1) How would you describe the situation of feminist movements / feminism (or more generally, women’s rights initiatives) in Ukraine today?
Among other things, Maidan brought to life several new women's initiatives, both within the nationalist paradigm and within the human rights / leftist / advocacy paradigm. this time around, women, and young women, in particular, have been much more vocal about their desire to be part of the revolution, not just people feeding and caring for revolutionaries, and they have been calling out sexism where they saw it.
the gender expert community has been eagerly engaging in the revolutionary events and currently they are cooperating with new authorities to promote women's rights and gender equality.
there are enough reasons to hope that Maidan and its new paradigm of people taking charge of their lives will encourage more women to start or join women's organizations.
2) What different approaches to/perspectives about women’s empowerment did you see enacted / debated during the EuroMaidan protests?
women have been instrumental in organization of literally every single aspect of Maidan's functioning, and they started a lot of initiatives and actively joined initiatives started by men.
even during the hottest confrontations, when there were men who insisted women should not be on the barricades, women still joined the clashes, and threw Molotovs like it was the most natural thing to do. women were among journalists on the front line, as were nurses and doctors saving people's lives. they were also among those attacked, beaten, assaulted and killed by Berkut.
one of the groundbreaking Maidan initiatives that I had an honor to be part of was Maidan's Open University, which engaged best professors, experts and practical specialists in giving open lectures to everybody interested right there amidst the protests. I gave a lecture on women's movement in Ukraine -- and it was quite a success. this initiative was created and managed mostly by women.
another fresh initiative was the Olga Kobelianska Women's Company -- which was organized by young leftist and trade union female activists, who wanted to highlight the women's contribution to Maidan and to encourage them to come up with their own ideas and initiatives. despite its military name, it was all about advocacy, activism and empowerment. it offered free self-defense classes for women, a screening of documentaries created by female directors, a lecture on the history of women's movement (and they invited me and it was a total blast!) and on March 8 they held an event of solidarity with Crimean women, and they have a lot more planned.
although it got criticized by some feminists for adopting the military slang and not questioning the androcentrism of the entire Maidan rhetoric. to me, this criticism was uncalled for and pretty essentialistic in its stance, as it comes from an assumption that war and revolution are intrinsically the men's domain, while the history has shown us from century to century that women have been warriors and leaders and active participants of revolutionary and liberating movements.
3) Do you think the protests were fruitful for feminism in Ukraine? Have conversations/movements emerged from the protests that are promising for women’s empowerment into the future?
yes, most definitely. as the society now is actively engaging in the discussion of who is worthy of being in charge, as there are a lot of women who showed their competence and strong will during the Maidan days and are now joining the political arena at the levels from town councils to presidential elections.
some of them talk about gender equality.
I assume women's NGOs will become more active and visible in this process.
4) What do you think is most important to note about the Maidan and feminism in Ukraine today?
Maidan has been very diverse in its manifestations, participants and ideas, and I think feminist rhetoric became one of its integral parts. there is a lot to do but I believe that now even the worst misogynist would be able to claim that it was the revolution made by men and that women were just helping. it seems like a huge step ahead compared to the Orange Revolution. I hope this women's engagement in the revolution will encourage them to fight for their rights even more consistently.