Women who change Ukraine: Svitlana Bovkun, the founder of "Kyiv Maker Faire"


Svitlana and her husband got the idea for a fair for people who create things with their hands when they visited the USA.

“We have two children, so it was within our personal interest: we wanted to help and show them something other than school and involve friends as well. This is how the idea was born which later turned into a small festival,” says Svitlana.

The couple organised the first “Kyiv Maker Faire” in Ukraine’s capital in June 2015. “The fair is meant for people who make something with their own hands. However, its philosophy is much broader: they are getting together to do something as a group,” Svitlana explains.

Svitlana and her husband soon found out that the fair was to be supported by teachers, schools and businesses. Later, another four Ukrainian towns, Lviv, Odesa, Kharkiv and Dnipro, got involved with the fair. In addition, the couple organise meetings and share their experience of making crafts. There is great interest among schools in particular. Teachers take children to the fair, prepare programmes and bring children's handmade objects.

The Kyiv Maker Faire team also supported the “Girls STEM” project, aimed at overcoming gender stereotypes in related professions.

When the issue of financing and acquiring new experience arose, Svitlana started looking for international support to develop the idea. This is how she became a participant of the EU’s Culture Bridges programme: “This is exactly the piece of the puzzle I was lacking. I had a chance to dive into the European experience of cultural institutions, the direction that we would like to develop,” she says.

In November 2018, Svitlana and her colleagues from other creative sectors went to Madrid, where they were introduced to the Medialab Prado platform and saw how the platform cooperated with the city. This is how she found like-minded people, new methodologies and potential partners and exchanged experience with their Ukrainian colleagues: “This is how a new reference point appeared. We realised that Ukrainians were not as passive and that everyone had a problem with the community.”

After this project, it became easier to work with the city in Ukraine. “We see what we are lacking. For instance, we do not have public workshops as they are the centres of makers' culture,” says Svitlana.

She says that there was no shortage of ideas in Ukraine, but there were a lack of processes to make these ideas work.

New, progressive ideas are also useful for the country. “Thanks to such activities, we put Ukraine on European maps and draw attention to it,” Svitlana adds.

Author: Uliana Bukatiuk

Article published by espreso.tv in Ukrainian and Russian.