Below you can read three stories presented in documentary film-portraits on how to make real changes in society providing proactive people with corresponding legal support. New heroes live in small communities in different parts of Ukraine. They are different as well as their legal problems.There is the only way to overcome those problems. It’s faith in yourself and legal support for their initiatives.
Almost ¼ of Ukrainians live in poverty according to highly underestimated official figures. Poverty has many components. One of them is the unavailability of services usual for quality life, the inability to take advantage even of those legal instruments, which are established by the law.
International Renaissance Foundation supports the establishment and operation of Community Legal Centers (CLCs) in small communities within Legal Empowerment of the Poor initiative. 30,000 people were provided with legal aid during 2009-2012.The majority of them filed out applications for social benefits, and addressed land issues, such as registration of property right, execution and termination of lease agreements, etc.
The CLCs facilitate establishing good neighborly relations in villages. The conflicts due to land boundaries can complicate life for years on end, and attempts to resolve controversial issues in court lead to huge fees and often lead to conflict escalation. Such restorative practices as mediation and reconciliation, which help people, understand each other and avoid substantial costs, come helpful here.
Often these people share common problems: the arbitrariness of employer, unfair leaseholders or nontransparent disposition of communal property. The initiative of such people, together with the proper legal support, can make real changes in those small communities.
Three of the stories are represented in the documentary film portraits- NEW HEROES»
Milk is the only source of income in Zakotne village of Novopskov region, Luhansk Oblast. Middlemen, who buy milk in separate households at a fraction of the cost and then sell it to the diary plant several times more expensive, have monopolized the milk market. They also get government grants intended for agricultural producers. Local people sell milk on the terms of handshake deal – and there are no legal guarantees that money for their products will be given to them in time.
Tetyana Syvokon, a resident of this village, initiated the establishment of a service cooperative store at some point of time in order to sell the milk without middlemen. However, such initiative was opposed by middlemen and officials. Today the villagers obtained the support of lawyers of the Centers of Legal Information and Consultations and created their non-government organization in order to continue fighting for the right of independent entrepreneurship.
Town residents are familiar with another problem: high handedness of Housing Offices, known as ZHEK, unreasonable charging of rates, uncontrolled mechanism of allocating funds for repair and maintenance of apartment blocks. Dwellers of 30 houses in Pavlohrad refused the services of ZHEKs and established a condominium. As a result, they pay 6-7 times less for public utilities than they previously did. Valentyna Minayeva, a vigorous resident of Pavlohrad and the head of the condominium, which became the hero of the second story, can be taken as an example of persistence and purposefulness for the residents of other cities of our country. The Centers of Legal Information and Consultations provided legal assistance in the establishment of a NGO of Heads of Condominiums.
Stara Zburyivka village
The community of Stara Zburyivka village in Kherson Oblast was at some point involved in unequal fight with the local officials in order to return 29 hectares of the best land, which the regional administration distributed among figureheads. A criminal case was filed against Viktor Marunyak, the village council head, after his taking the lead in this fight, ended up behind the bars. The villagers rallied and established a non-governmental organization “Stara Zburyivka Self-Defense Committee”. They supported their head during all of his stay in pretrial detention center. After a while, the preventive measure applied to the village head was changed under the duress of the community, and he was released from custody. With the support of the villagers he returned to perform his duties and shortly after was once again elected as the village council head. The fight to return the land is still ongoing. The Centers of Legal Information and Consultations, which provides assistance to the villagers in this regard, as well as to 12 other neighboring villages, was established in Stara Zburyivka.
International Renaissance Foundation makes efforts so that public at large knows the life stories of such people that in fact change our country. Those are important for all of us – for all those, who are indignant with the injustice, strive for personal freedom, can’t stand the inequality and those, who value human dignity.
International Renaissance Foundation has been implementing Legal Empowerment of the Poor Program in cooperation with Open Society Justice Initiative (Budapest) during 2009 – 2012.