Reports of human rights violations against Ukrainian populations have steadily mounted since Russia invaded the country in February. Russian troops’ indiscriminate use of violence against Ukrainian civilians has grown more extreme as the conflict drags on. As with many conflict situations, violence against Ukrainian women and girls has increased drastically since Russia’s invasion. Several women’s rights groups operating in Ukraine recently brought the issue of sexual violence to the attention of the U.N. Security Council. The council heard from several community leaders and nonprofit founders, including Ukrainian Women’s Fund Co-founder, Natalia Karbowska. Countless U.N. members reasserted their commitment to end conflict-based sexual violence, vowing to center humanitarian relief efforts on the experiences of women and girls.
The U.N. Security Council meeting raised international awareness of the plight of women and girls in conflict-ridden areas. Despite this, women in violent regions across the world continue to be vulnerable to sexual violence as the use of rape as a tactic of war remains prevalent. The recent Security Council briefing on the rights of Ukrainian women and refugees has provided a step in the right direction although there is still much that Ukraine needs to do to address the issue.
Support from Women-Led Organizations in Ukraine
Luckily, countless locally based, women-led organizations in Ukraine are working tirelessly to protect those most vulnerable to acts of conflict-based sexual violence. These organizations have the best ability to attend to the needs of women who the conflict most affected due to their geographic and cultural proximity to affected populations. Large multi-national entities such as U.N. Women work to bolster the resources available to local women’s rights organizations in Ukraine and the surrounding region. In addition to the United Nations, a multitude of international non-profit organizations are also rallying behind women-led civil groups operating in and around Ukraine.
The Ukrainian Women’s Fund
The Ukrainian Women’s Fund (UWF) leverages long-established partnerships with local civil society organizations to aid Ukrainian women in crisis. The UWF has provided financial, information and consultation support to civic organizations and women’s rights groups in Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus since the organization’s establishment in 2000. The toll of the Russian invasion on Ukrainian women and girls led the UWF to adopt emergency measures in an effort to support women’s rights in Ukraine. The UWF implemented a series of rapid response grants to women-led civil societies and nonprofits operating in every region of Ukraine shortly after the conflict broke out.
The UWF was able to provide 37 grants ($300,000) to women’s organizations throughout Ukraine before the 30th day of the conflict. These rapid response grants work to provide food, water, shelter and other necessities alongside emergency psychosocial and transportation services. The UWF additionally receives support from Prospera, the International Network of Women’s Funds. Prospera ensures that the UWF can mobilize resources effectively to support rapid response grantees. All UWF donations go into rapid response grants for locally-led women’s foundations operating in Ukraine.
Women’s Perspectives is a Ukraine-based feminist organization that is dedicated to upholding women’s rights and supporting equal rights. Since its establishment in 1998, the Lviv-based nonprofit works to address issues of gender-based violence within Ukraine. With the current prevalence of conflict-based sexual violence against Ukrainian women, Women’s Perspectives took on several emergency measures to provide support to Ukrainian women. The organization created several safe haven shelters for women still stranded within Lviv. The shelters provide women with food, hygiene products and health care while also providing asylum resources and psychological support.
Women’s Perspectives works with local businesses as well as civil societies in other regions of Ukraine to bolster its’ outreach and support of Ukrainian women. Additionally, Women’s Perspectives is a vocal advocate for women’s rights in Ukraine both locally and internationally. The organization’s research on sexual violence within the context of the Russian war was key to the report that the U.N. Security Council reviewed in early June. Women’s Perspectives has also organized several women’s rights marches within the city of Lviv, reinforcing the will of Ukrainian women involved in the conflict. Donating to Women’s Perspectives will directly help women affected by the conflict while supporting an organization that amplifies the experiences and needs of women.
The Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Rights
The Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Rights initiated a rapid response grant system aimed at supporting women and other marginalized populations at the outset of the war in Ukraine. Since its establishment in 1997, the Urgent Action Fund has addressed the immediate needs of those in the conflict by providing grants for emergency resources and services. Additionally, the Urgent Action Fund remains committed to protecting frontline women-led organizations and activists who are braving the threat of violence to provide direct support for those who remain within conflict zones. As of April 12, 2022, the Urgent Action Fund had provided 30 grants to women-led organizations throughout Ukraine.
The Urgent Action Fund remains dedicated to centering female leaders in future reconciliation efforts, a peacebuilding strategy that has proven highly effective in reaching lasting cooperation. In the future, the Urgent Action Fund seeks to further bolster women’s rights in Ukraine by partnering with activists and organizations in the countries bordering Ukraine. Donations to the Urgent Action Fund’s Ukraine will be distributed towards technical support, such as survival training, evacuation assistance, legal, financial and medical support and access to shelter and communication channels.
A Look Ahead
Charities and foundations similar to those listed above are working to support the rights of women affected by the conflict. A minimal monthly donation to any of the organizations will help in the fight against conflict-based sexual violence and gender-based violence.
– Mollie Lund