Responding to the war in Ukraine
We're working with local partners to meet the needs of women affected by the war
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has shattered the lives of millions of people. A third of Ukrainians have been forced from their homes, making this the world’s largest human displacement crisis. Women and children make up the majority of those both internally displaced and those who have fled the war to neighboring countries.
Violence against women
Allegations of conflict-related sexual violence in Ukraine are commonplace. The United Nations has collected more than a hundred such reports but believes that number is just the “tip of the iceberg”.
Women survivors of sexual violence and those who’ve been displaced are finding it difficult to come to terms with their trauma. They need urgent psychological and medical help as well as vital practical support to rebuild their lives.
leading from experience
Žene za Žene International's Director, Seida Sarić, who lived through the siege of Sarajevo and built up a highly effective programme for survivors of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, is now leading our response to the needs of marginalised women in this war.
She shared: "Russian invasion of Ukraine reminds me so much of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I lived through the war for four years. It’s our turn now to support women in Ukraine."
Assessing the situation on the ground
Seida and her team visited Medyka, Hrebenne and Korczowa in Poland, at the border of Ukraine, to understand the needs of women crossing the border.
In her conversations with women refugees, they shared their personal stories full of bitter sadness, deep grief and feelings of survivor's guilt, having had to leave their country and family members behind.
Watch this video from their visit to the border to learn more.
Our Partners & Programmes
Bereginia, The Mariupol Women’s Association
Alongside Bereginia and HumanDoc Foundation in Poland, we serve women and children evacuated from Mariupol.
Together with our partners, we offer dedicated spaces for women refugees to gather and psychosocial support, including art therapy, to begin the healing process.
As they adapt to life in a new country, we also provide legal counsel, vocational skills so the women can become financially independent and support obtaining accommodation.
Refugees from Ukraine themselves, the mother and daughter team Myrna and Kateryna who lead Bereginia, share the pain of the women we serve. It gives them a unique and powerful insight into supporting their needs.
Kateryna shared how the survivors that were evacuated from Mariupol spent weeks in shelters and cellars without access to water, heating or food and are severely traumatised from their experience. Some of the women have been raped and subjected to sexual violence.
Through these local partners, we are working to provide critical services such as:
- Dedicated, safer spaces for women to gather
- Medical care including psychological and gynecological consultations with doctors
- Gender-based violence counselling and prevention strategies
- Trauma-informed care and psychosocial support
- Legal assistance
One of the ways Bereginia is supporting Ukrainian women and children in Poland is through art therapy
The road to recovery for these women won't be easy but, in partnership with Bereginia - Mariupol’s Women’s Association, we are standing alongside them every step of the way by providing services that can help them rebuild their lives- one of them being art therapy.
Read our blog to learn more about the various art therapy activities facilited by Bereginia for women and children who fled the war in Ukraine.
The Andreev Foundation
Together with The Andreev Foundation, we’re supporting mobile teams of psychologists who travel to reach women survivors in areas of Ukraine that were formerly occupied by Russian forces.
Women who survive conflict-related sexual violence are often reluctant to come forward and access help. Following their ordeal, many women describe a sense of apathy. Iryna Andreeva, Co-Founder of The Andreev Foundation shared,
Women survivors of war in Ukraine tell us they don’t know how to deal with what’s happened to them. They speak about losing the will to live, a “black void” and struggling to look after themselves and their children.
We build trust with women in those communities, providing survivors of sexual violence with psychological aid as well as raising awareness of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, in order to support larger numbers of women suffering from war-related trauma.
For those women survivors of sexual violence who remain in the occupied territories of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, together with our partner we are setting up a hotline for women to receive psychological counselling. In addition, we're also providing skills training for internally displaced women to access new job opportunities.
We’re supporting women who’ve been internally displaced to regain their financial independence, alongside local women’s rights organisation Dom4824. We’re setting up a co-working beauty salon in Ivano-Frankivsk for several women to offer beauty and cosmetic treatments. The space will also provide occupational therapy and practical training for other internally displaced women to learn the skills they need to start their own business.
The lives of millions of people from Ukraine have been shattered by the Russian invasion - but thanks to the healing power of art therapy, women still have hope.
It has been 100 days since Russia invaded Ukraine. With each day that passes, more and more women are at risk of sexual violence. Olena Behnke fled from Ukraine two months ago. She now works for Women for Women International, supporting other women refugees. Read her blog as the war continues.
Marianne Kajokaya is our Country Director in South Sudan. In this blog, she shares how the war in Ukraine is affecting women in some of the world's poorest communities where we work in South Sudan.