Press Release: In Moldova, UN Women Executive Director commits to advancing the empowerment and resilience of Moldovan and refugee women

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(Chisinau, 11 April) UN Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous visited the Republic of Moldova from 8 to 10 April to reaffirm UN Women’s commitment as a key partner to advance gender equality and women’s leadership in the country. During her visit, Bahous emphasized UN Women’s determination to support Moldova’s efforts as a host country to the thousands of refugees fleeing the war in neighbouring Ukraine.

The Executive Director met with refugee women, children and the elderly at a temporary placement centre in Costesti, 20 km from capital Chisinau, Moldova. Photo: Aurel Obreja / UN Women
The Executive Director met with refugee women, children and the elderly at a temporary placement centre in Costesti, 20 km from capital Chisinau, Moldova. Photo: Aurel Obreja / UN Women
The Executive Director met with refugee women, children and the elderly at a temporary placement centre in Costesti, 20 km from capital Chisinau, Moldova. Photo: Aurel Obreja / UN Women

More than 374 thousand refugees have arrived in Moldova since the beginning of the war. The country is facing one of the biggest humanitarian crises in recent history. Women and girls make the majority of refugees fleeing Ukraine and they account for 66 per cent of all Ukrainian refugees displaced in Moldova according to UN Women data based on information from the border police.

UN Women Executive Director met with the UN Resident Coordinator Simon Springett and the UNHCR Representative Francesca Bonneli to discuss the role and contribution of UN Women to the coordinated refugee response, as well as the UN support to the implementation of the development agenda, particularly regarding gender equality.

UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous with an elderly refugee couple at the Costesti placement center in Moldova. Photo: Aurel Obreja / UN Women
UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous with an elderly refugee couple at the Costesti placement center in Moldova. Photo: Aurel Obreja / UN Women
UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous with an elderly refugee couple at the Costesti placement center in Moldova. Photo: Aurel Obreja / UN Women
UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous with a refugee with disability at the Costesti placement center in Moldova. Photo: Aurel Obreja / UN Women
UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous with a refugee with disability at the Costesti placement center in Moldova. Photo: Aurel Obreja / UN Women
UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous with a refugee with disability at the Costesti placement center in Moldova. Photo: Aurel Obreja / UN Women
UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous with Tudor Mancaș, General State Secretary of the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection of Moldova at the Moldexpo placement center in Moldova. Photo: Nadejda Roscovanu / UN Women
UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous with Tudor Mancaș, General State Secretary of the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection of Moldova at the Moldexpo placement center in Moldova. Photo: Nadejda Roscovanu / UN Women
UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous with Tudor Mancaș, General State Secretary of the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection of Moldova at the Moldexpo placement center in Moldova. Photo: Nadejda Roscovanu / UN Women

Bahous visited two temporary refugee placement centres, one in the capital, Chisinau, and another one in Costesti, 20 km from the capital, where she met with Ukrainian refugees. “The stories of women, children and older persons who have fled the war in Ukraine are deeply moving. One thing they all say is that they hope to go back to their homes soon. But some of them have no homes anymore to go back to. I commend the Moldovan society for opening their homes and hearts to the people of Ukraine. Refugees receive essential support here from the government, civil society, individuals, and UN organizations, including UN Women,” said Bahous.

UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous with Moldovan Border Police officer at the Palanca border crossing in Moldova. Photo: Aurel Obreja / UN Women
UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous with Moldovan Border Police officer at the Palanca border crossing in Moldova. Photo: Aurel Obreja / UN Women
UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous with Moldovan Border Police officer at the Palanca border crossing in Moldova. Photo: Aurel Obreja / UN Women
UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous with refugee women from Ukraine at the Palanca border crossing in Moldova. Photo: Aurel Obreja / UN Women
UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous with refugee women from Ukraine at the Palanca border crossing in Moldova. Photo: Aurel Obreja / UN Women
UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous with refugee women from Ukraine at the Palanca border crossing in Moldova. Photo: Aurel Obreja / UN Women
UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous with volunteers at the Costesti placement center in Moldova. Photo: Aurel Obreja / UN Women
UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous with volunteers at the Costesti placement center in Moldova. Photo: Aurel Obreja / UN Women
UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous with volunteers at the Costesti placement center in Moldova. Photo: Aurel Obreja / UN Women

The Executive Director also visited the Palanca – Mayaki-Udobnoe Border crossing in southeastern Moldova where thousands of refugees arrive every day to escape the war in Ukraine. She spoke to the border police, volunteers and the refugees crossing the border. “What I have seen here is a very dignified, organized, and disciplined reception of mostly women and children. UN Women is supporting the efforts here and collaborating with the police and government of Moldova. The important thing is that, as UN Women and the UN System, we ensure that the refugees are protected and well taken care of, and that women are engaged as leaders in the response,” said the Executive Director.

A refugee with disability from Ukraine arrives at the Palanca border crossing in Moldova. With support from Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), UN Women responded to the request of the border police and provided wheelchairs and walkers to support the needs of refugees with limited mobility, including the elderly and mothers with small babies. Photo: Aurel Obreja / UN Women
A refugee with disability from Ukraine arrives at the Palanca border crossing in Moldova. With support from Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), UN Women responded to the request of the border police and provided wheelchairs and walkers to support the needs of refugees with limited mobility, including the elderly and mothers with small babies. Photo: Aurel Obreja / UN Women
A refugee with disability from Ukraine arrives at the Palanca border crossing in Moldova. With support from Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), UN Women responded to the request of the border police and provided wheelchairs and walkers to support the needs of refugees with limited mobility, including the elderly and mothers with small babies. Photo: Aurel Obreja / UN Women

In cooperation with local authorities and civil society organisations, UN Women supported 2000 refugee women and their children in temporary placement centres in Moldova by providing most essential needs. In coordination with the border police, UN Women provided wheelchairs and walkers to assist elderly people and women with small babies at the border crossings. Meanwhile, through the Women, Peace and Humanitarian Fund, UN Women is financially supporting civil society organisations to raise awareness about sexual and gender-based violence and respond to the most urgent needs of women and children.

UN Women is working with partners to ensure that there is up-to-date data on and analysis of the gender dynamics of the refugee crisis which is critical for supporting humanitarian actors in ensuring a gender-responsive refugee response. UN Women and IOM issued a survey which offers important data and analysis on refugee needs, intentions and displacement patterns.

UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous with high-level government officials of the Republic of Moldova. Photo: Aurel Obreja / UN Women
UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous with high-level government officials of the Republic of Moldova. Photo: Aurel Obreja / UN Women
UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous with high-level government officials of the Republic of Moldova. Photo: Aurel Obreja / UN Women

While in Moldova, Sima Bahous also met with high-level government officials, including Oleg Serebrian, the Deputy Prime Minister on Reintegration; Ana Revenco, the Minister of Internal Affairs; Dumitru Udrea, the General Secretary of the Government and Sergiu Odainic, the General Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration. They discussed UN Women’s development work in the country as well as its support during the refugee crisis.

“It is important to continue our strong partnership with the Government of the Republic of Moldova to advance gender equality, women’s leadership, and economic empowerment. As long as the refugee crisis continues, it will be important to prioritize the resilience of both the host and the refugee community women. I am impressed with the strong focus on gender equality in country and the advancements made on women´s leadership at the highest level of government,” stressed Bahous.

“We are glad to acknowledge the good cooperation between the United Nations and intergovernmental institutions, in particular the positive collaboration with UN Women in the promotion of the Women, Peace, and Security agenda, as women play a crucial role in peacebuilding and negotiation processes. We would also like to express our appreciation for UN Women’s contribution to the humanitarian response, the direct support offered to women and girl refugees from Ukraine,” said Oleg Serebrian, the Deputy Prime Minister on Reintegration.

“We have two agendas on our table, we have the crisis agenda, but we equally have our development and reform agenda. Given the current situation, it is now more important than ever for UN Women to build on the current programmes, namely in providing capacity and economic opportunities for women and youth as well as supporting development of communities considering that now there are a lot of families from rural communities who are hosting refugees.” said Ana Revenco, the Minister of Internal Affairs.

The Secretary General of the Government, Dumitru Udrea, expressed his appreciation for the continuous support offered by UN Women over the years in the implementation of gender policies and said, “I am confident that the partnership between the Government of the Republic of Moldova and UN Women will help our country in promoting gender equality at all levels, in particular with mainstreaming gender equality perspective in all policies, so that we can advance with the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development to benefit every citizen and leave no one behind.”

Sergiu Odainic, the General Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration, acknowledged the important cooperation with UN Women, namely the recent launch of the gender audit at the Ministry and said that “its findings will contribute to strengthening the institutional capacities to mainstream gender equality in the foreign policy documents, internal processes and structures.”

UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous with Moldovan parliamentarians. Photo: Aurel Obreja / UN Women
UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous with Moldovan parliamentarians. Photo: Aurel Obreja / UN Women
UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous with Moldovan parliamentarians. Photo: Aurel Obreja / UN Women

Sima Bahous also met with Members of Parliament (MPs) and congratulated their remarkable achievements on gender equality legislation in 2021, including the ratification of the Istanbul Convention and provision of alternative childcare services. “These milestone achievements would not have been possible had Moldova not reached the highest ever number of women in its Parliament,” said Bahous. 

After the 2021 elections, women MPs comprised 40 per cent of the Parliament. Moldova is also the only country in Europe and one of the two globally to have a woman President and Prime Minister.