She's got it 12:21 02 May 2023

Feeling free: all-Ukrainian network of hubs supporting women

Women in Ukraine have faced many challenges amid the war: gender-based violence, unemployment, financial problems, limited access to medicine, and psychological and emotional instability. The solution to this problem is complex. Hubs for women, where they can receive various kinds of support, are one of the solution's components. Rubryka looked into the work of one of such hubs, Vilna, where females can study, rest, work, and, if necessary, receive professional help.

What is the problem?

Last year, UN Women conducted a survey among Ukrainian women to find out what their needs were during the war. Most of the interviewees answered that they did not feel safe. In the crisis conditions of wartime, women constantly have to make difficult decisions, but very often, there is not enough strength or resources for this.

The full-scale war of the russian federation on the territory of Ukraine became a trauma for the entire society. This is a time of experiencing complex emotions: anxiety, fear for oneself and relatives, and uncertainty about the future. In addition, the risks of gender-based violence (GBV) for women and girls are always increased during the war. Women and girls in Ukraine have become even more vulnerable to GBV and often do not know how to access specialized services in such situations.

That is why, on the initiative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)  in Ukraine with the support of the governments of Great Britain, Denmark, and Canada, it was decided to create as many safe public spaces as possible for women and girls in Ukraine, where they can receive social assistance, legal advice, and psychological support.

лекції для жінок

What is the solution?

The NGO "Innovative Social Solutions" initiated and implemented the Vilna project in the cities of Ukraine — a network of spaces friendly to women and girls. Such areas already exist in Kyiv, Vyshgorod, Irpin, Chernihiv, Ternopil, Zhytomyr, Mykolaiv, Uzhhorod, Shostka, Sumy, and Nizhyn. The goal of the project is to help Ukrainian women cope with difficult life circumstances, as well as to give them new bright impressions and sources of inspiration.

"Our potential clients are socially vulnerable women, displaced women, single women, and elderly women," says Oksana Nechytaylo, the project's national coordinator. "But we are open to all Ukrainian women and are ready to assist women and girls of any age and category."

Vilna provides a comfortable environment that opens up new development opportunities for women and girls and creates psychological and physical recovery conditions, regardless of the circumstances. The events offer events suitable for every taste, mood, or need.

консультації для жінок

The name of the project was not chosen by chance. Vilna means free in Ukrainian. According to Nechytaylo, the goal is to show women they have every right to be self-sufficient, effective, and fulfilled.

"Our project is about a woman without any internal obstacles, a woman who is in a safe psychological state, which allows her to feel free in her wishes, plans, and their implementation," emphasizes the coordinator.

What does Vilna offer?

The main services provided by the Vilna space are:

  • individual social and psychological assistance;
  • group work to solve psychosocial problems;
  • various group activities that ensure a woman's mental and physical health.


There are many sports activities in the Vilna hubs. Drawing and painting lessons, master classes, and workshops are held here. Doctors, cosmetologists, experts in healthy nutrition, and other specialists give lectures and consultations. Women can participate in group sessions, breathing practices, a stabilization group, a joint analytical movie viewing, or even get legal advice.

жіночі простори вільна

Vilna is also engaged in improving women's self-development and provides free classes in English and Ukrainian. Various courses, seminars, and training are held. Hubs' employees regularly attract professionals who talk about the basics of starting a business, journalism, management, and everything else that can help a woman be competitive in any field today, pump up her talents and skills so that she can feel more confident and not afraid of challenges.

арттерапія для жінок

Vilna hubs also act as coworking spaces — anyone willing can come there, use the workplace and the Internet, drink tea, stay warm and with electricity (all hubs have generators), chat in a safe atmosphere with other women, and at least a little distract themselves from difficult Ukrainian reality, gain strength, inspiration and move on.

Vilna hubs are child-friendly. Each space has children's corners and various activities for children.


Does it really work?

Vilna hubs are operating in many Ukrainian cities. The need for such spaces and the results of their work speak for themselves.


Oksana Smuk, associate professor of the Department of Psychology, is a project manager in Uzhhorod. She is responsible for helping women overcome traumas related to war and gender-based violence.

жіночий простір вільна

"It is hard to imagine what Ukrainian women went through. The stories are different, but all of them are traumatizing: a young girl who suffered violence while fleeing from Zaporizhzhia, girls from Bakhmut — when the bombings began, one of them was decorating the house with balloons celebrating her birthday, and the other was left all alone in this world (her mother died a long time ago) after saying goodbye to her father who was going to the front, a petite, beautiful mother of six children from Donetsk, whose husband died, a wonderful, sweet woman from Kyiv, who, after being discharged from the intensive care unit, decided not to tolerate her husband's abuse anymore and to change her life radically, so she went to Uzhhorod with her two children, a woman from Dnipro, whose son and husband are at the front, a young girl who recently came out of a coma (her husband also abused her)," Smuk says.

There are an endless number of such stories. These women have so much to offer; they are indomitable and motivated to recover. 

"I admire these women," the psychologist shares with Rubryka.Smuk says that the hub's psychologists were impressed by the desire of women from different parts of Ukraine to share their life stories. In group and individual therapy sessions, women and girls opened up and began to talk about things they had been silent about until now.

простір для жінок вільна

Psychological rehabilitation is half the battle, and physical health must also be taken care of. Uzhgorod Vilna hub provides stretching and fitness classes for women, art therapy and neurography for creativity, acting courses, and English classes. In the evening, together with a local craftswoman, one can immerse themself in the magic of Transcarpathian cooking — all this to restore women's faith in the reality of a normal life.


"We are watching how women and girls gain faith in their capabilities and understanding they are not alone," the psychologist continues. "They can call every team member at any time and be sure that they will be supported. Women do not even want to think that this project can end. We have become a circle of emotionally close people. Every day, they rush to the meeting from remote corners of the city."


жіночі організації

In Mykolaiv, the Vilna project has a unique space — a mobile point, a small bus traveling around the city with a team of psychologists and social specialists.

"I am delighted that the Vilna project has been launched in our city," says Natalya Zakharova, psychologist of the Vilna project in Mykolaiv. "Every day, we choose different locations to make the project accessible to as many women as possible. We also choose cozy places, a square or a park, so that women can walk after attending the master classes."

мобільні групи підтримки для жінокThe project's goal is to provide various activities. Each woman can find something interesting and valuable for herself in the schedule. Women often turn to the project for support, resources, and a chance to be heard. Therapeutic groups, master classes, and lectures allow women to communicate, make new acquaintances, and find resources.

Nizhyn, Chernihiv region

допомога жінкам

"The most important thing in the project is a woman and love for her," says Hanna Bianka, coordinator of the Vilna project in the city of Nizhyn. "We are trying to create an atmosphere where women feel needed, protected, and happy. The need for such a space in our community has been brewing for a long time."

The hub opened at the beginning of March, and the number of female visitors is not decreasing. Someone wanted to try yoga but dared not go to a fitness center. In the business hub, a woman can see herself as an entrepreneur or a businesswoman and create a workplace for herself and her colleagues. The best city experts are involved in various issues — health, physical improvement, spiritual, cultural, and aesthetic development. The hub holds discussions about literature and movie sessions.

психологічна підтримка для жінок під час війни

Even more useful solutions!

The Vilna project, which is part of the humanitarian response to the war, started at the end of last year and now covers more than 10 cities across Ukraine — Kyiv, Irpin, Lviv, Ternopil, Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Kryvyi Rih, and others. The organizers plan to open more than three dozen such spaces.

"We understand that the state will not be able to cover such a large number of citizens who have fallen into difficult life situations. Therefore, creating an all-Ukrainian network of safe spaces for women and girls will become a reliable rear for the state and a starting point in solving the social and psychological problems of those categories of women who find themselves in difficult living conditions," the project states.

To reach all vulnerable categories of women and girls, Vilna actively cooperates with social services and departments and also works through local self-government. It is easy to find the Vilna hub in your city — just visit the NGO Innovative Social Solutions page on Facebook. Each Vilna hub also has its own Telegram channel, where coordinators post schedules, announcements, and information about activities there.


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