Two months into the Russian invasion of Ukraine, life has been shattered in that country with none spared and even the world is having its reverberations. Getting deep into the hardship, women and minorities are facing immense hardship when it comes to health, safety, and access to food.
In the war torn country, women are increasingly becoming heads of households and leaders in their communities as men are conscripted. However, they still remain largely excluded from formal decision-making processes related to humanitarian efforts, peace-making, and other areas that directly impact their lives, according to a new Rapid Gender Analysis by UN Women and CARE.
The analysis, based on surveys and interviews with people in 19 regions in Ukraine between April 2 and 6, sheds a spotlight on the gender dynamics of the crisis and recommends actions for governments, the international community, and other actors to implement m their humanitarian response. Women and Children forms 90 per cent of those who fled the country and 40 per cent who are internally displaced.
LEADERSHIP AND DECISION MAKING
Though Women’s leadership and their role in decision-making has increased, the centralization of power and increased role of the military has made it more difficult for women to exert influence in formal political and administrative decision-making processes, thus decreasing women’s overall participation, the analysis said.
A women community member quoted in the report said, “When it comes to humanitarian needs of displaced people, locals, and households, women do most of the work: they drive, provide hospitals and locals with medication and food, they care about their disabled relatives and children,”
She said, ” decisions are often made quickly and do not adequately reflect the needs and priorities of different groups of women and men, including those most vulnerable and marginalized.
A representative of a women’s CSO quoted in the report said: “The decision-making process has changed. Leading positions are held exclusively by men, as a requirement of wartime, and the process here is not very democratic. Instead, many issues are resolved via directives.”
GENDER EQUALITY AND WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT
Despite notable progress, women still face numerous barriers to their full, equal and meaningful participation in society. The analysis shows that COVID-19 pandemic intensified several of the inequities between women and men, including the gender wage gap, difference in formal labour participation, and concerning reports of domestic violence. The ongoing crisis is revealing further exacerbation of gender inequities, particularly among women facing multiple forms of discrimination.
The UN Women report states that Women’s care burden has increased significantly with the lack of access to education facilities due to security risks, women’s engagement in volunteer activities and men’s absence due to engagement in the armed forces. Moreover, the report notes that the war will increasingly affect unemployment rates among all categories of the population and will likely continue to push women into the unprotected informal sectors of the economy. While many men have become unemployed and are primarily engaging in the armed forces, women report taking on new roles and multiple jobs to make up for the lost family income. Women are also performing vital roles in the humanitarian response in local communities.
However, despite taking on increasing leadership roles in their families and communities, they are largely excluded from formal political and administrative decision-making processes.
SAFETY AND PROTECTION RISKS
The analysis points out incidents of gender-based violence (GBV), particularly domestic violence and conflict-related sexual violence in Ukraine. Women are also confronted with particular challenges in accessing necessary services and are experiencing a greater loss in sources of livelihoods. At the same time, they face increased pressure to provide for their families while male family members are involved in defence activities.
Meanwhile, UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous said, “it’s critical that the humanitarian response in Ukraine takes into account and addresses the different needs of women and girls, men and boys, including those that are furthest left behind.”
Noting that women played important roles in their communities’ humanitarian response, she said women must be meaningfully involved in the planning and decision-making processes to make sure that their specific needs are met, especially those related to health, safety, and access to livelihoods.
CARE International Secretary General Sofia Sprechmann Sineiro said, “what we are hearing from the people of Ukraine is that certainly groups, such as those with disabilities, Roma and other ethnic minorities, single mothers, and unaccompanied children are each in need of different forms of protection and assistance. To keep our response effective and relevant, such groups must be consulted and prioritized across the aid ecosystem as this truly devastating situation continues to evolve.”
- Ensure that humanitarian assistance addresses the needs of women, men, girls, and boys in vulnerable situations and from different marginalized groups, especially the Roma community, the elderly, and people with disabilities.
- Prioritize women and young people to equally lead the response and be part of decision-making
- Support women-led and women’s rights organizations engaged in the response through provision of financial resources and by amplifying their voices at national and international platforms
- Provide displaced women and men with options for vocational training and livelihoods, remaining mindful of changing gender roles.
- Make access to shelters inclusive and non-discriminatory, Collective shelters should offer sex-segregated and/or family. segregated accommodation.
- Alleviate home schooling burdens by encourag ing families to redistribute care work.
- Design cash assistance to reach the most vulnerable and at-risk women, especially in occupied territories, areas of active hostilities, and rural localities. – Fill gaps in services to respond to gender-based violence,
- Make sexual and reproductive health and maternal, newborn, and child health care a priority, including the clinical care of sexual assault survivors and ensuring access to contraception,