Children in Ukraine reveal their vision for better cities

To mark World Children’s Day on 1 June, UNICEF Ukraine gave youngsters across the country the opportunity to tell local, national and global leaders what they would like to change in their cities.

Photos by Pavel Zmey
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© UNICEF/Pavel Zmey

14 June 2019

Today, nearly one in three people living in cities and towns is a child. Many will experience poverty, inequality, environmental hazards and conflict. While there are benefits for some, millions of poor urban children are more likely to die before their fifth birthday than those in rural areas. All children should feel safe, heard and nurtured in their neighbourhoods, cities and communities.

To mark World Children’s Day on 1 June, UNICEF Ukraine gave youngsters across the country the opportunity to tell local, national and global leaders what they would like to change in their cities. Teenagers also spoke out on social media about their rights and how they stand up for them.

Their thoughts will be heard by governments and policy makers at the upcoming Child and Youth Friendly City Summit in Germany.

    

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©UNICEF/Pavel Zmey
Sixteen-year-old Kateryna Kurylo lives in Druzhkivka in eastern Ukraine, where the conflict has entered its fifth year. She wishes the authorities would do more for children with disabilities and internally displaced people (IDPs). If she could, she would open a center for children and youth with disabilities. Kateryna also says social activities for youth in Druzhkivka are limited. “We have few and far between places and events for teens to meet each other and spend time together,” she says.
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UNICEF/PavelZmey
Sixteen-year-old Mykyta Lebid would have preferred to study in his home city of Druzhkivka. Unfortunately, he had little choice but to go elsewhere. “It's not only about Druzhkivka’s size but about the lack of infrastructure,” he says. “There are only a few institutes in our city.” Mykyta hopes for more youth-friendly spaces in Druzhkivka. If he were mayor, he would open a cinema and install more waste bins. He would like to see the city achieve UNICEF’s "Child and Youth Friendly Municipality" status.
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UNICEF/Pavel Zmey
Fifteen-year-old Pavlo Shatylo from Kyiv wishes more people from his home city and Ukraine would fights for their rights. “People just turn a blind eye to violations of their rights,” he says. “They are too passive to change anything about that.” Pavlo is an activist with the youth group 'Teenergizer'. If he were mayor, he would launch a communications campaign in order to better understand people’s needs. Only then, he says, would he make changes to his city.

“People just turn a blind eye to violations of their rights. They are too passive to change anything about that.”

Pavlo Shatylo , 15 years
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UNICEF/Pavel Zmey
Sixteen-year-old Anastasiya Panchenko lives near to the contact line in Bahmut, eastern Ukraine, where the conflict is now in its fifth year. “The situation in our city makes us take a different look at life,” she explains. “Live each day as if it's your last.” But she still remains optimistic considering that in situation like this nobody should think like: “Why should I do something to make my life better’, but to think ‘If not me, then who?”. Anastasiya is also concerned about vandalism and environmental awareness in Bahmut. If she were mayor, she would campaign against vandalism and introduce a “city cleaning day” every three months.
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UNICEF/Pavel Zmey
Semen Kosyak, 16, is happy to hear about a new Children’s Council that has been established in his home city of Bahmut. However, he also thinks that the Council does not have enough authority to make changes. If he were a mayor, he would give some seats in local self-governance to young people, so that they could influence the decisions that affect city. The teenager believes attracting business investment could increase employment opportunities in Bahmut.

“As for me personally, I would like to take part in sports events, but there are not many in our city. So it would be great to have more.”

Semen Kosyak, 16 years
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UNICEF/Pavel Zmey
Sixteen-year-old Sofiya Korol from Chernivtsi, in western Ukraine, is worried about the level of discrimination in her city. “Locals are not tolerant towards people with disabilities or, for example, children with Down syndrome,' she says. “I want to live in a tolerant city where people support each other instead of whispering behind your back.” If she could, she would open a center for inclusive education and campaign for tolerance. She would also focus on waste management issues and raise people's environmental awareness by organizing eco-picnics.
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© UNICEF/Pavel Zmey
Yuliya Stetska, a 13-year-old student from Kyiv, is disappointed about the way local authorities are dealing with population growth. “More and more new high-rises appear in the city, but nobody thinks of increasing the number of schools and kindergartens,” she says. If Yuliya were mayor, she would build new schools and change the curriculum. “We literally have no free time because of the current number of school classes, but many of them are totally useless,” the teenager says.

 “I would like to study something really important, like financial literacy. I want someone to teach me to better use my money and become more successful.”

Yuliya Stetska, 13 years
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UNICEF/Pavel Zmey
Anastasiya Borodaiko is a 17-year-old dancer and artists from Ivano-Frankivsk, in western Ukraine. She wishes her city had more youth-friendly spaces. If she were mayor, she would build parks and recreation areas in every city district.
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UNICEF/Pavel Zmey
Seventeen-year-old Mariya Bartsabyuk lives in Ivano-Frankivsk. She wishes she could be more independent. “I want to find a summer job, but I can't,” she says. “Hiring teenagers is not common in our city. So there is no way I can earn enough money and get myself ready for adult life.” She also cares about the environment in her city, especially about the local lake. If she were mayor, she would take steps to clean up the area. “There's only one lake in our city, but we can't enjoy it. It is so polluted that even swans do not want to live there anymore.”