Youth Voices on Civil Courage II

written by

Viktoriia Shvaher

Viktoriia Shvaher is the second generation WAVE Youth Ambassador from Ukraine. In her feminist work, she mostly focuses on the issue of domestic violence and on the ratification of the Istanbul Convention. She previously was an assistant to the researcher in the field of domestic violence at the NGO ‘Social Innovation Fund” and a co-leader of the women empowerment club ‘Lean-In”. Viktoriia also spoke at the official independently organised TEDx event about “The new F word”. She joined the Ukrainian feminist initiative “Women`s March” and became a member of the committee who was organising an annual Women`s March in Kyiv dedicated to International Women’s Day. Viktoriia has also volunteered in Germany as an interpreter in an organisation accommodating Ukrainian refugees.

“There was a woman lying on the grass outside of my house this morning. I was so in a hurry that I didn’t even stop to check if she was just sleeping or needed medical help. I thought somebody else would check on her but now I feel guilty.” This is a text I received from my friend a couple weeks ago. Does this sound familiar to you? I cannot count how many times I personally was in a situation where a stranger might have needed help and I didn’t do anything because I was in a rush, or tired, or simply scared to intervene. My inaction has always left me feeling powerless and regretful and as it turned out, I am not the only one. When I decided to look deeper into the topic of civil courage, I found many sources and videos online role-playing potential scenarios and offering ways to exert civil courage. More and more people are adopting the “if not me, then who” mindset, which will hopefully result in all of us feeling more secure in public spaces.

We all live in a society and, therefore, civil courage should be one of our responsibilities as members of our communities. Just as we wish somebody would assist us in emergency cases, we should be the ones helping others if we are witnessing an extraordinary situation. What I found useful for myself was to imagine and go through different scenarios mentally beforehand: what I could witness in public places, on the streets, and which actions I could take in each of these scenarios. It is important to be pro-active and not expect somebody else to exert civil courage all the time. We might not be able to change the entire world, but we can make a drastic difference in a particular person’s life, if we choose to keep our eyes open and step up when needed.