How Ukrainian Women Are Working to Safeguard Human Rights in the Face of War

Oh, Sister! is a documentary about six women facing the challenges of the ongoing Russian invasion, and fighting for peace in Ukraine.

This article was originally published in Pat Mitchell’s blog and weekly newsletter.

This week marks the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The war continues—and yet ‘life goes on’ for most of the rest of the world. This week, I’d like to acknowledge a small group of women whose lives are about finding ways to achieve peace and to eliminate suffering: the Nobel Women’s Initiative.

Only 18 women have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize—compared to 92 men. In 2006, six female winners—Shirin Ebadi, Wangari Maathai, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Jody Williams, Mairead Maguire and Betty Williams—formed the Nobel Women’s Initiative (NWI). (Aung San Suu Kyi, the only other living woman winner, was under house arrest at the time. She became an honorary member upon her release in 2010.)

(L-R) Nobel Women’s Initiative founders Jody Williams, Betty Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Mairead Maguire and Wangari Maathai. (Nobel Women’s Initiative)

Today, the NWI includes six laureates—Shirin EbadiLeymah GboweeTawakkol KarmanRigoberta Menchú Tum and Jody Williams—offering programs, events, training, mentorship, advocacy and campaigns.

The origins of the Nobel Women’s Initiative.

Last summer, Williams, Karman and Gbowee traveled to Poland and Ukraine to meet with hundreds of displaced women and dozens of women’s organizations, human rights organizations, humanitarian agencies and activists.

After the laureates visited Poland and Ukraine, NWI released a Delegation Report, held advocacy meetings with decision-makers and, in partnership with United for Ukraine, commissioned a documentary film entitled Oh, Sister!

The 20-minute film features the stories of six Ukrainian women who are facing the challenges of the ongoing Russian invasion, and fighting for peace, justice and freedom in their country.

(l-r) Nobel Peace Prize laureates Jody Williams, Tawakkol Karman and Leymah Gbowee in Ukraine. (Nobel Women’s Initiative)

Oh, Sister! features the stories of six women:

  • Oleksandra Matviychuk: human rights lawyer; head of the Center for Civil LibertiesNobel Peace Prize laureate 2022
  • Alla Melnychuk: head of Mother and Newborn, a charitable organization helping to save lives of infants with severe health issues
  • Tata Kepler: medical supplies volunteer; head of Ptahy Foundation providing tactical medical supplies on an industrial scale
  • Natalia Kudrych and Nadia Zhmykovska: train conductors for Ukrainian Railways
  • Lastivka: A medical platoon leader on the front lines

Oh, Sister! spotlights how Ukrainian women are working to safeguard fundamental human rights in the face of war. It also shows the central role that women and civil society play in keeping life going in times of war. The film has been screened in Brussels and Berlin with E.U. Ministers, ambassadors, diplomats and the general public. It was also shown at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo on Jan. 24, with Jody Williams participating.

We witnessed the superpowers of many Ukrainian women on our visit. ‘Oh, Sister’ documents stories of resistance, like the super-women conductors who rescued thousands.

Leymah Gbowee

Ways to Support Women in Ukraine

Generating support for women-led organizations in Ukraine and continuing to pressure the international community to ensure the inclusion of women at all levels of decision making now (and in the eventual post-war recovery and rebuilding process), is more important than ever.

  • Donate. United for Ukraine launched the Women Lead campaign, raising resources for women-led organizations fighting for peace, justice and equality. Show / share this QR code for the donation page.
  • Advocate. Advocate for an end to the war and demand inclusion of diverse women in all decision-making processes with your national government and international bodies.
  • Connect. Invite your group to write postcards to our sisters in Ukraine and post them on social media tagging Nobel Women’s Initiative and United for Ukraine.
  • Join the sisterhood. Invite your group to stay in touch with NWI. Show / share this QR code to sign up for NWI’s newsletter.
  • Spread the word! Ask your group to share their impressions and invite their network to watch the film. Sample social media posts are here.
  • Show the film. Invite your group to host screenings of their own. (For inquiries about the film, including screenings, contact More details and resources can be found here on the NWI website, including a helpful discussion guide and social media toolkit.)

“Change is driven from the ground up by women’s movements and leaders. Looking forward, the Nobel Women’s Initiative will continue to use our collective power to take more courageous and collective actions for peace to transform old, ineffective approaches to resolving conflicts and create conditions for a more peaceful, just, sustainable, democratic and equal world,” writes Maria Butler, executive director of NWI.

Given that the war and its devastating impact on the Ukrainian people, still bravely resisting the Russian invasion of their country, is no longer top of mind in the ever changing news cycles, it’s all the more important that each of us take a moment every day to remember and if possible, to do something

Today, I’m writing about it and sharing this short film. What will you do?

Up next:

U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.


Pat Mitchell is the editorial director of TEDWomen. Throughout her career as a journalist, Emmy-winning producer and pioneering executive, she has focused on sharing women’s stories. She is chair of the Sundance Institute Board, the chair emerita of the Women’s Media Center board, and a trustee of the VDAY movement, the Skoll Foundation and The Woodruff Arts Center. She is an advisor to Participant Media and served as a congressional appointment to the American Museum of Women’s History Advisory Council.