For the first time since 1992, a major power has launched a war in Europe. I don’t think the gravity of the situation is lost on anyone.

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine is having a devastating impact on the country and the region. Poland, Moldova, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia are mobilizing to provide food, shelter, and legal support to the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians crossing the border — primarily women and children as Ukrainian men between 18 to 60 years old have been prohibited from leaving the country.

“Women in Ukraine are no strangers to war. Every woman has a personal connection — as a survivor, a widow, a mother of a soldier, a daughter of a victim. The war is a constant character in their lives.” 

— Lina Abirafeh– Vital Voices Fellow 2021

All this adds up to what could be the worst humanitarian crisis in Europe in recent history. In countries not set up to receive refugees like Moldova, we expect to see a sharp rise in human trafficking. As with any crisis, humanitarian or otherwise, women and girls at greatest risk of exploitation.

The Vital Voices network of women leaders runs deep in Ukraine, and throughout the region. We have been supporting women across Ukraine since the very first Vital Voices gathering in 1997, at a time when there was a great sense of hope and opportunity following gains of hard-fought freedoms. Those same freedoms that are now under attack.

We are in constant contact with women leaders inside the country and those who have made it across the border. A few weeks ago we partnered with long-time Ukrainian human rights leader Oksana Horbunova to develop this piece on the rising threat of war. Oksana has since decided to stay in Kyiv and fight.

“I think that life has trained us to be ready to fight for freedom and independence, and to survive.”’
— Oksana Horbunova Human Rights 2002 Awardee at the Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards

Vital Voices is providing support to women leaders through both our Urgent Assistance Fund and new Crisis Response Initiative. We are offering support to both those who have chosen to stay and those crossing the borders. As well as Russian activists brave enough to speak out. We are also mobilizing our network in the region — identifying and supporting partners who are providing critical services and fostering solidarity.

We are also asking people to follow Vital Voices fellow, Ukrainian journalist and Editor-in-Chief of News 24, Olha Konsevych who is providing reports from the country on Twitter and we will continue to amplify women’s voices.

With hope for peace,
Alyse Nelson
Co-founder, President, CEO Vital Voices