Domestic and gender-based violence: Raising awareness and offering support 

Olena (left) and Nataliia are members of a UNFPA-supported mobile team helping survivors of gender-based violence in Irpin, Kyiv Region, Ukraine.Photo:OCHA

Ukraine | 2023 | CBPF

Ukraine, Irpin. The war in Ukraine has put vulnerable groups of people at even more risk. With family situations in flux, children and elders are at particular risk of abuse, especially if there was previous violence in the family.

“In times of war, when the country is going through immense suffering and pain, people sometimes downplay their own experiences, putting them aside, thinking that first we need to win the war. Undoubtedly, we should all continue to do everything possible to live in a free country, but it is important not to forget about ourselves, that enduring violence is not acceptable under any circumstances, and that we should not turn a blind eye to injustice within our own families because of the war,” says Maria Yefrosinina, UNFPA’s honorary ambassador in Ukraine.

According to “La Strada-Ukraine,” over the past three years, in 2022, the National Hotline for the Prevention and Counteraction of Gender-Based Violence received the highest number of calls: 38,472. By comparison, in 2019, there were nearly 10,000 fewer calls.

Social services and police, alongside civil society, are also responding to sexual violence related to the war.

With funding from the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund and other donors, UNFPA produced “Behind the Silence”, a documentary to shed light on the consequences of war on domestic violence, and highlight the work being done to support survivors.

Building trust to address GBV in Irpin

The Ukraine Humanitarian Fund also supports the response to GBV.

Olena and Natalia from Irpin visit schools and community centers as part of a mobile team to create awareness around gender-based violence and let people know about resources for support. The mobile teams are supported by the UN Population Fund with funding from the UHF and other donors.

Olena and Natalia told us their community, mostly women, motivates them to keep doing this hard difficult work. “You can be completely exhausted after a long day at work. Then, late at night, you receive a call from someone asking for help,” explains Olena.

“And some internal force just kicks in, helping you to find strength and energy to help this person in their hour of need. Understanding that your work helps the person persevere and face the fears plaguing them brings a new dimension to our job.” 

“The joy that you experience when you help a person on the brink of despair also helps you,” echoes her colleague, Natalia.

Olena and Natalia explained that it took them more than a year to build trust and a reputation in the community. But now the community, especially women, has confidence in them, and will reach out for help.

Original story: adapted from original articles by OCHA and UNFPA