War in Ukraine: reports reveal that women are stepping up, impact on education

The war in Ukraine is having a disproportionate impact on women and minorities, who face immense challenges in health, security and access to food, according to a UN-backed report focused on changing gender dynamics of the conflict.

The study by UN Women and the international humanitarian organization CARE is based on surveys and interviews with people in 19 regions of Ukraine, conducted between 2 and 6 April.

Women are increasingly becoming heads of families and leaders in their communities as men are drafted into the fighting, which is now in its third month.

Meet different needs

However, women remain largely excluded from formal decision-making processes related to humanitarian efforts, peacemaking and other areas that have a direct impact on their lives.

“It is essential that the humanitarian response in Ukraine takes into account and responds to the different needs of women and girls, men and boys, including those who are most left behind,” said Sima Bahous, Executive Director of UN Women.

The rapid gender analysis found the impacts of war are particularly disproportionate for displaced people and marginalized groupssuch as female-headed households, the Roma community, people with disabilities and lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex or asexual (LGBTQIA+) people.

Many Roma said they were victims of serious discrimination, both in their daily struggle and in access to humanitarian aid.

Unpaid care load

Gender roles are also changing. While many men found themselves unemployed or called up to serve in the armed forces, women took on new roles and multiple jobs to compensate for the loss of household income.

Women’s unpaid workload increased dramatically due to the Russian invasion, school closures, high demand for volunteer work, and the absence of men at the front.

Women and girls also highlighted poor access to health services, especially for survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) and pregnant women, pregnant women and new mothers. They also spoke of growing fears of GBV and lack of food, especially for those living in areas of intense conflict.

Many respondents mentioned the difficulties and obstacles they face in accessing humanitarian aid and services, and around 50% of women and men indicated that mental health was the main area of ​​life affected by the crisis. war.

Make room for women

The report contains several recommendations for governments, the international community and others, such as prioritizing women and youth in leadership roles and sharing decision-making responsibilities equitably.

Priority should also be given to sexual and reproductive health, as well as maternal, newborn and child health care, including clinical care for survivors of sexual assault.

‘Decimation’ marks tragic end to school year

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) continues to highlight how war is having a dramatic impact on the lives and future of Ukrainian children.

“The start of the school year in Ukraine has brought hope and promise for children following the disruptions related to COVID-19,” said Murat Sahin, the agency’s representative in Ukraine.

“Instead, hundreds of children have been killed and the school year is ending amid classroom closures due to war and the decimation of educational institutions.”

Education under fire

Since Russia’s invasion, hundreds of schools across the country have reportedly been hit due to the use of heavy artillery, airstrikes and other explosive weapons. Others are used as information centers, shelters, supply centers or for military purposes.

At least one in six UNICEF-supported schools in the east of the country have been damaged or destroyed, including the only “safe school” in Mariupol.

The “Safe Schools” program was set up with the Ministry of Education, mainly in response to attacks on kindergartens and schools in the Donbass region, where armed conflict has been simmering since separatists supported by Russia took control of some regions in 2014.

© UNICEF/Adrian HolergaA nine-year-old Ukrainian girl holds a drawing of her family as she sits in a learning center with her mother and her cat (in a blue basket) in Romania.

A safe space for children

UNICEF said being in classrooms was essential for children affected by the crisis, as it provides a safe space and a semblance of normality, and also ensures they do not miss out on learning .

“Ensuring access to education can make the difference between a sense of hope or despair for millions of children,” added Mr. Sahin. “It’s crucial for their future and that of all of Ukraine.”

In the midst of conflict, UNICEF and its partners are working to provide as many children as possible with safe and appropriate learning opportunities.

An online education program for students in grades 5-11, developed during the COVID-19 pandemic, continues to reach over 80,000 displaced students in Ukraine.

In the city of Kharkiv, in the northeast of the country, children have been forced to seek refuge and safety in metro stations. Volunteers supported by UNICEF have set up spaces in these places where teachers, psychologists and sports instructors play and engage children on a regular basis.

Other initiatives include an ongoing digital campaign to educate children about the risks of explosive devices, which has reached eight million online users, while a new online platform for kindergartens receives regular hundreds of thousands of views.

Millions of young people have also fled Ukraine for other countries. UNICEF supports governments and municipalities to include these children in their national school systems, as well as alternative educational pathways such as digital learning.

Visit UN News to learn more.

Helen D. Jessen