Statement at UNSC Briefing on Ukraine - Situation of Women and Children
Statement11 April 2022
Thank you, President, and my thanks also to our briefers and in particular to our civil society briefer, Kateryna Cherepakha. The sobering words we have heard this morning leave us in no doubt as to the human misery and suffering inflicted upon the people of Ukraine by the Russian Federation’s senseless and illegal war.
We have all seen the images; we have all seen the grim realities of this war.
A pregnant woman carried on a stretcher from the ruins of a maternity hospital. A young child on a train looking longingly at the father who cannot board. Bodies lying abandoned in improvised mass graves.
People lying dead following the indiscriminate attack against a train station in Kramatorsk by the Russian Federation on Friday. This attack on innocent civilians, mostly women and children, is yet another attempt to close escape routes for those fleeing this unjustified war and to cause human suffering. Ireland strongly condemns this, and all attacks on civilians.
They are just glimpses of the suffering caused by the Russian Federation’s war. They tell only part of the harrowing experiences of women and children in Ukraine. Theirs is a story of widespread displacement and trauma, facing extremely serious risks of abuse, trafficking and exploitation. Reports of sexual violence perpetrated by Russian soldiers, including rape, proliferate, with bone-chilling allegations that children are among those violated. Conflict-related sexual violence can constitute a war crime and those responsible must be held to account.
Accountability must not only be for those who physically perpetrate such acts, but also for those military commanders who fail to take all necessary and reasonable steps to stop them, or fail to ensure that they are investigated and prosecuted.
Ukraine’s displacement crisis deepens every day. Of those who have fled the country, 90% are women and children. The large population of older women, women with disabilities and those of marginalised groups, including the Roma and LGBTQI+ communities, are particularly vulnerable in this conflict.
Millions of women face impossible decisions around evacuation. As their lives and their families are threatened, do women journalists stay to report? Do women healthcare workers and those in care-giving roles stay or go? Do women in the Ukrainian army who choose to bring their children to safety, return to defend their country? So many are making the desperate yet heroic choice to remain.
A child protection crisis is emerging, as the number of unaccompanied and separated children rises. We have a responsibility to respond.
The terror of war and the trauma of family separation will have lifelong effects on millions of Ukrainian children.
We need to mitigate these impacts, including through psycho-social services and mental health support, health care, and education in emergency settings.
This month marks a year since every member of the Council co-sponsored and agreed resolution 2573 on the protection of civilian objects. That includes the Russian Federation. That day we sent a united message strongly condemning attacks against civilians or civilian objects. 12 months later, where is that unity on display in Ukraine?
Thousands of civilian objects, including hundreds of schools and kindergartens, have been destroyed, largely due to the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Attacks on schools are a grave violation. To rob children of their education has profound impacts not only on their individual development, but on society as a whole.
The reverberations of this war reach far beyond Ukraine’s borders; they will also reach beyond this generation. This war will mark Ukraine for many years to come. We all have a responsibility to support them long after this war has ended.
At this table, we have repeatedly called for it to end, for the Russian Federation to withdraw its forces and engage in true dialogue and diplomacy towards peace.
In any peace talks, we must have direct, substantive inclusion of diverse women so they can influence the course and outcome of negotiations. Without them, we can have no hope for sustainable peace.
Let us not forget that Ukraine has been a society where women were fully and equally participating in public life. Targeting women through violence, or forcing them to flee to save their children’s lives, is a double abomination in a society that was realising the fruits of women’s participation. This war will undo the years of progress towards gender equality and as my Mexican colleague referenced, we are focused on these issues also as co-Chairs of the IEG on Women, Peace and Security.
President, I conclude by stressing that gender equality is not an aspiration reserved for peaceful countries, somehow too difficult or inconvenient for countries in conflict. The evidence shows that women’s participation in peace processes leads to better and longer lasting agreements.
The guns are still firing, with a dire impact on women. The urgency to ensure their active participation in ending this conflict has never been greater.
Yet it is because of their deep-rooted participation that we are hopeful for the future that women of Ukraine can help shape.