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  • Writer's pictureBrenda Pearson

Ukrainian Women: Fighting for their Families, Communities and Country for a Sustainable Tomorrow

As the world celebrates International Women’s Day, women in Ukraine are fighting for their country’s survival as members of the armed forces, volunteer battalions, and resistance groups. Women have served in the Ukrainian Armed Forces since 1993 and many volunteered for combat service during and after the Russian invasion of the Donbas in 2014. Ukrainian women joined "volunteer battalions" as civilians who have little or no military background. Within these units, Ukrainian women serve alongside their male counterparts on the front lines as infantry, combat medics, and snipers, enduring the same risks and harsh living conditions.

Significantly, Ukraine's armed forces comprise more than 900 female officers in command positions, including 109 platoon commanders and 12 company commanders, according to the Ukrainian military’s website. As of December 17, 2022, women between the ages of 18 - 60 who are "fit for military service" are required to register with the Ukraine Armed Forces. According to law, women in all professions ranging from librarians, journalists, musicians, veterinarians, and psychologists may be called to military service to defend their country’s sovereignty. There are exemptions for some women with children, as well as full-time students and graduate students. Women between the ages of 20 - 40 can be mobilized for military service as conscript soldiers.

Women who are engaged as civilian volunteers deliver vital supplies, food and equipment to the front lines -- often under extremely dangerous conditions. In Ukraine today, women are at the forefront of the humanitarian response and fighting for fundamental freedoms, but they are far less visible in leadership positions or at the negotiation table in talks between the Russian Federation and Ukraine.

Women and girls experience armed conflict much the same way men and boys do. They are killed, injured, disabled and tortured. They suffer social and economic dislocation as individuals but also as mothers and daughters as they are responsible for the welfare of multiple generations of their family. Ukrainian women, like all people in conflicts suffer the psychosocial impact as loved ones die or they witness violence against their families and neighbors.

The long-term impact of armed conflict on women and girls may be exacerbated by their social vulnerability. The harm done to women and girls during and after armed conflict is significant, and often exposes them to further harm and violence, especially when occupying forces try to break the resistance of people as happened to women in Bosnian, Kosovo, Iraq, Syria and Chechnya. In these conflicts, women and girls were targeted for violence, exploitation and abuse.

A growing body of research suggests that standard peace and security processes routinely overlook a critical strategy that could reduce conflict and advance stability: the inclusion of women. Evidence indicates that women’s participation in conflict prevention and resolution advances security interests. One study found that substantial inclusion of women and civil society groups in a peace negotiation makes the resulting agreement 64 percent less likely to fail and, according to another study, 35 percent more likely to last at least fifteen years.

The United States Strategy on Women, Peace and Security states that “governments that fail to treat women equally do not allow their societies to reach their potential while societies that empower women to participate fully in civic and economic live are more prosperous and peaceful.”

The diverse roles women play as agents of change in preventing and resolving conflict, countering terrorism, and building post conflict peace and stability should not go unrecognized.

We salute the brave women in Ukraine.

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