Women, War, and Leadership: A Gendered Perspective on Peace and Conflict in Ukraine

On the occasion of a visit to the United States of a delegation of Ukrainian women leaders, IPI and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) co-hosted a virtual event on the gender dimensions of the war in Ukraine on Thursday, May 19th. The delegation included members of the Ukrainian parliament, human rights advocates, anti-corruption experts, and influential civil society activists who shared information about the ongoing war in Ukraine and the external support needed to advance a peace process.

Women and girls always suffer from the atrocities of war, yet they are not just silent victims. From the first days of the war in Ukraine, Ukrainian women have fought in the military and territorial defense forces, served on the diplomatic and informational front lines, and played a central role in decision making. They have saved dozens of lives as doctors, nurses, hospital workers, volunteers, activists, and train conductors. They have given birth in metro stations and basements used as bomb shelters. They continue to support the economy through their work in agriculture, manufacturing, information technology, and the service sector, as well as by running businesses. Those living overseas have organized mass protests in countries all over the world.

However, hundreds of women and girls in Ukraine have become victims of sexual assault and torture committed by the Russian army, and reports have documented the increasing use of rape as a weapon of war. At the same time, women and girls who have fled to Poland struggle to access abortions and are vulnerable to human trafficking and victimization by their hosts. As most men are prohibited from leaving Ukraine, many women refugees also bear multiple burdens as caretakers of children and the elderly and the sole breadwinners for their families.

Despite the critical role women are playing in Ukraine, the perspective of women has been noticeably absent from the dominant narratives about the war. To remedy this, this event provided a gender perspective on the war in Ukraine, focusing on the vital need for women’s involvement in both a potential peace process and the eventual process of national reconstruction.

Opening Remarks:
Dr. Adam Lupel, IPI Vice President and COO
Mr. Marcel Röthig, Director, Ukraine and Moldova Office, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung

Speakers:
Ms. Halyna Yanchenko, Member, Ukrainian Parliament
Ms. Olena Tregub, Secretary General, Independent Defence Anti-Corruption Committee (NAKO)

Moderator:
Dr. Phoebe Donnelly, IPI Senior Fellow and Head of the Women, Peace, and Security Program