IWD 2022: The story of women on the morning of a war

The COVID pandemic has disproportionately affected women and girls in a myriad of ways. From increased gender-based violence, to an increased burden of care, from the economic impact on sectors disproportionately populated by women, to insecurity of work contracts. The recovery should therefore put women at the heart of the solutions, which we will also advance through our work, such as on pay transparency or women on company boards. These important issues were supposed to be the main topic of today’s International Day Celebration in the European Parliament, but they are not.

Almost two weeks ago, all hell broke loose in the heart of Europe. The Russian Federation attacked our neighbours – Ukraine – and started a brutal war. Something that, until now, we only knew from books. Something we never imagined to experience.

And as we see, women have been placed in the heart of this war. First of all, they are an important component of the Ukrainian army, providing 20 % of the soldiers, despite the fact that most of them are not even enlisted.

As war is inevitably associated with violence against women and girls – including sexual assault and rape – women are in a very vulnerable position, and the level of violence is likely to increase in the coming weeks.

With almost 2 million refugees so far crossing into neighbouring countries, the media have been flooded with images of women, many of them pregnant, travelling with children and elderly people, trying to escape the conflict zone. The whole world has been also alarmed about the reports about the Russian attack on the humanitarian corridors, which deprived thousands of displaced persons of safe passage.

I recently saw a tweet about a woman in Ukraine knocking down a Russian drone from a balcony with a jar of gherkins. Looking at the determination and courage of the Ukrainian women, I am convinced this story could have been true. Today the EU must stand strong in solidarity with the Ukrainian people who are not giving up or giving in.

This is why right now, in the shadow of this brutal war, we must enhance our efforts in supporting the Ukrainian women and to provide them with the appropriate protection they deserve, including by invoking the Temporary Protection Directive. Upon their arrival to Europe, all the refugees must be granted access to benefits such as medical care or housing. We must also adopt the Istanbul Convention and fast track the process on the directive on combating violence against women, to ensure that all European women – including the Ukrainian women and girls – would be safe and protected.

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