WLP, IWDN’s Secretariat, spoke with young democracy activists, of Ukraine. Ms. Prykhodko is a member of the Interregional Young Women Leaders Group, which unites girls and young women to promote principles of democracy, equality, and youth leadership in social and political life. She describes her greatest accomplishment as forming a group called the Kharkiv Regional Council of High School Students, which was able to bring youth opinions on child welfare policies to the highest national decision-making level. Ms. Prykhodko, as chair of the group, spoke at a meeting with the president and most senior members of regional and national administration, resulting in stricter policies controlling sales of alcohol and in the construction of free, open air sports areas.
Ms. Prykhodkho interviewed with WLP Program Associate, Siobhan Hayes, to discuss the possibilities for youth participation in politics.
WLP: How did you get involved in activism?
Prykhodko: I have always wanted to become a person that is able to change something in this world. When I was a little girl “changing the world” was a vague idea, yet I felt that I needed to be useful. At the age of seven I entered the all-Ukrainian writing contest for high school female students – and my essay actually passed! I was invited to join the Interregional Young Women Leader’s Group, and have been a part of it ever since. I have now been working with social youth activists for eight years.
WLP: What role did you play in Ukraine’s Orange Revolution?
Prykhodko: At the time of the Orange Revolution I was only 11 years old. Yet I remember myself tying orange ribbons to my bag and walking around the school with them. Teachers were strongly against that. Nevertheless, I never took those ribbons off. Later I discovered that our teachers were forced to vote for the pro-government candidate, and required to prohibit any demonstrations of students’ political views at school. At that time, even wearing orange ribbons on a school bag was a clear demonstration of a personal stand and required a certain degree of courage. I was also participating in the general plans of the Interregional Young Women Leaders’ Group (IYWLG) that I am a part of. Most of my peers were already college students, and they were sharing the students’ political views with us younger members. At that age, I couldn’t go to Kiev to stand in the Maydan, but a lot of other girls from IYWLG were there. I did attend big meetings in my hometown. I did so because I was extremely inspired by my friends from IYWLG, and I really wanted to be useful for my country in any way I could.
WLP: What are the prospects for youth participation and activism in regional and national politics?
Prykhodko: I strongly believe that multinational youth meetings are extremely important because youth have to value people’s differences and share experiences. I think that there will be more and more young people participating in politics, and that they will come up with a new view of political processes at the national and international levels. I think that it is youth who can help to bridge the big gap between the government and ordinary people.
WLP: What advice do you have for aspiring young activists?
Prykhodko: You have to work hard. Your efforts will be noticed because society needs bright and committed people. Also, you need to form a powerful group around you, people who will work with you and support you. I think that it is very important to have a team of like-minded people, who share your ideas. It is sometimes challenging to work with a team, especially if they have diverse views and interests. But this challenge is a rewarding and useful experience.