05 October 2015
The Swiss Cooperation Office in Ukraine presented a Gender Award to the IOM project Prevention of Human Trafficking through Community Mobilization. The award was established this year to acknowledge the best performing initiatives in addressing gender inequalities and promoting new approaches to overcome gender stereotypes.
IOM Ukraine's Kateryna Ardanyan receives the award
The IOM project was implemented from 2009-2015 in partnership with two national NGOs: the Western Ukrainian Resource Centre and the Child Well-Being Fund of Ukraine, and helped rural communities suffering from a lack of economic opportunities and high levels of labour migration to create new jobs and raise awareness about trafficking in human beings and safe migration.
One of the most successful project participants is Ms. Ruslana Lenio from Yavora village, Lviv Region. Ruslana is a mother of five, her eldest son is 22, and her youngest daughter has just turned five. Her husband is a labour migrant in the Russian Federation, and while he is away, Ruslana takes care of their five children, household and cattle. Ruslana is 45 years old and she has spent the last 10 years on maternity leave, being the perfect house wife and mother to her children.
When IOM experts first visited Yavora village, Ruslana became interested in engaging in community development work mostly because it promised improvements for the village school and consequently for her children.
At first, Ruslana heard skeptic comments from local authorities and other people living in the village, but she managed to persuade the majority to support the project, and eight persons volunteered to join the working team.
Over three years, Ruslana led her team to success, winning funding from the Swiss Confederation to support three projects benefiting village development, creating new jobs and offering services that weren't available in the village before. Ruslana’s example motivated the village, and people started investing their time and work in a cattle breeding project and a woodwork vocational training for schoolchildren. Finally, last year they opened a hair dressing salon (previously people went to the nearest larger town to get their hair cut) and a girl who was a labour migrant before returned to the village to work as a hair dresser.
Ruslana at the project final conference in Kyiv this September
With time, Ruslana grew into an informal leader in the village. People stop by to ask for her advice and talk over their problems.
While the project has ended this year, Ruslana continues to move forward. Recently, she visited the project experts in Lviv and asked for all of the books that they have on leadership, project management and rural development. When the experts asked why she needed additional literature, Ruslana replied: "I'm running for village head now, there are so many issues faced by my village and I have to learn new ways to change things."
Yavora village is located in the foothills of the Carpathian mountains, 150 km from Lviv and close to the border with Poland. The village has seen over 30% population decline since 1989. About 10% of the village residents are labour migrants who work in Poland, the Russian Federation, Lviv or the nearest district level town of Turka.