Olena Shevchenko

I started in 2000, when I was a student. I discovered the organisation Women’s Network, which dealt with lesbian and bisexual women, and became a volunteer. In 2007, two friends and I established Insight , an LGBTQI and feminist organisation. My personal experience of being a lesbian women pushed me to start fighting against inequality.

We do many things. We have a shelter for LGBTIQ people who have escaped violence in eastern Ukraine and Crimea. We provide legal and psychological support for victims of violence and discrimination. We work on the advocacy level and with police and government bodies. We run Equality Festival, which is a cultural platform against xenophobia. We do research and provide education to different social groups on human rights and sexuality.

The main challenges are violence and invisibility. For Ukraine, as a state, LGBTQI people don’t exist as social group. We don’t have any protection from hate crimes and hate speech, stigma and discrimination. It is very hard to live your life without recognition as a normal citizen. So I get my inspiration in my work. It is an amazing feeling when you can see the direct results of your work. If people ask for your help in difficult situations and you able to help — that is the best result possible.

Photo: Anton Shebetko