As the conflict in Ukraine rages on, we are looking at how women and girls in this crisis are disproportionately affected.
Since February 24th, 2022, the world has watched as Ukraine continues to endure the Russian invasion. With more than 7.8 million Ukrainian refugees registered across Europe, the situation remains bleak. One group that has suffered disproportionately in the face of this ongoing war has been women. It’s no secret that conflict generally burdens women and children to a greater extent than their male counterparts, and the Ukraine invasion is no exception, widening the gap between men and women in several areas and undoing years of progress. The plight of women embroiled in this war manifests in several ways:
Disrupted Access to Reproductive Healthcare Services
Basic services, such as sexual and reproductive healthcare and information, have been rendered almost inaccessible since the invasion took place – particularly services in areas of conflict. The scarcity of health services has placed great strain on women, particularly the 265,000 Ukrainian women who were believed to be pregnant when the war broke out, and the more than 900 babies who have been born into the conflict every day since February 24th.
Due to the distressing backdrop, many of these women will have undergone pregnancy complications, as a pregnancy characterized by stress and anxiety carries a considerable risk of miscarriage, premature birth, and babies with compromised immune systems. Though women are increasingly giving birth in hospitals rather than underground basements as we saw in the earlier days of the conflict, hospitals remain overwhelmed.
Greater Risk of Child Marriage
Given the financial desperation of many families in Ukraine and globally, there is a greater risk of young girls being extracted from education and forced into marriage before the age of 18, in order to produce some income for their families.
Increased Gender-based Violence
The invasion has reportedly occasioned a spike in gender-based violence, sex work for food and survival, sexual exploitation, and human trafficking – both in Ukraine and around the world. In many of the European countries receiving refugees, sex trade workers are reportedly preying on vulnerable women and minors, offering shelter under false pretenses.
Reduced Food Intake
Owing to food shortages and inflated prices, women are skipping meals and eating less to ensure their families and others are fed properly.
Additional Care Responsibilities
Reduced access to social services and scarcity of community resources has placed a greater care burden on women, who are left with no choice but to assume responsibility for disabled and elderly family members, in addition to their children.
What Is Being Done?
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is among the numerous organizations striving to improve the situation for Ukrainian women; they have introduced mobile clinics and support teams who are providing reproductive healthcare services in less accessible areas of the country.
Furthermore, UNFPA has created more online services where gender-based violence survivors can seek support. Health facilities around the country are also now privy to increased distribution of medical supplies.
What Can You Do?
In today’s world, being physically distant from the conflict is no barrier to helping out amid the crisis in Ukraine. Fortunately, there are things you can do to contribute to the female-focused efforts being made around the world:
- You can donate to trusted initiatives supporting women and girls in Ukraine, such as the Ukrainian Women’s Fund, Feminist Workshop, Razom Emergency Response, and Global Fund For Children.
- Post on your social media accounts with a donation link. This is a great platform for spreading awareness of the situation, whilst also gathering funds.
- Use your birthday as an opportunity to raise money by asking for donations from your friends and followers!
– Katie Lestner
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