On 8 March 2021, feminist peace activists and organisations in Ukraine – including members and partners of WILPF – will lead a peaceful International Women’s Day march and protest demanding action for women’s rights during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. 

The Women’s March will take place in Kyiv at 13:00 Eastern European Standard Time. Follow the Kyiv Women’s March on Instagram for details on where to meet.  

As an inclusive event rooted in principles of equality, respect, cooperation, and empathy, all individuals and organisations interested in advancing women’s rights and a future of feminist peace are invited to attend. The organisers ask that participants avoid any form of discrimination, hate speech, propaganda, or violence. 

 

Ukrainian women call for urgent action in response to deepening inequalities

With a goal to draw attention to critical issues impacting the rights and livelihoods of women in Ukraine today, the Women’s March will demand urgent government action to advance gender equality at all levels of society and address continuously rising rates of domestic violence. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Ukraine’s deeply embedded cultural norms that prevent women from achieving equality – economically, socially, and politically – have compounded their daily struggles and put their lives at risk. 

With women expected to manage their households while serving as the primary caregivers of children and elderly relatives in addition to working remotely during the pandemic, Ukrainian women are deeply overwhelmed by their day-to-day burden. A recent report found that 56 per cent of women say their circumstances have negatively impacted their work, while deteriorating overall mental health continues to be a critical concern. 

At the same time, 40 per cent of women in Ukraine have experienced a decrease in income during the pandemic – which is in addition to the pre-existing 20 per cent gender pay gap. And with women more likely to be working in service sectors or precariously employed, they represent the majority of those who have lost their jobs during COVID-19 – leading to growing representation of women among Ukraine’s homeless population. 

Women are also at significantly increased risk of contracting COVID-19. Within Ukraine’s healthcare system, where 82 per cent of all employees are women, inadequate protections have led to disproportionately high rates of infection among workers. 

Meanwhile, rates of domestic violence have reached historic levels during the COVID-19 lockdown. With pre-pandemic rates of violence against women already at crisis levels, in 2020 the country’s domestic violence hotline saw a 72 per cent increase in calls during the second month of lockdown alone. Approximately 40 per cent of women who experienced domestic violence during the lockdown said they had never experienced it before, pointing to family breakdown as a major consequence of the pandemic. 

 

Ukraine government continues to stall on ratification of the Istanbul Convention 

Despite the profound challenges facing women in Ukraine, the Ukrainian government has yet to take action for women’s rights – including by implementing adequate social supports or by ratifying the Istanbul Convention, which came into force in August of 2014. 

Also known as the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, the Istanbul Convention offers a legal framework for protecting women against all forms of violence and discrimination while promoting gender equality. It has so far been signed by 45 countries and ratified by 34. 

In June of 2020, a petition calling on Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky to ratify the convention garnered 25,000 signatures. Yet despite growing pressure to take action, progress toward ratification continues to be slow or nonexistent – leaving Ukrainian women and the legal system without a formal framework to address the deepening issues of socioeconomic inequality and gender-based violence. 

 

Women’s March demands for change 

On 8 March, organisers of the Women’s March in Kyiv will demand the following immediate actions to improve the lives of women and work toward a future of gender equality:

  • Ratification of the Istanbul Convention
  • Increased social assistance for mothers working at home, including additional supports for children with disabilities
  • Increased social assistance for individuals who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19
  • Ensure safe working conditions for women in jobs that place them at high risk of contracting COVID-19
  • Ensure online access to all medical and preventive healthcare services
  • Open public shelters in all regions of Ukraine for women experiencing domestic violence
  • Ensure fair investigations into cases of violence against women perpetrated by far-right organisations 

WILPF’s partners in Ukraine hope to see you there!