News: The role of women in the military conflict in Ukraine, 21-Sep.-2015

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Amid fighting in eastern Ukraine, high levels of gender-based violence continue to be reported in the conflict zone, including sexual violence. Moreover, women in Ukraine are often excluded from the decision-making level, as well as from the military response to the crisis.

Raising Awareness

To address these issues, the NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Program supported a workshop in Kyiv on 21-22 September, which brought together high-level officials, renowned experts and representatives of Ukraine and the international community. Participants analyzed the specific participation and protection gaps that women and girls face in Ukraine in the current crisis. The workshop served to raise awareness of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, and explored opportunities to increase women’s participation. In this vein, the shortcomings of national legislation on the issue of equal participation of women in conflict resolution and peacebuilding processes were also mentioned.

The event was led by project managers from the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) of Italy and the Center for Development of Democracy (DDC) of Ukraine. “We know the enormous economic problems and the security challenges that this country is facing, and we can understand how difficult it can be in these circumstances to move towards the implementation of a national action plan 1325 and on the full participation of women in the promotion of peace and security . But, despite the current crisis, UNSCR 1325 represents an element of civilization, social improvement and normalization of policies for all countries – and this is the importance of today’s workshop,said Gianni Bonvicini, Executive Vice President of IAI.

More than 110 participants attended the workshop, including representatives of the Ukrainian government, members of the Ukrainian armed forces and civil society, as well as international experts on gender mainstreaming. “The role of civil society in the implementation of UNSCR 1325 is vital. Civil society has been heavily involved in the assessment and development of many allied and partner national action plans, and continues to show its commitment and leadership in the area of ​​women, peace and security”, said Michael Gaul, Senior Advisor for Projects and Strategy in NATO’s Emerging Security Challenges Division.

Strengthened participation

Ms. Iryna Lutsenko, People’s Deputy of Ukraine, shared the experience of women parliamentarians working personally on the front line, where they provided assistance to volunteers and hospitals, and mobilized the community by raising funds to support people internally displaced, most of whom are women and children. “We [women] represent only 12% of Parliament and we could do a lot for our soldiers and our volunteers, as well as for the people living on the front line. Imagine all that could be done if we were only the 30%. Women are not passive. Women can, want and do. she stated.

The important role that women play in the armed forces, most often on a voluntary basis, has been widely discussed. Stereotyping, insufficient institutionalization, lack of adequate wages and social support, and limited rehabilitation programs were among the issues highlighted. These issues represent some of the biggest challenges Ukraine faces in its approval and upcoming implementation of National Action Plan 1325.

We make a great effort to integrate the gender perspective into all the issues we work on and put it on our agenda. We aim to make this one of our company’s top five priorities during this difficult time. I am grateful to the IAI and the SDC for having organized this workshop with the support of NATO. This event will give impetus to our work,” said Serhiy Ustymenko, First Deputy Minister for European Integration Issues at the Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine.

Women continue to play an active role in the military conflict in Ukraine. While there is still much work to be done, beginning an open dialogue and exchange about the many barriers women in Ukraine face today marks an essential first step towards addressing these challenges.

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