1 year after the invasion of Ukraine, our local partners are supporting women survivors
“We know how it feels to lose everything. Our town is destroyed and occupied. We lost our houses, our homes. This is a scary feeling, when you understand that this is really danger. You can die at any moment.”
Kateryna Shukh, Psychologist, Art-therapist, Project Coordinator of the Mariupol Association “Bereginya” and the Polish Foundation, “HumanDoc”
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has shattered the lives of millions of people. Since the invasion began, a third of Ukrainians have been forced from their homes, making this the world’s fastest and one of the largest human displacement crises since World War II. One year later, women and children make up the majority of those internally displaced and faced with starting a new life in neighboring countries.
Allegations of conflict-related sexual violence in Ukraine are commonplace. The United Nations has collected more than a hundred such reports but believes that number is just the “tip of the iceberg”.
Women survivors of sexual violence and those who’ve been displaced are finding it difficult to come to terms with their trauma. They need urgent psychological and medical help as well as vital practical support to rebuild their lives.
“When your house has been destroyed, your relatives killed and it seems that life is over and darkness and evil surround you, it is important to offer a ray of hope. To show the dawn is coming soon; to extend a hand of support and start taking the first steps towards a normal life together.”
Iryna Andreeva, Co-Founder of The Andreev Foundation
Through our Conflict Response Fund, Women for Women International has been determined to reach as many women survivors of the invasion as we can, as quickly as we can. We’ve teamed up with local organizations in Ukraine and in Poland to provide them with holistic and comprehensive care, including support for their mental health, counselling services and skill-based training for increased access to jobs.
Our Partners & Programs
Our response has been led by our sister organization Žene za Žene International. Its Director, Seida Sarić, lived through the siege of Sarajevo and has built up a highly effective program for survivors of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Not long after the war in Ukraine started, Seida and her team conducted a critical needs assessment and met with local organizations that focused on the needs of women and children fleeing from the war.
"The Russian military, they have huge weapons like winter and violence, but we a have a huge weapon too -- and this is our solidarity and unity," Kateryna tells journalist Sarah Little during a conversation with our CRF Partners.
Bereginya,The Mariupol Women’s Association
Alongside Bereginya and The HumanDoc Foundation in Poland, we serve women and children evacuated from Mariupol. Many of them spent weeks in shelters and cellars without access to water, heating, or food and are severely traumatized from their experience.
Refugees from Ukraine themselves, Myrna and Kateryna, Bereginya’s mother and daughter team, share the pain of the women we serve. It gives them a unique and powerful insight into supporting their needs.
Together with our partners, we offer dedicated spaces for women refugees to gather and psychosocial support, including art therapy, to begin the healing process As they adapt to life in Poland, we also provide legal counsel and vocational skills so the women can become financially independent, and support them obtaining accommodation.
Last year, 200 displaced women were sheltered in safe housing through Bereginya and The Human Doc Foundation. 253 received trauma-informed care and legal counseling, and 59 took courses to acquire proficiency in the Polish language. 164 women also received vocational training.
The Andreev Foundation
Together with The Andreev Foundation, we’re supporting mobile teams of psychologists who travel to reach women survivors in areas of Ukraine that were formerly occupied by the Russians.
Women who survive conflict-related sexual violence are often reluctant to come forward and access help. Following their ordeal, many women describe a sense of apathy. The foundation’s co-founder, Iryna Andreev, says:
“Women survivors of war in Ukraine tell us they don’t know how to deal with what’s happened to them. They speak about losing the will to live, a “black void” and struggling to look after themselves and their children.”
We build trust with women in those communities, providing survivors of sexual violence with psychological aid as well as raising awareness of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, in order to support larger numbers of women suffering from war-related trauma.
We’re also providing skills training for internally displaced women to access new job opportunities. In collaboration with the foundation, we also established a hotline for women survivors of sexual violence located in the occupied territories of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions to receive psychological counselling. In 2022, over 1,500 women received psycho-social and economic support.
We’re supporting women who’ve been internally displaced to regain their financial independence, alongside local women’s rights organization D.O.M.48.24.
In October, D.O.M.48.24 announced the launch of "Coworking for Cosmetologists," implemented in partnership with WfWI and Zene za Zene International. This project was an opportunity for participants to work without their own investments. Through our partnership, participants were provided with the necessary tools for cosmetic procedures including facial cleanses and peelings.