Located in the heart of Eastern Europe, Ukraine is a fertile country of some 43 million people, 78 per cent of whom are ethnic Ukrainian, with a sizeable minority of Russians.
Ranked 56th in World Economic Forum’s 2014 Global Gender Gap Index, Ukraine has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and has signed but not yet ratified the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women.
Ukraine is currently experiencing conflict, instability and insecurity. After large anti-government demonstrations in Kiev led to a change in government in February 2014, Russia annexed Crimea and the government lost control of parts of ‘Donbas’ – the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk – to non-state armed groups.
This conflict has directly affected at least 3.9 million of Donbas’ 5.2 million people and had a significant detrimental impact on human welfare and social and economic conditions. Since the beginning of the conflict, 9,098 people have been killed, including at least 671 women and girls, 20,732 have been injured and at least 1200 people have been missing in the conflict area of eastern Ukraine.
Gender discrimination is widespread in Ukraine. Gender norms are narrowly defined with traditional, patriarchal views and values reinforced by media and school curriculums. The on-going conflict in eastern Ukraine has deepened gender stereotypes that emphasise men as protectors and heroes and women as caring supporters, and limited women’s engagement and involvement in conflict resolution.
Both Government and development partners persistently underinvest in gender equality or in programs that target women’s role in the governance, economy or in peace and security.
Persistent gender inequality in economic opportunities and discrimination has limited women’s access to employment and income, exacerbated gender gaps in employment and promotion, and led to horizontal and vertical occupational gender segregation in the labour market. Women are concentrated in traditionally `female` occupational areas, such as education, health care and social security, public administration, and administrative and support services, with, subsequently, lower remuneration levels. Vertical segregation leads women to be mainly occupy lower positions: men prevail among the top managers, in both the public and private sectors of the economy. Women make a majority in care and domestic work, with limited control over assets and productive resources.
To date, little has been done to support women facing compound discrimination, particularly if they are elderly, have disabilities, ethnic minorities or internally displaced by armed conflict.
Gender-based violence is persistent in Ukraine, with 90 % of cases of violence against women. Political instability and conflict have had a significant detrimental impact on gender equality and the situation of women in the country.
More than 1.5 million people – two-thirds of them women and children – have been internally displaced since the conflict and suffer from impeded access to healthcare, housing and employment. This has had a severe impact on social cohesion, community security and the resilience of vulnerable groups, such as internally displaced people, with a particularly negative impact on women.
A lack of access to social and childcare services and strained community resources make both internally displaced and local women largely responsible for the care for children, disabled and elderly family members, and made it harder for them to find employment.
Women's participation in decision-making over recovery and peacebuilding remains extremely low. Women hold only 12% of seats in the parliament and make 11% of the Cabinet of Ministers. State authorities and civil society organizations have limited capacity to provide support to families broken up by conflict, to children separated from their families or to women, often with children or elderly relatives, forced by conflict to leave their homes and communities.
UN Women has worked in Ukraine since 1999 to help the country meet its gender equality commitments and unlock progress for both women and men. Since 2015 UN Women has been scaling-up its presence and programme. UN Women facilitates gender mainstreaming in humanitarian needs assessments and planning to better meet acute and lifesaving humanitarian needs. UN Women supports greater engagement of women, particularly those facing compound discrimination due to displacement, age, disability, ethnic or other backgrounds. UN Women also contributes to recovery and peacebuilding efforts advocating for and supporting implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. Thus, UN Women builds capacity of the state institutions on inclusive development and effective implementation of the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security. UN Women focuses on community-level consultations and trainings for women activists as a response to their most urgent demands for information and capacity-building. UN Women supports groups of women committed to dialogue in and with the eastern region to help identifying the main dividing lines and most importantly a common ground for action. UN Women strives to support longer-term national reforms, while promoting gender equality and women’s rights and accountability. UN Women is working closely with the UN Country Team to support gender mainstreaming efforts in UN action in the country.
Fully aligned with Ukraine’s national development priorities as well as the new challenges, UN Women works with the Government, parliament, civil society and women’s groups to support projects and initiatives in the following thematic areas:
- Women’s leadership and political participation
- Women, Peace and Security
- National planning and budgeting