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For the past 25 years, the Small Grants Programme (SGP) has been working to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment around the world by supporting community driven innovations for sustainable development and global environmental benefits. On the occasion of International Women’s Day, and in keeping with its theme #BeBoldForChange, SGP is proud to share the achievements of a group of women scientists in Ukraine who are contributing to conservation of biodiversity and generation of scientific knowledge.

Since 2014, SGP has been providing financial and technical support to Ecological balance, a network of women leaders and scientists to help conserve and rehabilitate the Myka river basin, located in Zhytomyr region of the country, and its rich biodiversity. The project supported the development of an arboretum complex, raising public awareness on phytodiversity, promoting ecotourism, involving local youth biodiversity conservation practices, launching a campaign about rare and endangered plant species of plants, and carrying out scientific research expeditions involving young women biologists.

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Two expeditions in the Mika river basin were carried out in 2014 and 2015 by women-scientists of the National University "Kyiv-Mohyla Academy" and members of the public, 85% of whom were women. Using the results of these field studies, the project produced a report on the aquatic coastal flora of higher vascular plants in the Myka basin, comprising 62 species, 10 invasive and 4 rare including Salvinia natans, Nymphaea alba L., Leersia oryzoides (L.) Sw. The seven most widespread species were described in detail, considering their significance and practical use.

UKraine Women story web 2Four kinds of rare plant aggregations listed in the "Green Book of Ukraine" (2009) and the EU Directive 92/43 were discovered and described by the scientific expeditions, emphasizing the zoological significance of the geographic area. A herbarium of 20 coastal aquatic flora specimens of the Myka river was created and transferred to the information centre on eco-tourism in Lutivka village.

To build capacity and raise awareness, a workshop on practical steps to preserve plant diversity was held, as well as a seminar on in-situ conservation approaches for biodiversity conservation. A campaign was also carried out on how to plant rare tree species including a live demonstration in which 50 species were planted. These events involved more than 200 people from the community, including students, teachers, scientists and the general public. A brochure on “How to establish a Protected Area at the regional level" was also developed.

The results and materials developed by the project were shared in the following web-sites: Partnership Network “Education for Sustainable Development in Ukraine” (http://ecoosvita.org.ua), CBO Ecoclub “Green Zhytomyr” (http://www.zelena.org.ua/) and Regional Network “Zhytomyr: green tourism makes the difference for the environment” (http://www.green-tour.org.ua/).

The actions taken by this project are contributing to the protection of the river banks, have enhanced the habitat of some species and areexpected will help rehabilitate populations of rare species. Furthermore, the results of research will contribute to the scientific evidence needed for the creation of a protected area in the Myka river basin.

The project gave the young women scientists the opportunity to use their skills to conduct expeditions and gather scientific research and as a result generated new career opportunities. For example, Ms. Olena Kozak, a lecturer at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy and the project coordinator, developed academic work on the basis of the research conducted in the project and received a PhD degree. Similarly, Ms. Oleksandra Khalaim, a lecturer at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, became an expert of the Climate Forum East II (http://climateforumeast.org/), funded by the EU and Austrian Red Cross. This also led Ms. Olha Bohomolets, National Deputy of Ukraine, Honoured Doctor of Ukraine and active public and political leader, to involve young women scientists in the development of an ecological route for green tourists in the Radomyshl district.

SGP will continue supporting bold and innovative initiatives such as this, providing a platform where both, men and women, can actively engage and propose solutions to environmental problems.

Happy International Women’s Day!