Women Are Necessary for Ukraine’s Relief, Recovery and Reconstruction

To ensure sustainable recovery in Ukraine, women and civil society need to be centrally involved in rebuilding the institutions that will foster long-term peace, stability and development.

A woman places a container of food atop the grave of her son in the soldier’s section of a cemetery on March 7, 2023 in Kharkiv, Ukraine. (John Moore / Getty Images)

This report was originally published by Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security.

Ukrainian women and civil society organizations (CSOs) are on the frontlines of the war advancing peace and security. Women have taken on new roles and mobilized across the country to lead humanitarian relief efforts, document atrocities, manage key government and anti-corruption bodies and fight in the armed forces. Women-led grassroots organizations have expanded their presence at the community level and are utilizing their networks to aid vulnerable civilians. With access to marginalized and hard to reach communities, they are best placed to inform effective, fair and sustainable distribution of resources.

At the same time, women and girls are hit hardest by the impacts of war. Since Feb. 24, 2022, one-third of Ukrainians have been forced from their homes, 90 percent of whom are women and children. Sexual violence is being used as a tactic of war, and thousands of women are being trafficked across the border.

The war has disrupted critical social services such as medical care and education, heightening women’s care burden amidst rising food insecurity and energy poverty. Fighting continues to threaten women’s livelihoods and well-being, and has stymied global progress on the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Women are not only essential to the emergency response, but to Ukraine’s successful post-war recovery and reconstruction, democratic progress and E.U. integration. However, they are largely absent from formal decision-making platforms on deescalation, conflict mitigation and relief and recovery.

Since Feb. 24, 2022, one-third of Ukrainians have been forced from their homes—90 percent of whom are women and children.

Gender equality considerations remain sidelined in discussions on the war; local organizations lack critical funds, supplies and freedom of movement; and more gender-disaggregated statistics are needed to effectively inform the crisis response.

In line with international commitments, including U.N. Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325, Ukraine and international partners must recognize the disproportionate impacts of the war on women and girls, in addition to their important role in planning Ukraine’s future.

The Case for Women’s Inclusion and Gender Mainstreaming

Women’s participation in the design and implementation of Ukraine’s recovery programs is critical to maximize the effectiveness of the reconstruction process, take into account differentiated needs, and bolster post-conflict development.

From Afghanistan to Iraq to the Balkans, failure to prioritize inclusive recovery and the meaningful participation of women in all elements of society has undermined the transition to peace. To ensure sustainable recovery in Ukraine, women and civil society need to be centrally involved in rebuilding the institutions that will foster long-term peace, stability and development.

Ensuring women’s inclusion in post-war recovery and development processes is necessary to fulfill Ukraine’s international and national obligations to gender equality and human rights. Ukraine’s National Action Plan (NAP) on Women, Peace and and Security recognizes the need for women’s full participation in society, peace-building and gender integration into state policy priorities. Gender mainstreaming in all areas of national policy is a requirement for European integration of Ukraine and any post-war reconstruction initiatives supported by the European Union (EU).

From Afghanistan to Iraq to the Balkans, failure to prioritize inclusive recovery and the meaningful participation of women in all elements of society has undermined the transition to peace.

G7 and donor countries, and especially those with feminist foreign policies, also promote gender equality as fundamental pillars of their development strategies. The European Commission’s June 2022 communique calls for a gender-sensitive approach to Ukraine’s recovery, while international financial institutions (IFIs) that provide funds for Ukraine’s reconstruction—including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)—insist on integrating gender in core activities. G7 leaders reinforced the important role of civil society, including women’s organizations, as “active participants” in planning Ukraine’s future.

As the international community now mobilizes to respond to the war, they must ensure an inclusive and sustainable approach to Ukraine’s military, economic and political reconstruction plans and processes. This includes ensuring women and CSOs are meaningfully involved in the G7’s multi-agency platform to coordinate aid to Ukraine, as well as the planning and implementation of the Ukraine Recovery Conference taking place in the United Kingdom in June 2023.


1. Promote women’s participation, leadership, and decision-making in Ukraine’s planning
frameworks and recovery process.

G7 and E.U. member states and multilateral partners should consistently and extensively consult with Ukrainian women’s organizations and CSOs to mainstream gender in planning frameworks.

Ensure all G7 and E.U.-appointed working groups and multi-stakeholder assessment teams include at least one technical gender expert, in addition to Ukrainian women and civil society who have knowledge of the differentiated needs of women and girls in post-war reconstruction.

2. Ensure new funding enables women’s active participation in Ukraine’s recovery and advances gender equality.

This includes:

  • Investing in the capacity of local NGOs, women-led groups and human rights monitoring
    organizations who can partner with the government on aid delivery, distribution and oversight. In
    addition, ensure funding is widely available, accessible and discussed at the local level.
  • Earmarking a percentage of all funds for activities that support gender equality across housing,
    education, food security, livelihoods and large-scale reconstruction investments. Funding should
    address the unique needs of refugees and internally-displaced peoples (IDPs), survivors of sexual
    violence, people with disabilities and women heads of household, among others.
  • Ensuring all funding proposals, regardless of focus, include a gender analysis. Gender analyses
    should acknowledge differences in economic activities, access to and control over resources,
    gendered social norms, physical security and risks of gender-based violence.

3. Establish a gender-sensitive monitoring mechanism for the Ukrainian government to report on recovery progress, modeled off of the Lugano Principles, and include clear gender equality indicators.

In parallel, establish regional and local-level mechanisms (i.e. a digital platform on subnational
aid) that enable the transparent and equitable use of funds and strengthen anti-corruption efforts.

4. Collect and analyze sex-disaggregated data, in line with Eurostat requirements.

This will ensure that relief efforts and long-term recovery initiatives are tailored to address the unique needs of men and women, using the European Institute for Gender Equality’s (EIGE) methodology to report on progress.

5. Prioritize the reestablishment of critical social infrastructure and services to reduce the care burden on women, re-incorporate displaced Ukrainians, and bolster economic recovery.

Ensure schools, kindergartens and daycares are reopened and support immediate access to comprehensive medical care and social assistance services. Additionally, offer widely-accessible housing grants, including to IDPs, and establish new public housing complexes in rural areas.

6. Integrate gender equality in Ukraine’s E.U. accession commitments to ensure gender is a core consideration during the adaptation of new legislation to E.U. standards.

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Jess Keller manages development and execution of all programming and special projects for the Institute. She also manages GIWPS’ Afghanistan portfolio and humanitarian response operations, and advances policy development, advocacy strategy and stakeholder engagement. Previously, Keller worked with West End Strategy Team, J Street U and in the U.S. Senate, where she promoted gender-responsive legislation and human rights. She has also worked with refugee nonprofits in Greece and Denmark to provide training and educational services to women and girls. Jess holds a bachelor's degree in government from Georgetown University, where she graduated summa cum laude, and is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society.