On International Day of the Girl 2023, Anastasiia, a 15-year-old refugee from Ukraine living in Poland, speaks up about the role of girls in the rebuilding of her country.
While the war in Ukraine continues to wreak devastation on the country, the question of how to rebuild Ukraine after the war is becoming increasingly important and the perspective of women and girls is needed to help rebuild their country and shape its future.
For International Day of the Girl 2023, our partner HumanDoc Foundation spoke to Anastasiia, 15, to gain her insights about specifically the role of girls in this reconstruction effort. Anastasiia is from Kostopil, in Rivne Oblast of Ukraine. She came to Poland in May 2022 and lives in Opole in the south of the country, together with her mum and three sisters.
“As a Ukrainian, I dream of rebuilding my country and I believe that girls will play a huge role in this,” she says. “I look to the future and see the potential that lies in our youth.”
So, how does Anastasiia see the role of girls in the reconstruction of her country?
Education and skills-building as a priority
Anastasiia says that the most important thing she can do to help rebuild her country is to get a good education.
“Girls should learn and improve their skills because women are the foundation of any modern society,” she says.
However, for the hundreds of thousands of refugee girls from Ukraine, getting a good education has been made much more challenging as a result of the war.
In Poland, some refugee children attend Polish schools and others online Ukrainian school, while many attend both. Each schooling system comes with its own challenges: integrating into the Polish education system can be demanding, while some children find learning in front of a screen in the online system tiring and less effective.
But Anastasiia is determined that a good education is crucial for girls to rebuild their country.
“Knowledge allows us to contribute to the development of various fields, such as science, technology, medicine and business,” she says. Her own dream is to pursue an education in engineering, noting that technological innovations can help the reconstruction effort.
Active participation in social and political life
Anastasiia also says that the voices of girls are necessary when it comes to political life, to help shape the rebuilding of Ukrainian society and local communities.
According to her, girls have a huge impact on the attitudes and values of younger generations and society as a whole. Their perspectives will be needed, then, to help society remain open and tolerant so that everyone’s skills can be harnessed in the rebuilding effort.
“It is worth girls promoting education based on respect for others, tolerance and gender equality,” says Anastasiia. “It is these values that will shape a society in which everyone has equal opportunities and can contribute to the reconstruction of the country.”
That is also why she urges girls to get involved in political life, to be able to better influence the future of their country. In order to get the best out of everyone in society, girls need to be equally represented and actively participate in decision-making fora.
“Girls should be aware of their rights and opportunities, and engage in civic activities that aim to improve living conditions in my homeland,” Anastasiia says.
“It is thanks to our involvement that we can influence decisions made by the authorities and shape the future of Ukraine.”
Anastasiia says that girls have enormous potential that contributes to rebuilding Ukraine and wants to “Engage in social activities, promote the values of equality and act with a common goal in mind.”
This is a view expressed by many young people from Ukraine.
In our policy paper based on research conducted between April and May 2023 with over 200 children and young people impacted by the war in Ukraine, we found that youth want to be actively engaged in their country’s reconstruction and recovery to bring new ideas, innovative thinking and accountability to the future of Ukraine.
That is why our policy paper encourages stakeholders to promote the direct participation of adolescent girls and young women in consultations mechanisms relating to Ukraine’s reconstruction, to ensure youth and gender inclusive representation.
“Regardless of our individual career paths and social activities, it is important we act in solidarity,” says Anastasiia. “Ukraine needs all its citizens to work together.”
Youth empowerment, girls’ leadership