Ukraine: Olena Suslova

I realized the meaning of empowerment. It makes you feel strong without arms, without police, without trucks. You are strong owing to your confidence, peaceful aims, solidarity.

— Olena Suslova

Olena Suslova, born in 1958, is an instructor, researcher, and editor. She is co-author of the Empowering Education Program (EEP) and has trained such diverse groups as youth, Romany teachers, Burmese refugees in Thailand, and Indonesian peace workers. Starting in 1996 with the EEP, based upon nonviolence, tolerance, and gender sensitivity, she developed it in her region and later on in ten other countries with help from the NGO she founded – the Women's Information Consultative Center (WICC).

During the early 1990s, as a member of the Ukrainian opposition, Olena Suslova joined a demonstration to demand the release of an oppositional deputy imprisoned on false charges. Crowds of demonstrators moved towards the prison, but halfway they met big military trucks coming towards them. It was evident that the trucks could stop the people by force. While Suslova's husband organized the crowds, she went to face the trucks. Her sister who followed her with Suslova's daughter (9) at a short distance yelled: “Think of your daughter, you fool!” “I thought: ‘I could die now. I do not want to die in front of my daughter, I cannot leave her and my husband, but I also cannot go away,’” Suslova recalls. “It was a strong feeling! And I made my stand. I faced the truck drivers and I stayed there.” Big wheels slowed down and finally stopped. “This moment I consider the starting point of Empowering Education, because I then realized the meaning of empowerment – it makes you feel strong without arms, without police, without trucks. You are strong owing to your confidence, peaceful aims, solidarity,” Olena explains. Whenever she is exhausted, tired, or feels weak, she recalls that situation, remembering another world is possible if one aspires for a better future by peaceful methods. Empowering Education, radical in its goals and soft in its appearance, helps people analyze their own life, avoid manipulation, deal with conflict, be sensitive to others and move ahead towards another world. The Orange Revolution in Ukraine confirmed that people have the knowledge, are capable of, and, finally, could gain peace by peaceful methods. Millions of Ukrainians stood up for their choice and made it clear. “I know many Empowering Education graduates who participated in this peaceful resistance and it was our contribution to its success,” Suslova says.

Women's Information Consultative Center (WICC)