Expert’s Take: By supporting local women’s organisations, we tap into a powerhouse of expertise that starts from the ground up
By Nina Levchuk, co-founder of Impact Force.
Nina Levchuk is the co-founder of Impact Force, a pioneering Ukrainian women-led non-profit organization that focuses on social behavioural change and economic opportunities. Nina is also the founder of United for Ukraine, an initiative dedicated to addressing Ukraine’s emergency needs and galvanizing collective action to rebuild the country. With support from the Government of Japan, UN Women has partnered with Impact Force to increase livelihood opportunities for Ukrainian women affected by the war, including in Poland.
With Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the world faced its largest humanitarian crisis since World War II. While international agencies faced delays in responding, local humanitarians, including women, swiftly mobilized. Their efforts have been crucial to address the urgent and evolving humanitarian needs. Yet, local responders, particularly women’s groups, remain largely under-funded and side-lined in the design and delivery of crisis response. This is a missed opportunity.
Local women’s organizations have a profound understanding of their communities’ humanitarian needs, rooted in their intimate knowledge of the political, social, and economic context. With their unique vantage point on challenges and opportunities within their society, they can anticipate obstacles and chart pathways to address critical needs during crises.
Involving local organizations in the design and delivery of crisis response is therefore pivotal. Closer international collaboration with these organizations not only ensures that the response is contextually relevant, but also maximizes its impact. Their involvement cultivates a holistic and inclusive perspective that ensures effective, compassionate, and relevant support is extended to affected communities. Thus, strengthening the internal capacities of women-led local civil society is critical for effective crisis response. By enhancing their capacities, we harness their ability to swiftly identify and address pressing issues specific to their context, ensuring that crisis response is both timely and relevant.
Moreover, empowering women-led local civil society bolsters their capability to advocate for gender-inclusive solutions. They can effectively advocate for policies and actions that address the unique challenges women face during crises, ensuring a more inclusive and equitable response.
Furthermore, these organizations serve as a crucial bridge of trust between affected populations and response efforts. Strengthening their internal capacities helps them disseminate accurate information, engage with community members, and deliver assistance effectively, all of which contribute to fostering a sense of security and resilience. With their knowledge of the social and cultural dimensions of the crisis, women’s groups can ensure that response strategies respect cultural sensitivities, essential for community buy-in and acceptance.
Lastly, the empowerment of women-led local civil society reflects a commitment to diversity and inclusion in decision-making processes. It amplifies the voices of women in leadership roles, paving the way for more comprehensive and holistic solutions that address the unique needs of women and contribute to a more effective and inclusive crisis response. In short, by empowering local women’s organization, we’re not just offering support; we’re igniting a movement of positive change that ripples across neighbourhoods, countries and beyond.