Ukraine crisis is gendered, so is our response


Ukraine crisis is gendered, so is our response
A scene from the Palanca-Maiaki-Udobnoe border crossing point, between the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine on 4 March 2022. Photo: UN Women/Aurel Obreja

On 24 February 2022, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, dangerously escalating more than eight years of conflict. Since then, the war has caused untold death, destruction, displacement and human suffering, leaving a staggering 17.7 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.[1] Nearly one-third of Ukraine’s population have been forced to flee their homes. Around 60 per cent of the 7.7 million internally displaced adults are women while 90 per cent of the 5.6 million refugees who fled Ukraine are women and children, making it one of the most gendered displacement crises of our times.

Since the onset of the crisis, women have played a crucial role in responding to their communities’ needs. In Ukraine and host countries, women-led organizations have been on the frontlines, providing vital services to those displaced by the war, particularly the most vulnerable among them. Women-led civil society organizations have an intimate knowledge of their communities’ needs and are thus ideally positioned to respond to them. However, women’s groups remain largely underfunded and excluded from formal decision-making processes that seek to identify humanitarian priorities, compromising the response’s effectiveness in meeting the needs of women and girls. 

A scene from the Palanca-Maiaki-Udobnoe border crossing point, between the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine on 4 March 2022.
A scene from the Palanca-Maiaki-Udobnoe border crossing point, between the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine on 4 March 2022. Photo: UN Women/Aurel Obreja

UN Women firmly believes that leveraging women’s participation and leadership in the crisis response is not only vital to ensure that humanitarian efforts respond to the gender-specific and intersectional needs of affected communities, but also a strategic investment in stronger community engagement, resilience, and self-reliance.  To help women-led groups respond swiftly to the unfolding crisis, UN Women re-allocated funds from its existing programmes in Ukraine and Moldova and through the Women, Peace and Humanitarian Fund, allowing these organizations to be a lifeline for many displaced women and girls, in Ukraine and host countries.   

To inform the crisis response in Ukraine and the region, UN Women has been at the forefront of efforts to bridge the gender knowledge gap through providing analyses identifying the different needs, capacities and coping strategies of women, men, boys, and girls. Thanks to such efforts, Ukraine’s Flash Appeal took account of the gendered nature of the displacement and refugee flows and the particular threats that women and girls face such as gender-based violence, conflict-related sexual violence, sexual exploitation and abuse and human trafficking.

Leveraging its unique triple mandate, UN Women has been leading coordination among crisis responders, including national partners, UN agencies, and international and local NGOs, to place gendered needs at the heart of humanitarian efforts, and ensure the allocation of adequate funding to meet those needs.  To this end, UN Women has been chairing the Gender in Humanitarian Action Working Group in Ukraine to promote the meaningful participation of women-led and women’s rights organisations in the coordination system of the humanitarian response. Similarly, UN women has co-chaired the Gender Task Force in Moldova to ensure that gender perspective is mainstreamed in the country’s response to refugees’ needs.

As part of the Regional Refugee Response, UN Women established and has co-chaired a Regional Gender Taskforce made up of nearly 40 organisations to support gender mainstreaming in the UN’s response in host countries, including Moldova, Romania, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary. The Taskforce provides gender trainings to humanitarian actors and undertakes regional analysis and advocacy work to inform the refugee response across the region.

As the crisis evolves, so do the needs, priorities and aspirations of women and girls across Ukraine and host countries. With its national and international partners, UN Women is committed to work relentlessly not only to provide gender-responsive support to women and girls, but also to tap into their skills and leadership to rebuild better and more equal Ukraine. 

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