One year of war in Ukraine has devastating impacts for women and children

One year ago, as Russia invaded Ukraine, Zonta International, a global organization dedicated to working for the advancement of understanding, goodwill and peace through a world fellowship of members and promoting justice and universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, strongly condemned the foreign aggression and acts of war in Ukraine. Today, as we mark one year of war in Ukraine, we recognize our Zonta members in Ukraine who immediately mobilized in the early days of the war to provide support and services to displaced women and children. They have been a consistent beacon of light and hope for their fellow Ukrainians even as they have endured the horrors of war themselves.

We know that in times of conflict and war, women and girls, especially those who are displaced from their homes, are at increased risk of sexual and gender-based violence. Women also bear the primary burden of keeping their families together, ensuring the safety and wellbeing of their children and addressing the long-term emotional and physical damage inflicted by war. Unfortunately, Ukrainian women and girls are bearing the brunt of these challenges and so much more as illustrated in a UN policy paper about the devastating impacts of the Ukraine war on women and girls. The report highlights how the increasing rates of food insecurity, malnutrition and energy poverty are also having devastating impacts for women and girls. Ukraine is witnessing an alarming increase in gender-based violence, transactional sex for food, child marriage with girls forced to leave school, increased unpaid care and domestic work, and damage to women’s and girls’ physical and mental health.

Families are sadly facing another horror in the ongoing war in Ukraine, as Russia has forcibly relocated thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia, as detailed in this report by the Conflict Observatory. There are strict legal guidelines for the treatment of children who have been separated from their families during times of war; therefore, experts are calling Russia’s removal of children a clear violation of international human rights laws. 

As a global community of individuals working to build a better world for women and girls, Zonta International will continue to build and support a global community of diverse individuals who share a common commitment to equality and peace for all. We join together to call on our national leaders and other parties working on the ground in Ukraine to ensure that their responses to the ongoing and multiple crises in Ukraine address the unique needs of women and girls, while demanding the safe return of all Ukrainian children. 

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23 FEBRUARY 2023