“Protecting women and girls from gender-based violence and sexual violence in the context of humanitarian crises” was the theme of a summing up session held on 12 October.
Since 24 February, the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, almost half a million Ukrainians have passed through Moldova. The vast majority are women and children.
Almost 100,000 remained in our country, most of them being accommodated in Moldovan communities.
In this situation, women may be at increased risk of gender-based violence due to armed conflict and forced displacement. A study conducted in 2019 indicates that rape, unwanted sexual contact and sexual abuse are some of the most common forms of violence to which refugee women may be exposed. Women can go through experiences of violence at different stages of displacement. Data also indicate that women subjected to violence usually do not report these cases to authorities for fear of being blamed, harassed or because they do not trust the system.
In this context, the International Center La Strada, with support from UN Women as part of a project funded by Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund, aimed to support local non-governmental organizations in the activities carried out for refugee women, in order to prevent the risks of violence to which they may be exposed and to ensure access to assistance services in case of identifying possible situations of abuse.
In order to strengthen the efforts of local organizations, La Strada collaborated with four regional organizations (AO Consens from Singerei, AO BiazGul from Comrat, AO FCPS from Criuleni and AO Raza Încrederii from Causeni), which for almost five months carried out activities aimed at refugees from Ukraine – awareness activities with women and girls affected by forced displacement, activities of informing about their rights and services available in case of gender-based violence and sexual violence.
Doina Cazac, director of women’s program of La Strada, noted that violence against women remains a current issue and that the exchange of experience in combating it is essential:
“I want to thank you for coming to tell us about the experiences you had during this period, about the lessons learned from the implementation of these projects. Violence against women remains a current topic, and the challenge we face is the fear of reporting, in addition to the multitude of other fears faced by women fleeing war. Coming to a foreign country, they do not know many legislative issues, who they could address for help.”
Present at the summing up event organized by La Strada, UN Women Moldova program specialist Svetlana Andrieș highly appreciated the collaboration, noting that it was thus possible to support several local organizations involved in integrating refugees into communities. She said that through the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund, accessible to Moldova and Ukraine, support was provided to women, including those with children, so that they have a strong voice in the context of the humanitarian crisis:
“We want to know the challenges of local organizations and how, through available funds and development plans, it would be possible to meet the challenges in a targeted manner and overcome them.”
Liliana Gheorghiță from AO Consens, Singerei, for example, mentioned that the main objective of the project was to inform women from the northern region of Moldova on measures to prevent gender-based violence, targeting both local women and refugee women, by providing them with recommendations for actions to be taken in risk situations:
“Initially, our organization aimed to provide assistance to 100 refugees from Ukraine and 125 local women from rural areas.
“Also, taking into account the impact of violence on children, therapy sessions were organized for this group of beneficiaries.
“In the end, activities involved 270 women, including refugees, and 222 children.”
The event was held in the form of a workshop for discussions and exchange of experiences through which it was possible to analyze the best practices that allowed to achieve the goal of protecting women and girls against gender-based violence and sexual violence in the context of the humanitarian crisis. Even though the goal was common for all local organizations, the challenges they faced were specific to the project implementation areas. This further requires that the objectives and measures taken be adapted to regional realities.
This project is implemented by the International Center La Strada with the support of UN Women and financed by Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund.