To strengthen a voice of internally displaced people in Ukraine: a summer school on social advocacy in Chernihiv

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Summer school ‘To give a voice to internally displaced persons’ has taken place in Chernihiv on 21-23 of June. The event was organized by NGOs Dobrochyn and Chernihiv Centre for Human Rights as a part of the project ‘Ukraine’s hidden tragedy: understanding the outcomes of population displacement from the country’s war torn regions’ runs by the University of Birmingham, the University of Oxford and Ukrainian Catholic University (AHRC PCCSR award).

There were 33 participants from Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts who now live in Chernihiv, Sumy, Zhitomir and Kiev oblasts. There regions are not often becoming a place for international programs in spite the fact that in Chernihiv oblast according to date of local administration there are more the 22 thousand internally displaced people. Most of the participants have noticed that for them it is a first opportunity to receive knowledge about social advocacy and conflicts.

The coach, Sergyi Karelin – activist and expert of the Centre Eidos, had to flee from Donbass as well in the past. Based on his own experience of advocacy of social interests including rights of IDPs, Serhii presented the process of advocacy in details – starting with the analysis of the situation and tree of meanings, coalition forming and efficiency monitoring.

That allowed participants to create and discuss their project s. On the third day of the school, Anna Konstantinova conducted a training about managing conflicts, their functions.

Projects created by participants tell a lot about issues which worry many of them, so a ted a cy campaign is crucial. There were three group projects: first was devoted to the solution of the issue of the lack of qualitative social services of European levels, and focused most of all on the most social groups: people with disabilities, people with many children, poor and IDPs.

Another project targeted one of the most crucial problems which face people who lost their homes in ATO – housing for IDPs. The campaign goals the receiving permission for a free land and using own funds for construction. The third team focused on the issue of the lack of a program of adaptation and social integration of internally displaced people in Sumi oblast and suggested a solution to unemployment, housing and overcoming the negative image of IDPs.Hopefully, school’s participants will continue to meet and if some of the ideas will be fulfilled, and the social network will be growing and supportive.

Irina Kuznetsova, project’s coordinator


Feedback from participants

Natalya Esina, assistant of coordinator of Helsinki group for human rights in Sumy and executive director of Northern Human Rights Group: The Summer School for Internally Displaced Persons allowed me not only to gain valuable knowledge but also to get involved with the support of colleagues from other regions, I hope, future partners in joint projects. Personally, I was very interested in lessons on psychology, because the topic of management of conflicts is currently of particular urgency. As the main problems of IDPs, I can stress in particular social protection which often problematic for those who for some reasons had to go back to check their family or property in ATO zone and people miss their pension and benefits as IDPs. Another issue is the necessity of assistance in the restoration or issuing of documents. The reasons for such appeals are persistent violations of the rights of citizens by state authorities, imperfect and controversial legislation, and lack of knowledge of the population. Unfortunately, since the beginning of the armed conflict, the problems are not diminishing, they are only slightly changing‘.

Oksana Harna, medical doctor, Kiev, from Donetsk: ‘My decision to take part in a school was quite spontaneous, but nothing is accidental. In the beginning, I was not sure whether it would be interesting, but then when I realized that we are receiving valuable knowledge and skills, I deeply immersed myself in the study. Also, I would like to flag the final day which was special. Anna provided us with very attractive options for conflict situations” solutions. I have come back with a suitcase of positive emotions. I am very grateful for organizers. Hope that my participation at the school for IDPs will help you in research and people will keep peace in our planet.

Natalya Dudich, psychologist, chief of a charitable organization, Chernihiv, from Luhansk: ‘I enjoyed the school very much! And it is an opinion of all participants! I am very pleased as a psychologist and activist that our problems are important for international society and university. It was great to meet with friends and like-minded people. We were able to remember what we have passed through, share emotions which are also very good. We have united together and will continue to communicate. You helped us a lot! The sessions were useful, a lot of materials.’

Professor Oksana Mikheiva, Ukrainian Catholic University, Lviv, from Donetsk, project’s co-investigator: ‘The school ones again confirmed the necessity to address issues of vulnerable groups in Ukraine, and with those who suffered from war. Most of the population of the country do not have skills to defend their rights and often waiting that somebody else will do that. Training help people to start understanding a problem, and to shift from its emotional reflection towards the rational one, and develop steps to protect their position. Obviously, it is impossible to learn how to do that via one training, but every meeting helps in forming social networks of people who can share their experience of copying with everyday challenges’. 


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