy; Oksana Kis, PhD, a U.S. Department of State Fulbright Scholar from Ukraine who currently teaches at The New School, a university in Manhattan, and Maria Dmytriyeva, gender expert, women’s and human rights activist affiliated with the Democracy Development Center in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.
Also participating in the roundtable were event co-organizers that included several members of UNWLA who serve as WFUWO representatives to the United Nations, as well. These included WFUWO Main Representative to UN/ECOSOC Martha Kichorowska Kebalo, PhD, who prepared roundtable materials; WFUWO Main Representative to UN Department of Global Communications Irene Jarosewich, who served as discussion moderator, and WFUWO Representative to UN/ECOSOC Sofika Zielyk, who serves as Chair, WFUWO Committee on Ukrainian Culture.
Attending, as observers, were UIA President Kathy Nalywajko, UIA Executive Director Lydia Zaininger, and Lidia Mykytyn, UWC Director of Advocacy Programs.
Natalie Pawlenko opened the afternoon roundtable, which was held in the first floor conference room of the historic 19th century Fletcher-Sinclair mansion, home to the UIA since 1955. Irene Jarosewich began the discussion with an explanation of the need to talk not only of the immediate needs created by the tragic atrocity that is unfolding in Ukraine, but importantly also to visualize how to ensure Ukraine’s reconstruction in the post-war future. Ukraine must emerge victorious and this affirmation set the tone for the arc of the discussion.
Kateryna Levchenko explained that the current suffering in Ukraine began with Russian violence and aggression in 2014, an invasion of Crimea and several regions of eastern Ukraine that caused the first waves of massive internal displacement. Then, as now, women felt the brunt of that displacement and violence, a fact addressed by the creation in 2017 of the government position filled currently by Levchenko. In her work as Commissioner for Gender Equality Policy, Levchenko strives to ensure the application of gender equality (gender mainstreaming) across all institutions and sectors of Ukrainian society.