How digital skills transform women’s lives amid war in Ukraine

22 January 2024
ITC News

As the conflict has dragged, with countless lives shattered, many businesses lay in ruins. Amidst the chaos, a group of resilient Ukrainian women emerged as a beacon of hope as they set out to transform life for themselves and their families.

In a matter of weeks, through rigorous training by the non-profit Projectr, they not only adapted, but flourished. They transitioned into new careers, proving that even in the face of adversity, empowerment and innovation endure. Their stories redefine resilience, turning the page to a chapter of renewal and empowerment. The training was financed by the Japan-funded ITC project, Ukraine: Building Economic Resilience of Displacement Affected Communities. 

When Diana Havelovskaya found out about the course, she’d been in Kyiv for 18 months after fleeing Kherson, which has suffered some of the worst violence. Her father refused to go with her, but eventually he too left the city. At 23, she was living with her partner in the capital, looking for work with just a high school education. That meant working in restaurants or catering services.

When she saw the announcement for the course, she decided to apply to study search engine optimization. Known as SEO marketing, it’s a specialized skill crucial for propelling websites to higher rankings in search engines. Out of 900 applicants, she was among 60 women chosen for the intense eight-week programme.

Woman in pink puffer jacket hugs a tree trunk
Kyiv, Ukraine. Anna Chumakova studied affiliate marketing, which led her to a job that gives her the flexibility to work from home so she can care for her two young children.
Photo from Anna Chumakova

Mastering the digital craft was challenging. The online sessions were supplemented with homework that she at first struggled to finish. But the mentors encouraged them to keep at it. For Diana, learning in a course with all women also gave her a boost.

‘That was a safe place and space for me, because sometimes men can be intimidating,’ Diana said. ‘In that group of women, I felt comfortable and supported.’ 

Anna Chumakova also enrolled to study SEO marketing. Originally from Donetsk, she left her hometown in 2014 when Russian-backed separatists took over the city. She eventually settled in Kyiv. With two young children, now aged 8 and 11, she wanted a career that would give her the flexibility to work from home.

For her, the highlight of the course was the practical project, in which they put their new skills to work for Ukrainian medical laboratory Dila.

‘We audited their website for SEO, and we gave them the audit for them to use,’ she said. ‘It was not just theory or some simulation, but a real company.’

The hands-on approach of the coursework also appealed to Katerina Yakunovetz. She’d obtained a university degree in marketing just before the programme began, but she found that her education had grounded her in theory, leaving a void in practical experience. The programme offered the needed bridge between her theoretical foundation and real-world demand for practise.

She took the module on affiliate marketing, which is a way for companies to involve their audience in promoting their services. Her practical element was with a company called Skelar. The Ukrainian company lets users curate and launch their own online courses.

Woman with pink hair wears black jacket while leaning on bridge railing
Kyiv, Ukraine. Katerina Yakunovetz had obtained a university degree, which didn’t give her practical experience in marketing. The ITC programme offered the needed bridge between her theoretical foundation and real-world demand.
Photo from Katerina Yakunovetz

‘The part I enjoyed the most was the traffic analysis. We received real data, and we had to find suspicious schemes among this data,’ she said. ‘So we had to verify the web traffic to find the suspicious partners.’

Practical projects like these set up all three women for success in their job hunts. Within weeks, Diana and Katerina both landed jobs that let them work from home. Diana is working for a small Ukrainian law firm, helping optimize their website to get more readers. Katerina is working for an international gaming company, Blay Games.

Choosing a path of entrepreneurship, Anna decided to rather start her own consultancy, and has already landed two clients – including one that she met through another woman taking the course. Networking proved to be a powerful catalyst, highlighting the collaborative spirit fostered by the programme.

The bold leap into her own venture has given Anna not only a steady income, but also provided the flexibility to care for her children. That sense of stability is something all three women said they’ve found as a result of the programme.

‘I can’t say that I feel more secure, but I feel more stability, because I have the opportunity to find an even better job and build a career,’ said Diana.

These women’s journeys are testaments to the power of seizing opportunities and embracing the ever-evolving landscape of digital success. Half the country is immersed into war, but the other half must find new ways to live. Digital work and business may be exactly the needed lifeline.


About the project

The project Ukraine: Building Economic Resilience of Displacement Affected Communities focuses on supporting the further development of professional skills of the internally displaced population in order to find replacements for disrupted channels of incomes. Furthermore, the project contributes to the resilience of Ukrainian SMEs by building their capacities to sell online and development of Ukrainian communities.

The project is implemented by ITC and funded by the Japanese government until 29 February 2024.