Entrepreneurs hub run by and for Ukrainian women: ‘This too helps us persevere’


Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has left the country’s economy in ruins. According to the Ukrainian Ministry of Economy GDP plummeted by more than 30% in 2022. While Ukrainians everywhere are working hard to turn this around, it is women who are holding the key to economic recovery. On International Women’s Day, Maryna Saprykina tells us how her organisation CSR Ukraine helps women develop their entrepreneurial skills.

Enlarge image Een sessie van vrouwelijke ondernemers, aangesloten bij een zogenaamde hub van CSR.
Female entrepreneurs are crucial for the Ukrainian economy. CSR helps them grow their business by providing training and the exchange of knowledge with other entrepreneurs.


CSR was founded in 2008. Its original purpose was to promote responsible and sustainable business practices in Ukraine. Now, in 2024, it has a much broader mission. With many men fighting on the front lines, the women who stayed in Ukraine play a vital role in keeping the economy running. And they’re acutely aware of this responsibility: in 2023 around 56% of all new businesses in Ukraine were registered by women. But the challenges these women entrepreneurs face are many and varied. Many women need to stay at home because they don’t have childcare. They are also regularly confronted with stereotypical treatment when carrying out their business activities, and do not always have the know-how to build a network of suppliers, customers and investors. These are exactly the type of challenges that CSR can help them with, Maryna points out.

Enlarge image De directreur van CSR, Maryna Saprykina.
Maryna Saprykina.

Bread winner

‘We’re seeing more and more women who want to start a business. With husbands off fighting, women are often the ones providing for their family. So it’s important for us to give women the tools they need to secure a good living for their family.’ Maryna believes that the success of a business doesn’t only benefit the entrepreneur. ‘Many women start a business because they want to help their community. They pay tax and create jobs. And that’s really important in helping us persevere during this terrible war.’

Difficult start

Mariya is one of the businesswomen in the CSR network. Her company TACWORK manufactures gear for the armed forces. ‘At the beginning of the war my husband was called up to defend Ukraine and I started sewing the gear he needed,’ she tells us. ‘This has grown into a big project where I’m manufacturing things like laptop bags and rucksacks for soldiers.’

Enlarge image Het bedrijf TACWORK produceert uitrusting voor militairen.
TACWORK produces military gear.

Mariya encountered several problems when starting her company. ‘I’d never run a business before,’ she says, ‘so there were a lot of things that I didn’t know how to do. Thanks to CSR’s entrepreneurial network I’ve learned about hiring and training staff, but also about scaling up my company and increasing TACWORK’s production capacity.'

Dutch support for businesswomen

CSR’s network, the Ukrainian Women Entrepreneurs Hubs (U&WE), caught the attention of the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO). ‘In 2023 RVO supported a large part of the educational programme for our hubs and training programmes. Thanks to this assistance, we’ve been able to train some 800 women through five of our hubs. What’s even more important is that the businesswomen in our network are achieving concrete results: we’ve heard that some of them have increased their turnover by as much as 20%.’

Enlarge image Een sessie van een U&WE hub.
A UW&E hub in Kyiv.

The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs is also involved in RVO’s private sector development programme. ‘RVO will continue to support five of our hubs in 2024,’ says Maryna. ‘This will help us achieve our goal of helping as many Ukrainian women as possible start a business.’

A broader view

A fairly new member of the CSR network is Irina, who writes and publishes English-language children’s books, which are hard to come by in Ukraine. ‘The U&WE hubs are really inspiring,’ she says. ‘They led me to actually set out my ideas in a serious business plan, and also put me in touch with several successful businesswomen.’

Enlarge image Irina, schrijver en uitgever van Engelstalige kinderboeken.
Irina writes and publishes children's books in English.

‘Now my business is growing one small step at a time. I have editors as well as an illustrator, who makes beautiful drawings for the books. I hope many more women will join the network. It will boost their confidence. The hub is a place where every woman can find her voice!’

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