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March for Women’s Rights in Kyiv on 8 March!

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.

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WILPF International Secretariat
3 March 2021

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! 

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WILPF International Secretariat

WILPF International Secretariat, with offices in Geneva and New York, liaises with the International Board and the National Sections and Groups for the implementation of WILPF International Programme, resolutions and policies as adopted by the International Congress. Under the direction of the Secretary-General, the Secretariat also provides support in areas of advocacy, communications, and financial operations.

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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

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WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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