Building inclusivity in Ukraine: 'Who is on Beauty Today?'
Pact’s USAID ENGAGE project, which stands for Enhance Non-Governmental Actors and Grassroots Engagement, is helping to advance democratic reforms in Ukraine, build demand for fundamental European values and strengthen civil society. The project also focuses on promoting the inclusion in society of marginalized groups, including people with disabilities, Ukrainians displaced by conflict, women, and members of the LGBTQI community.
As part of this effort, Pact and its local ENGAGE partners launched an initiative in collaboration with Ukrainian Fashion Week called Who is on Beauty Today? (The name plays on a well-known question in Ukraine asked by elementary school teachers each morning to designate the day’s student helper – Who is on duty today?)
Who is on Beauty Today? began with a photo session with a famous Ukrainian fashion photographer, Denis Manokha, who captured images of an albino model, a dark-skinned model, a transgender girl, a 67-year-old model and models in wheelchairs. The resulting photo exhibition lasted five days, was seen by more than 15,000 visitors, and was widely covered in popular Ukrainian media. The exhibition promoted the idea that beauty can be found everywhere and asked viewers to questions stereotypes and preconceptions about beauty and marginalized groups.
Although Who is on Beauty Today? was a one-time event, its impacted has lasted. The following Fashion Week, this September, organizers chose on their own to highlight inclusion and diversity. The Ukrainian media outlet Ukrainska Pravda covered this with an extended interview with Oleksandra Kutas, the world’s first runway model in a wheelchair and a key player in Who is on Beauty Today? With the journalist, Kutas inspected the latest Ukrainian Fashion Week venue for accessibility and discussed how diversity in the fashion industry is gaining momentum. Because of the industry's influence on popular culture generally, this will surely continue to help change Ukrainians' minds about these marginalized groups.