KYIV CITY – I have been managing a public organization for more than 3 years. With its development, I went through stages of admiration, frustration, systemic work and growth. At the same time, I often asked myself the questions: ‘Why do we need public organizations, associations and other institutions? What is their role and impact on change in society? Do they solve business problems or societal demands? Are Ukrainians aware of the role of public organizations in protecting their rights?’ I would like to share my thoughts here.

Compared to the world, public organizations in Ukraine are quite influential, dynamic, adaptive and, to a certain extent, reflect the general mood of the population. As of January 01, 2022, 96,543 public organizations were registered in Ukraine, but only 28% of them are run by women. During the period of January-March 2022, 520 public organizations were registered. One of the reasons for this trend is the need to formalize the provision of services and needs of the population during the war, including legal support of humanitarian aid.

Studies from previous years (2019-2021) show that NGOs register mainly for a project or circumstance (political election), and their activities are not stable and long-lasting. Thus, according to surveys, among the NGOs registered at that time, only 35% actually and systematically work within their activities.

As for the activities of business support organizations, it mainly implies the need for membership in this organization. Currently, only 30% of enterprises are members of at least one business association, and over the past 4 years there has been a downward trend in this indicator.

NGOs Change Gears 

The activities of civil society organizations have not yet resumed after the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the war broke out in Ukraine. All this has consequences for their further development. I will tell you about the example of our Centre and partner organizations that support women’s enterprise.

‘Women who support others’ is the position of the NGO ‘Divergent Woman’ from Kremenchuk, which has been operating for 3.5 years in Poltava region. In 2021, the organization opened 8 new offices in Ukraine, in particular in those areas where active hostilities are taking place (Kharkiv, Sumy, Kyiv region), and in early 2022 – the first office in the EU – in Estonia.

In peacetime, the organization professed gender equality through the prism of modern education and changing people’s attitudes to social roles, life goals and other rudiments of modernity, actively mentored and developed economic inclusion, promoted increasing women’s representation in government and implemented initiatives to combat domestic violence.

During the war, the organization responded quickly to changes and challenges and completely reformatted its activities. The Volunteer Assistance Headquarters was established – an office-warehouse 400 km away, where volunteers take turns and provide targeted assistance to those who ask questions regarding:

  • Evacuation
  • Logistics of humanitarian aid
  • Accommodation of migrants (temporary, long-term)
  • Provision of water, food, medicine
  • Psychological assistance to victims and support of mental health.

The head of the NGO ‘Divergent Woman’ Yuliya Tsibulska emphasizes the need for active assistance to women in this difficult period. To this end, it is planned to open a Support Centre for Women in order to comprehensively address their domestic, personal and professional needs, since as of today 4,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) live in Kremenchug, of which 400 – school-age children. At the same time, 80% of IDPs are women who currently have to solve many problems: household (resettlement, registration, including of children in schools), professional (job search, re-profiling in accordance with new labour market conditions, career search), consultations with psychologists as needed, combating burnout, post-traumatic correction). On the other hand, there are local women who have also faced the challenges of war and are not covered by state aid. The opening of such a Centre will allow coordinating requests and effectively overcoming challenges.

This organization is an example of a systematic approach and active initiatives for women. Their activities are not limited to one region or problem; they provide comprehensive support for women and their families, which helps to overcome obstacles to the realization of women’s rights.

Caring for Elderly and Children

No less important issues are dealt with by the NGO ‘Women’s Association of Ukraine ‘DIYA’ from Rivne. The head of the organization, Olga Gorkavchuk, is the initiator and coordinator of many donor projects. The organization systematically supports the elderly and families raising children with special needs. A constant area of activity is also the support of women’s initiatives – trainings and workshops.

With the beginning of the war, work was added. The emphasis has shifted to supporting IDP families, single elderly people and families raising children with special needs, and work is also under way to deliver humanitarian aid to the needs of vulnerable groups living in the Rivne region. Over the past two months, we have managed to distribute 20 tons of humanitarian goods for various needs and requests, organize food packages for 100 families, help 210 families with seed kits for crops, and attract 60 thousand UAH of charitable contributions.

Olga emphasizes that the constant volunteer activity of the organization today is not only a matter of receiving, sorting and delivery of humanitarian targeted goods. This includes logistics, the purchase of necessary food groups and stationery to work with children. Therefore, a large-scale fundraising campaign together with partners and business is crucial.

Support for Women Entrepreneurs

Strategic approach, flexibility and systematization are the practical values that I develop in our organization. The NGO ‘Ukraine Investment and Trade Facilitation Centre’ is an independent non-profit organization that promotes the growth of Ukraine’s economy through:

  • Export promotion and development of women’s entrepreneurship
  • Removing barriers to trade, and
  • Solving problematic issues of the most promising sectors of the economy.

During the war, the organization’s activities were aimed at supporting women entrepreneurs who suffered and needed help. Currently, the work is focused on the following areas:

  • ‘Help Women Agro in Ukraine’ is an initiative to support Ukrainian women entrepreneurs working in the agricultural sector and affected by the war with the Russian Federation. As part of the initiative, which started in May, 10 applications were received with inquiries from businesses. So far, Villa Verde and Florest Farm have received assistance in the form of fertilizers and biostimulants from Syngenta and BTU-CENTER. The support of the rest of the enterprises involved 6 partners who are ready to satisfy their requests.
  • Launching of a project for women entrepreneurs with the support of the USAID Competitive Economy Program (CEP) in Ukraine, which includes several areas of activity: West Business Hub – relocation of business affected by the war; Business Resilience Platform – seminars on psychological support and business viability; conducting a study ‘Ukrainian Women Entrepreneur Portrai’ to determine the impact of war on their activities; and providing grant aid to businesses.
  • Initiative for women entrepreneurs in the field of creative industries, which provides for cooperation and partnership of women entrepreneurs in order to expand sales channels, to enter international markets and promote Ukrainian brands around the world.

In addition, special attention is paid to volunteering, humanitarian support, SME consultations and information support of partner organizations.

Criticality of NGOs

Why am I talking about this? NGOs are not business, they are ‘a combination of charity with business approaches to management.’ These organizations depend on the contributions of their members, founders, grants, charitable assistance, and so on. They must constantly diversify sources of funding and promote advocacy for important decisions in society. These organizations need to establish external communication and actively inform Ukrainian society and international partners about their activities.

We have something to talk about and something to be proud of.

Let’s develop together:

NGO ‘Ukraine Investment and Trade Facilitation Centre’ (ITFC):

NGO ‘Divergent Woman’:

NGO ‘Association of Women of Ukraine ‘DIYA’:

The author is Director at the