Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Kharkov Center for Gender Studies

I had my first meeting with the Director of the Kharkov Center for Gender Studies (KCGS) today.  This center is the reason I chose to come to Kharkiv because it is the foremost center on gender research in the former Soviet Union. This center runs a network of academics in this region, they have also published journals on gender issues, and conducted training workshops for women throughout the Post-Soviet sphere so I was excited to see what they were currently working on and how I could lend my support. They had been successful since 1994 in obtaining grants from outside agencies like the MacArthur foundation among other but this funding has dried up as western funders have moved on to more salient regions. The director told me that she had hoped to receive funding from V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University, the university that houses the center but the rector of her faculty had declined any support other than the two rooms at the university where the center and the gender library are held. For years the center had supported the university by obtaining these outside grants but when it came time for the university to share the burden they said no and also threatened to take away the two rooms at the university and send the books in the library to the university library where researchers like me would have no access to them. 

I can’t tell you how many times I head heard this story and quite frankly it’s depressing to hear that the universities in this region only care about gender research centers when they bring in money to the universities. Even the faculty who were being paid an extra salary to teach gender studies classes can’t teach these classes anymore because of all the other teaching obligations they have at the university. What is even more infuriating is the fact that I have to pay tuition to this university to take classes in the gender study center and none of that money will actually go to the center! Now all I can do is volunteer my time helping out with the library and try and tell everyone I meet at the university that I am here because of the reputation and research conducted by this center. Still, it is a frustrating situation when universities in this region will not support much needed gender research and the western donors who fund them don’t think of the long term impact on these places when they pull their funding! I think Western donor organizations need to work on cooperation agreements with the universities that create sustainable development and partnerships which will allow them to exist after the the money from the West dries up!

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