A Gender Culture Center has opened in Kharkiv. “There are no such analogues in Ukraine,” director Tetiana Isaieva says. The funds for implementing this initiative were allocated from the European Endowment for Democracy.
“The idea is in creating a space for informal communication in Kharkiv, where gender issues could be discussed thoroughly and comprehensibly,” Tetyana says. “For example, social roles of people. Our goal is to make the society more tolerant, democratic, exposed. We would like to raise the gender culture level to the European standards.”
A series of activities, including a debate club, room for video lectures and Forum Theatre, have already been scheduled in the centre, which is located on Kovalska St., 9. A playroom for children has been also taken care of, so that the parents who visit the classes or Master Class wouldn’t have to be worried about their kids. The administration of the centre thinks that such conditions for young families affect their ability to develop and socialize.
The opening of the Center in Kharkiv became a nationwide event; it gathered guests from different cities.
Tetyana Ivanina came from Poltava, where she’s the head of the Office for gender budgeting strategies.
“It’s time to show what can be accomplished when people consolidate the efforts,” Tetyana says. “The Gender Culture Center is one of these examples. Gender issues have to become not only the experts’ topic for discussion; they have to be taken into consideration by the society. I congratulate Kharkiv with such a beginning. As for me, it has given impetus to raising the social culture in the country.”
Volunteers, students (mostly female) were greeting the guests of the Center. Kateryna Stativka who was one of them admits that she doesn’t know much about gender.
“As I understand,” she says, “the Center is fighting for gender equality. And she adds that the society is not equal, various groups of people see their role in life differently. For example, some women are fully satisfied with them being a housewife and they are convinced that men have more rights. Kateryna says she has not experienced gender inequality. Nevertheless, she is planning to visit the Center.”
“I think that gender is not only about a male or female,” says Arthur Tkachenko. “I see it more widely. Every social group that has something in common, for example, handicapped people – is also a gender, because proper conditions have to be created for them to have a full life. Society has to get rid of prejudice and stereotypes. If a person tries to accomplish something, he/she should be encouraged.”
After the opening of the new Gender Culture Center, we got a chance to talk to its’ director Tetyana Isaeva, who’s also a head of the Gender Museum which is the only one in Kharkiv.
Mrs. Isayeva, what should be a starting point for solving the gender inequality issue in Ukraine?
I think we should start by defining the terms. Because everyone has their own definition of gender and gender identity. Someone thinks it’s limited by gender equality. Others look at the issue more widely. Simple and clear definition of all terms would ease the communication. I, for example, define gender as a social role, tied to sex. Social sex with the indicator of access to all spheres of life, to making a decision and resources.
When did your curiosities about gender equality grow into a profession?
I became a member of “Krona” organization in 2002. The project was concentrated on the role of women in society. After listening to an educational course, I created the “I” magazine. The first issue came out in 2003. The idea was in presenting a woman, who fulfilled herself in the family and would like to step out of the line, affect different spheres of life. The magazine wasn’t gender-oriented. The gender was brought into the picture later, in 2005 when the law about equal right for men and women became effective. The magazine became gender-oriented after that. Later I was invited to the elections in Sweden as a representative of media, wherefrom I brought the first piece for my future Gender Museum – feminist party booklet.
How much time has passed from the idea to open the Museum?
While working on a publication for the magazine, I met an interesting expert Olena Suslova. I shared an idea about the museum with her. Olena reached for 100 hryvnas from her pocket. “Let’s get it started,” she said. From that time on I started gathering exhibits: everyone brought me some books, T-shirts, photos, purses. The Museum has “existed” for a long time in the suitcases. Only in 2013 thanks to the campaign “Women support women” we got a chance to collect some money for the premises and the repair. Now there are more than 3000 exhibits behind the walls. The Museum is sponsored by Swedish and Spanish feminists.
I notice that you clearly separate the words by gender. Is this gender-sensitive language? Would you like these rules to be consolidated in society?
I think it is right. But there is a lot of disputes on this topic in the sociological community. Some say that gender difference is already embedded in gender-defined words, and such difference can be offensive. A word that defines a female in a certain kind of profession already says that she’s less qualified. Besides, it’s not always possible to create gender-defined words.
What are your plans for the future?
I plan to develop gender culture step by step and conduct Master Class. For now, the Museum is on financing till February. The Center – for a year and a half. So the main issue, for now, is the funding. But I don’t doubt the development of this endeavour. We are open to the offers, interaction, waiting for partners and supporters.