Posted by: U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt
Every March 8, as Ukraine celebrates International Women’s Day, we pause to celebrate the contributions women make to our families, our workplaces, and our world. But it’s not only on March 8 that I’m reminded of the strength and resilience of Ukrainian women – every day, as I interact with them in government, civil society, business, culture, and education, I’ve seen firsthand their tremendous courage. One of the biggest stories of the past three years is Vladimir Putin’s dangerous underestimation of Ukrainian women. They are truly a force to be reckoned with.
On the Maidan, I was privileged to witness Olha Bohomolets caring for the wounded and dying. Her medical corps was a model of compassion blended with quick-thinking skill. And who can forget Ruslana singing Ukraine’s anthem night after night, unintimidated by the violence she and other Maidan protestors faced? She sang for freedom, for the dream of so many Ukrainians to live in an open, democratic European society, and none of us who heard her song can ever forget it.
And, of course, there is Nadia Savchenko. I am constantly amazed by the bravery that Nadia has shown through every day of her unjust and illegal captivity in Russia. Her kidnapping, imprisonment, and “trial,” all in clear violation of the Minsk agreements, is an outrageous mockery of international law. In spite of this, Nadia has stayed strong, never wavering in her love of country and in her refusal to let the crimes against her break her spirit. Nadia was already a trailblazer as the first female graduate of Ukraine’s Air Force Academy; her incredible courage in the face of her ongoing detention makes her even more worthy of our deepest respect.
I had the great honor to host Nadiya Savchenko’s mother Mariya in my home last week, along with more than a hundred other amazing Ukrainian women. In honor of Women’s Day, we invited each guest to bring an important woman in her life. The incredible group of women that resulted spanned generations and was a cross-section of Ukrainian society. Every day these women fight corruption, build civil society coalitions, pass new laws, drive technological innovations, and engage in ground-breaking research. But what united all of them was a shared vision of Ukraine’s future in a Europe whole, free, and at peace.
Valuing the extraordinary contributions made by women is not just good economic or political sense: it is basic fairness and respect for human rights. President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry have both made the rights of women and girls a top priority. In Ukraine, we see the importance of women’s contributions every single day. Women played a huge role in the Maidan, and continue to drive reforms in and through the new government. Whatever changes come in the future, I know that the determined women who have shaped my time in Ukraine will be at the forefront. Long after the tulips have wilted, let’s resolve to remember and celebrate the contributions of these tremendous women every day of the year.