Standing in front of her peers, Anastasiia Rudyk, a 22-years-old student at the National University of Ostroh Academy and an IFES civic education course alumnus, shared her experiences working towards inclusion of youth with disabilities in all aspects of public life, encouraging them to achieve their goals despite obstacles they face.
It’s encouragement she never received, discouraged from public speaking her whole life.
Growing up, teachers told Anastasiia to pick a field of study that did not involve a lot of talking because of her speaking disability. She never sang in choir or participated in events where students read in front of crowds.
“There is a social stigma about the engagement of people with disabilities in social life,” said Anastasiia. “People around us shape our personality. We need to be loyal and understand that there are different forms of disability.”
Overcoming the stigma and challenges in her primary and secondary schools, Anastasiia went on to pursue her higher education, now working toward a master's degree in political science.
Once bored of reading books, Anastasiia said she’s found that education is so much more dynamic, not dictated by people who excluded her from activities. Participating in IFES’ civic education course, Democracy: From Theory to Practice, she found the power in organizing and hosting open forums.
“I realize that education is not only about reading a book, but is a multifaceted process,” she said. “The learning process can involve games and interactive exercises. It can be a very exciting journey where you gain new knowledge and apply skills in practice.”
She applied her passion for creating inclusive educational spaces when she interned with the Central Election Commission (CEC) department for the Provision of Training and Improvement of the Legal Election Culture. There, she developed educational materials about the electoral process in Ukraine.
Creating awareness and fostering debates and discussion about how to make Ukraine’s democracy and elections more inclusive is an extremely important initiative right now, Anastasiia says, amid the war against Russia.
“Now, it is important for me to accumulate more knowledge about inclusion in our country, since I realize that more people will become disabled as adults due to the war,” she said. “I want to help develop programs aimed at integrating people with disabilities in our society to create an inclusive Ukraine.”
The partnership between the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and the Central Election Commission is made possible through the support of USAID, Global Affairs Canada, and UK Aid. The internship program is open to students and alumni of IFES’ university-level civic education course, “Democracy: From Theory to Practice.” This course is offered at over 60 universities and vocational colleges across Ukraine and is designed to deepen students’ knowledge through an interactive classroom environment where students learn and experience democracy.