The war over Ukraine and the collateral damage we need to talk about

Sofia Lopez Simpson is a second year International Relations student. Her hobbies and interests include playing the guitar and spending hours making spotify playlists.

Looks like the spotlight is going to the Ukrainian army fighting Russia. Now do not get me wrong, they deserve the spotlight they are receiving and more. But let’s not forget about the ones not holding rifles, but carrying their children’s and family’s weights over their shoulders, the Ukranian women.

The conflict over Ukraine has been present for more than a decade, leading to two thirds of Ukrainian women and children being internally displaced. Since the full scale invasion from Russia on the 24th of February, more than two million Ukrainians have fled the country with the hopes of finding refuge.

The Ukrainian women are being horribly affected by the war in Ukraine which needs to be talked about in order to provide them with the help that they need and deserve.

What is happening to the women in Ukraine?

The lives of women in Ukraine have not been easy even prior to the war. Ukraine suffers from high levels of poverty and women are part of the most affected by this. The poverty is exacerbated by the 22% gender pay gap and 32% pension gap, which makes women more vulnerable during crises. This means that conflict obstructs women’s accesibility to health care, housing, employment and risks them being exposed to domestic violence, sexual assault and psychological pressure.

The war in Ukraine is inevitably putting women and girls in danger. While they are fleeing Ukraine, women and children aim to go to European countries that do not have visa restrictions. Now, while people worldwide are welcoming Ukrainian refugees to their homes, there are still new risks that need to be acknowledged, such as the increasing sexual violence and trafficking of Ukrainian women and girls. Although we all hope that the solidarity to Ukrainian refugees is genuine, there are still people who take advantage of women’s and girls’ vulnerability in the conflict to abuse them. Now, we are aware of the ongoing issues of conflicts and refugee crisis of humanitarians being involved in sexual violence. However, it is more complicated to prevent and act upon sexual violence when it is carried out by people not part of any agency helping these refugees. Therefore, while many of them are helping Ukrainian refugees we must not forget about how it is also putting women and girls at risk.

There have also been cases of sexual assault of Ukrainian teenage girls in their host countries. In Poland, a man was arrested in March for raping a nineteen-year old Ukrainian girl refugee. Although, some humanitarian programs offer information on transportation and dangers, approximately one in five women refugees will be victims of sexual violence during their travels from home to refugee camps and shelters, increasing their risk of being trafficked.  

How are Ukrainian women and girls getting help and how can YOU help them?

After reading the previous paragraphs you might be thinking that there is nothing that can be done to help Ukrainian women and girls as there is little state authorities have done to diminish the risk of women and girls being abused. However, there are multiple actions which anyone can take in order to help these refugees be safe wherever they are seeking refuge.

Firstly, women are in need of medicine, food and shelter. These are daily necessities which are inaccessible due to the war. More importantly, women need the support from local authorities in host countries which will prevent them from being taken into human trafficking. The first two  programmes listed below accept donations and links are provided. Host a Sister is a facebook group which anyone willing to help can be a part of!

UN Women has created a fund to provide basic needs to Ukranian women and girls and with the help of The Women’s Civil Society organisation, UN Resident Coordinator and UK Country Team they provide aid to the refugees. These programs also aim at preventing gender-based violence and providing justice for victims.

Save The Children, has started a Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund. This aims at supplying children and families with basic needs like food and water, as well as psychological support and hygiene kits. 

Host a Sister, as mentioned earlier, is an online platform that assists women find refuge. This has extended into Transport a Sister, which provides transport for refugees fleeing Ukraine at no cost.

Although we are all hoping for a rapid end to this war over Ukraine, we need to assist the women and children whose lives have been disrupted by the conflict. There are multiple risks that they are being exposed to while leaving their countries seeking refuge. Although it is important to understand what women and girls are going through, it is even more important to be aware of the resources that can be used to help them!

Bibliography

“Here’s How to Support Women Affected by the Crisis in Ukraine.” The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, March 8, 2022. https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/how-to-help-women-ukraine-donate-b2031101.html. 

“How to Support Women in Ukraine.” ABC News. ABC News Network. Accessed April 19, 2022. https://abcnews.go.com/International/video/support-women-ukraine-83463441. 

“Support Women in Ukraine.” UN Women UK, March 7, 2022. https://www.unwomenuk.org/ukraine. 

Chen Reis Associate Clinical Professor and Director. “Ukrainian Female Refugees Are Fleeing a War, but in Some Cases More Violence Awaits Them Where They Find Shelter.” The Conversation, March 28, 2022. https://theconversation.com/ukrainian-female-refugees-are-fleeing-a-war-but-in-some-cases-more-violence-awaits-them-where-they-find-shelter-179754. 

Tilman Blasshofer and Sarah Marsh · Reuters, Beatrice Tridimas · Thomson Reuters Foundation trust.org, and Julia Khrebtan-Hörhager and Evgeniya Pyatovskaya · The Conversation. “Here’s What We Know about the 1 Million Women and Children Who Have Already Fled Ukraine.” World Economic Forum. Accessed April 19, 2022. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/03/women-flee-and-show-solidarity-as-a-military-offensive-ravages-ukraine. 

“Ukraine Women Share Their Stories from the Border.” Save the Children. Accessed April 19, 2022. https://www.savethechildren.org/us/charity-stories/ukraine-women-stories. 

2022, 29 March. “In Focus: War in Ukraine Is a Crisis for Women and Girls.” UN Women – Headquarters, March 29, 2022. https://www.unwomen.org/en/news-stories/in-focus/2022/03/in-focus-war-in-ukraine-is-a-crisis-for-women-and-girls. 

2022, 3 March. “Op-Ed: What Does the Military Offensive in Ukraine Mean for Women and Girls?” UN Women – Headquarters, March 3, 2022. https://www.unwomen.org/en/news-stories/op-ed/2022/03/op-ed-what-does-the-military-offensive-in-ukraine-mean-for-women-and-girls. 

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