How to strengthen your capacity and change your community: The story of the Women's Hub in Ukraine

May 11, 2023
Members of Women's Hub and Pact during a mentoring visit in December 2022. Credit: Yana Mikhnich/Pact.

For Viktoriya Parkhomets and Kateryna Gidzula, co-founders of the Women's Hub, it all started with activism. In 2019, they decided to create a public organization to offer opportunities for self-realization and better living conditions for women in the Khmelnytsky area. Very soon, the Women's Hub joined the "Superpower for Women's Rights Organizations" program of the Women of Ukraine: Heard, Capable, Resilient project, funded by Global Affairs Canada, and received the support that they needed.

As a fledgling organization, the Women's Hub had quite a few questions about resource mobilization, development of project proposals and financial management. The project’s support enabled the organization to develop policies, learn how to use their resources in a more efficient way and win its first grant. 

“We have worked our way from a young organization looking for advice to an organization whose opinion is valued and reckoned with," says Viktoria Parkhomets.

Meetings that the “Superpower" organizations held also helped the Women's Hub to develop. Such networking and interaction, exchange of experience and advice made it possible to avoid common mistakes. Now the Women's Hub plans to sign a memorandum of cooperation with the Gender Creative Space organization, which is another "Superpower" member.

"At present, our organization has already earned a reputation. We interact with local authorities. They want to engage us in socially important events. Would it have been possible without the Superpower? Probably not,"say Kateryna Gidzula.

Kateryna Gidzula and Viktoriya Parkhomets at a poster presentation at the Forum of Women's Human Rights Organizations "Supporting Women and Girls in the Conditions of War," in March 2023. Credit: Oleksandr Parfeniuk/Pact.

Accessible preschool education for internally displaced children in Khmelnytsky

In January 2022, the Women's Hub, acting as a part of a coalition with other organizations, was awarded a grant by the Women of Ukraine project to expand the economic opportunities of women in the Khmelnytsky and Ternopil areas. After the full-scale war broke out, grants were reoriented to humanitarian response. For example, the Women's Hub began to implement the Free Mom service in Khmelnytsky – groups that provided four-hour care for children of preschool and elementary school age – after they had found out that women with young children faced difficulties with receiving documents and finding a place to live. The service made it possible for mothers to leave their children for several hours with experienced educators and psychologists, and to have time to do what they needed to do. 

Later, the organization received several more grants from another donor to continue that service. This enabled the Free Mom to function in three locations. But it brought about the issue of sustainability.

"The Free Mom service terminated its operation once a project ended. But the need for it exists all the time. That is why, at the community level, we had to advocate for the creation of such services that would function on a permanent basis," says Viktoriya Parkhomets, the Women's Hub co-founder and project coordinator.

That is why, in its next project with Women of Ukraine, the organization focused on advocating for lasting services for as many women as possible.

Over five months, the Women's Hub analyzed the condition of the preschool education system, interviewed 173 mothers with young children, formed a working group and held meetings with Deputies to the City Council, and round-table discussions with representatives of the authorities. The organization engaged the Khmelnytsky City Council Department of Culture and Tourism, and formed a partnership network of public organizations and charitable foundations. The Women's Hub also prepared recommendations and draft decisions on amendments in the education development program, and the comprehensive "Pikluvannya” (Care) program in the Khmelnytsky community for 2022 to 2026.

As a result, eight Khmelnytsky libraries were identified to offer the Free Mom service. Their physical facilities and resources were examined, service schedules were established, and a list of necessary purchases for arranging space for children was determined.

The Free Mom service at the Khmelnytsky Oblast Library for children. Credit: Yana Mikhnich/Pact.

In March 2023, the Women's Hub won a contest of public initiatives and was awarded $5,500 by the Khmelnytsky City Council to adjust four libraries for the provision of the Free Mom service. In order to arrange other children's spaces, the organization also plans to participate in grant contests and state and local programs. The Women's Hub also plans to continue to promote its recommendations for changes in local programs.