Gender equality and Ukraine’s green recovery: is one possible without the other?

By Julie Ostapjukova

WECF recently supported a webinar discussing the role of gender equality withing Ukraine’s current Recovery Plan. The event “Gender Equality and Green Recovery: Is One Possible Without the Other?” was organised amongst others by Ukrainian partners Ekoclub,  Ekodiya, and the Heinrich Böll Foundation. Although the webinar was in Ukrainian, we are more than happy to feature the main take-aways from this informative event on our website. 

The central question presented at the webinar was “Why should the reconstruction of Ukraine be based on the principles of sustainable development, non-discrimination and gender equality, and how will the decarbonisation of the energy sector contribute to the development of female leadership, the creation of new jobs, mitigation of the climate crisis and social justice?”. To tackle a question of such scale, the participants of the webinar chose to deconstruct it and rather attempt to separately answer three questions: whether the current Recovery Plan of Ukraine takes into account the gender component; why is it necessary to follow gender-sensitive approaches in the recovery of Ukrainian energy and environmental sectors in general; and how the country’s post-war recovery process can help solve the problems of inequality and discrimination in various communities.

The environmental toll and the gender component

Nataliya Lushnikova, the Ekoclub’s coordinator of energy projects, started off by emphasizing the necessity for “gender sensitivity and inclusiveness” in the country’s path of sustainable development, particularly in the field of environmental protection, stating that this post-war path is simply “not possible without the development of women’s leadership in various spheres.” Kateryna Levchenko, a government commissioner for gender policy, then elaborated on the environmental threats that the country has been facing as a result of Russia’s aggression, providing the specifics of such threats while highlighting that the demographic affected the most are women in eastern and southern regions of the country. According to her, the tackling of the incessant pollution of soil, water, and air resulting from ammunition explosions and waste such as scrap metal, as well as the destruction of landscapes and vegetation, requires the gender component if the country is to ensure the health of future generations.

Social justice in light of Climate Change

The following segment, led by the coordinator of the Climate Change and Energy Policy program of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, Oksana Aliyeva, was dedicated to vulnerable groups, particularly within the context of climate change. Needless to say, vulnerable groups such as displaced persons, people with disabilities, migrants, or more broadly, women, are all in some way disadvantaged when it comes to rights and opportunities. However, “social justice allows us to look at privilege at the root of change,” as Oksana argued, sparking a discussion about the “starting conditions” that are so often subject to inequity and later applying a systemic approach to solving the given issue. She further highlighted that the issues of the energy sector and gender equality are not mutually exclusive but rather the opposite, as both have a strong influence over the other. When it comes to employability within the country’s energy sector, women represent only about 22%. At the same time, however, they are also the ones who disproportionately bear the cost of energy price increases given that women generally tend to have lower incomes, not to mention their role in traditional households. The effects of climate change are likely to deepen such disparities, as already seen in communities particularly vulnerable to climate change. What Oksana suggests is that the process of transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources presents us with the opportunity to reduce such disparities, in addition to the range of obvious benefits for our planet.

Such discrepancies were further highlighted in the example used by the head of the energy department of the NGO Ekodiya, Konstantyn Krynytskyi, who has been closely monitoring the dialogues around coal mines in the Donetsk Oblast and what effects are likely to take place following their closure. To avoid the negative effects of such a drastic change for the region as well as to capitalize on the benefits of it as much as possible, Tamara Marceniuk, a sociologist and a gender researcher, then proposed a series of recommendations presented in four points: labor market; education and retraining; the sphere of health protection and working conditions; and community level – living conditions and security.

The link to the webinar can be found here