Author: cynthiasularz

Does International Women’s Day Deserve to be an Official Ukrainian Holiday?

8th March, for most in the world, marks an average day.  International Women’s Day (IWD) is often acknowledged but not truly celebrated. It’s mentioned on the news or acknowledged by a local women’s non-governmental organizations, but it could easily be missed if you’re not looking for it. In Ukraine, as well as many other countries of the former USSR, International Women’s Day is widely celebrated. From little girls to older ladies, each and every woman is given flowers and cards to celebrate. But in the months leading up to the 2017 celebration of IWD, public opinion and debate have shifted. The Ukrainian Institute of National Memory published a bill which proposed the removal of International Workers’ Day (May 1-2) as well as International Women’s Day (March 8) from the list of official state holidays. To understand why anyone would propose the removal of IDW, you must first understand the history. The holiday first appeared in the United States and was organized by the Socialist Party of America to commemorate the strike of the International Ladies Garment Workers. On 22 November …

The Young Women of the Ukrainian Government

The Ukrainian Revolution of 2014, also known as the Euromaidan Revolution, induced a widespread series of changes to the sociopolitical systems of Ukraine. This self-organized revolution was focused on ensuring closer ties to the European Union while also working to dispel corruption within Ukraine, starting with the removal and exiling of Ukraine’s president at the time, Viktor Yanukovych. One of the most significant changes was the installation of a new government filled a great number of inexperienced and idealistic youth. But as time progressed it became clear that the criticism faced by these young politicians and bureaucrats has fallen mainly on the women holding these positions of power. The question for Ukraine is how it will handle the upheaval of its traditionally male-dominated political landscape? In Mid-November 2016, 24-year old Anastasia Deeva was appointed to the position of Deputy Minister of the Interior, becoming the youngest person to hold a post of a Deputy Minister in Ukraine. The decision by Arsen Avakov, Minister of Interior, to appoint the young 24-year old to such a high level …

Abortion Rights in Poland: From Legalization in 1959 to Czarny Protest in 2016

In 1989, Polish women stood at a crossroads. With the fall of the Soviet Union, women were re-introduced to the concepts of Western second-wave feminism. Like in other post-soviet states, the effects of communism resulted in the fierce emancipation of women in both family and work. Now, looking at the current debate in Poland around abortion and women’s autonomy over their bodies, one cannot help but ask, why now? Why is it that almost thirty years after the fall of the Communist Government in Poland, is women’s right to abortion being questioned? For those answers one must take a good hard look at Poland’s history, which more often than not is caught between Western ideals, the Catholic Church, and the country’s history of communism. Under the Communist state, both women and men were expected to work which resulted in a massive increase of women entering both industrial and agricultural fields. A popular slogan even arise during this time, “Kobiety na Traktory”(“Women to the Tractor”). In 1956, a good twenty years before the United States and France, …

The Women of Solidarity: How History Ignored Fifty Percent of Poland’s Solidarity Movement

The success of Poland’s Solidarity Movement to combat and rid the nation of its communist rule is a pivotal moment in world history. It stands as a testament to not only the power of grassroots-lead revolutions, but how quickly change can manifest across a nation and finally transcend borders. However, it was an arduous road. In 1981, still a few years before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the leadership of the Solidarity Movement was arrested during the military coup. This leads one to question, who kept the Solidarity Movement active during the following months and years? From the original firing of Anna Walentynowicz at the Gdnask shipyard in August 1980 to the all-female editorial team of Poland’s most influential underground paper, “Tygodnik Mazowsze”, one can’t help but question why the women of Poland’s Solidarity Movement do not get the credit they so justly deserve? The firing of Anna Walentynowicz marked a historic shift in Poland’s resistance movement for it resulted in some of the most widespread strikes in the nation’s history. Soon, millions of …

From Memphis to Oklahoma City: How Black Women have led America’s Organized Anti-Rape Efforts

The Memphis Riots of 1866 are of deep historical significance as they mark the first documented case in the United States on an organized effort to combat rape. After this riot a group of African American Women testified before Congress. These women stood up and stated that a white mob, composed of civilians as well as policemen, had perpetrated a series of gang rapes throughout the riots. There were three documented rapes that occurred during these three days as well as the murder of 46 African Americans. Lucy Smith was sixteen years old when she testified that seven white men, including two police officers, broke into her home and raped her and her friend Frances Thompson. These two women alongside their peers testified before the United States Congress. Their perpetrators escaped any sort of punishment. This injustice and other similar injustices sparked outrage from African American activists including Ida Wells, Anna Julia Cooper and Fannie Barrier Williams. The efforts of these courageous women laid the groundwork for future projects against sexual and gender based violence …

Svetlana Alexievich: Author, Activist and a Nobel Laureate

For more than 30 years Belarusian journalist and writer Svetlana Alexievich has explored conflict and its aftermath. Through numerous interviews, books and articles she has pursued a life that gives a voice to the survivors of conflict. Focused on the tragedies of the Soviet Union as well as its aftermath, Ms. Alexievich has traveled from Chernobyl to Kabul and finally to the 2015 Nobel prize in literature. Unlike many other Russian speaking Nobel laureates, Svetlana was not focused on poetry or prose but on the necessity to spread factual information and stories of those around her. Svetlana Alexievich was born on 31 May 1948 in the Ukrainian town of Ivano-Frankivsk. She grew up exposed to two different cultures, due to the fact that her father was Belarusian and her mother Ukrainian. Following her father’s demobilization from the army, Svetlana and her family moved back to Belarus. Her two parents worked as school teachers. After finishing school she began working as a reporter at a series of local newspapers. She then graduated from Belarussian State University in 1972 and …

Russian Mail Order Brides also known as Human Trafficking

While scrolling through the internet it’s impossible to not come across ads. One particular message that consistently appears, and is joked about, is the concept of a “Russian Mail-Order Bride.” Even when googling Russian phrases the ads that appear read along the lines of, “Beautiful Russian Brides”, “Find Russian Brides”, “Buy your Russian Wife Here.” Whether it be through a spam email, an over-heard green card joke, or just conversation, everyone has heard of the “Russian Mail Order Bride.” This phrasing clouds the true horror that is the Russia’s “shadow economy.” Following the collapse of the Soviet Empire the nation of Russian alongside all post-communist states were faced with this growing second economy. Those who were Soviet prisoners had networks, mafias were given the chance to make huge profits through the interdiction of a capitalism based market, and the newly opened border depleted the need for checkpoints and the observation of migrating. The newly opened globalized world of interconnection, technology, travel, and lack of restriction gave Russia the opening to join the massive market of modern …

SDG 4: Why should we educate Girls?

The adoption of the Sustainable Development Goal 4, “Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning”, is essential not only for the growth of communities but the overarching need to educate women and girls. Looking at the 10 the targets under Goal 4, it is clear that a gender and equality perspective has been taken into account – for example,  Goal 4.5 calls for ending gender disparities at all levels of education by 2030, and the language of many of the targets particularly talks of “girls and boys” and “men and women”.  Still, despite the known inequalities in education between girls and boys, many people question as to whether or not the gendered perspective is necessary when speaking on the right to education. When looking at the global status of girls and women, it becomes glaringly apparent that one of the major reasons underpinning the broader problem of gender inequality is the unequal access to education facing girls and women. Denying girls and women of their right to education impedes on them achieving progress in other …

Women, Peace, and Security: What’s to come?

​This month marks the fifteenth anniversary of the United Nation’s Security Council Resolution 1325, which is the building block of the entire Women, Peace, and Security Agenda (WPS). This resolution mandates that women be involved in all aspects of peace and security. The WPS Agenda acknowledges the disproportionate and unique impact conflict has on women and girls and calls for a gendered perspective in addressing the special needs of women and girls during conflict. This includes reparations, resettlement, rehabilitation, reintegration and many other aspects of post-conflict reconstruction. ​​This historic resolution, since its adoption on October 31st, 2000, has been expanded upon through six other resolutions, and it is speculated that an open debate held on October 13th will result in a seventh. These expansions have been called for by many civil society organizations and implemented by the United Nations Security Council. One of the resolutions most prominent expansions was UNSCR 1820, which recognizes sexual violence as a weapon and tactic of war. This means that “rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute a …