Women have been present on Maidan since the very beginning of the protest. Apart from cooking and serving food, they help the wounded protesters in hospitals, keep night watch at barricades, and give medical aid to the injured. By the way, not only male doctors rescued the wounded from the epicenter of events on Hrushevsky Street. Girls also saved lives, exposed to bullets and flashbangs. However, female activists say they are mostly mentioned in the context of kitchen, cleaning, and keepers of men’s good spirits at barricades. And this is not the way it should be.
“The squadron has existed for less than a week now. Its creation was caused by the fact that during the events on Hrushevsky Street, while all the shooting was going on and it was dangerous out there, many female medics, journalists, and other Maidan participants were not allowed to go past the barricades, no women or children were allowed there. But women are grown-up people who can decide for themselves about where to go and what to do. A lot of women enroll in our squadron with a desire to be a part of the watch and self-defense,” says Nina Potarska, coordinator of the Female Squadron.
At first, the idea of creating such a squadron sounded like a joke. However, after the initiative was published on Facebook, activists started receiving loads of calls with questions about how to join the squadron. “We decided we wanted to make women’s voice at Maidan more noticeable, so it would really be heard, that women are involved not only at the kitchen, but also in Automaidan and in hospital rounds. The community Euromaidan SOS is mostly managed and coordinated by women too,” Potarska explains.
The Female Squadron started its activity with a master class on self-defense and educational lectures and films. About 20 women came to the master class performed by Female Squadron activist Olena Shevchenko.
It was a demonstration master class, there was more theory on why we create this Female Squadron, on discrimination against females, who are not shown at barricades or during watch, but only in kitchens,” Shevchenko says. “Later, I showed that men and women have similar body structure with identical pain spots, and one does not have to be a Hercules to be able to protect themselves. It can be successfully done by both women and men.”
According to Shevchenko, during the master class “some men that were present in the hall dropped discriminatory remarks that women should spend their time cooking, and it is up to men to protect the Fatherland.” “But later those men came up with questions and asked them, and towards the end, some of them said that yes, there are exceptions, women can protect the Fatherland as well,” the activist says.
A lot of more mature Maidan participants, 50- and 60-year-old women expressed their desire to join the Female Squadron. According to the squadron initiators, there are no limitations for participants: a woman from any region, with any professional skills, and any experience of civic activity can enroll.
“Our main goal is to fight the discrimination of women. We want to show that women can perform various functions, and they do it successfully. We want to support various women in various areas, to show that both women and men work in the kitchen, both women and men keep watch at barricades. This stereotypical image is imparted at a very young age: in bringing up, within the family, in the society. Natural weakness is cultivated in women, that is, they are taught to be obedient and serve men. And respectively, men are taught to take the initiative. That is where this discrimination is coming from. A lot of men use this discriminatory rhetoric that women are weak and they must stay at home and make cozy nests for their men. It doesn’t have to be that way. People are different, they must have equal rights and possibilities,” Shevchenko is convinced.
In the near perspective, the Female Squadron plans to hold regular classes on self-defense, and also continue the course of lectures and film screenings featuring the world and Ukrainian female movements, women in social processes, women and the revolution.
The Female Squadron members emphasize that self-defense is a necessity, but it does not mean women are taught violence or aggression here. Besides, as it has already been said, the squadron will accentuate the educational compound. “If some women want to keep watch or be at the front line, we cannot keep them from doing what they want. Instead, we want to provide emotional support, as well as coordination,” Potarska sums up.
You can follow the activities of the Female Squadron on their Facebook page.