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Crisis in Ukraine

Update 7 April 2022

Read this statement from UN Women, released 7 April 2022: https://www.unwomen.org/en/news-stories/statement/2022/04/ukraine-un-high-level-officials-urge-the-swift-investigation-of-sexual-violence-allegations-and-call-for-strengthened-measures-to-protect-women-and-girls

Update 21 March 2022

The statement below has been drawn up by the Europe & North America CSW Caucus which works with other like-minded organisations to help women and girls to realise their full potential. SIGBI has signed this as well as SI and SIE. Lobbying our parliaments and MPs about implementation of 1325 for Ukraine and all other areas of conflict, such as Afghanistan and Syria, is important. Experience has shown that involving women in peace negotiations is more successful and, since women and children are most affected by conflict, is a matter dear to our hearts.

Read the full statement here

Helping people in and from Ukraine

Originally published 21 March 2022

The continuing war in Ukraine continues to distress us all and stimulates the wish to help those affected directly. How can we do this effectively and ensure that our help reaches those in need? There are two ‘places’ where our help is needed – within and without Ukraine.

 

Within the Ukraine and neighbouring countries

The need there is for safe passage for those wishing to leave their homes and for food, water and medical supplies for all. The two groups are those wishing to leave Ukraine (refugees) and those choosing to remain many of whom have migrated westwards within Ukraine (Internally Displaced People, IDPs). My experience in several countries, including Georgia, is that those best able to help are the agencies with experience, resources and well tried and tested protocols. This ensures a more reliable supply chain and the ability to move across borders as well as within the areas of conflict. I believe that the two organisations best able to do this are the UN agencies, especially the UNHCR, and the Red Cross/Red Crescent networks. Finding your way around these needs prior knowledge of how they work so I hope that the following paragraphs help.

The UNHCR – the UN Refugee Agency – has much more detailed information which you might wish to explore at https://www.unhcr.org/uk/news/briefing/2022/3/623453f14/unhcr-warns-rising-needs-ukraine-neighbouring-countries-calls-cessation.html and https://www.unhcr.org/services-for-refugees/?utm_source=unhcr.org&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=HQ_HE_EN_orgpocs. They also work to coordinate other agencies, joining them in partnership. This helps to avoid duplication and in making help available to those in need.

Other UN agencies such as UNICEF, WHO and the World Food Programme are also engaged in trying to help Ukraine.

Red Cross – there are two parts to this. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC – https://www.icrc.org/en/what-we-do) and the International Federation of Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies which is the umbrella for all 192 national societies (IFRC – https://www.ifrc.org). All these elements work together to deliver humanitarian aid worldwide.

The ICRC which is responsible for the Geneva Conventions has recently posted an update for the Ukraine (https://www.icrc.org/en/document/icrc-president-suffering-mariupol-must-not-become-future-ukraine). For those wishing to explore the law in conflict see https://www.icrc.org/en/war-and-law.

The IFRC has been assessing need and deploying staff and other resources since December 2021 – see https://prddsgofilestorage.blob.core.windows.net/api/event-featured-documents/file/MGR65002_UKR_OperationalStrategy.pdf.

SI Europe has a Disasters Response Fund (DRF) which is equivalent to our ERF. There are many SI clubs across all countries involved in this issue. Several of them have projects for VAW in countries affected by the conflict – https://soroptimist-projects.org/portfolio_category/violenceagainstwomen/. You can support these through the DRF.

SIGBI has donated £5000 to the Red Cross and £1000 to the DRF, from our ERF.

 

Within the UK

This, of course, is not the whole story. So, how can we, as soroptimists help those in need? All our members can donate to these international agencies and for clubs/members in the UK through the Disasters Emergency Committee. The ask is for money not goods – for an explanation of this see https://www.redcross.org.uk/get-involved/donate/donation-questions/emergency-appeals#Cash. For an explanation of how to help from the Charity Commission for England and Wales see https://www.gov.uk/guidance/ukraine-humanitarian-crisis-guidance-for-charities-and-trustees?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=govuk-notifications-topic&utm_source=33ffbc5b-dc4a-47e1-b7ca-e813d316f943&utm_content=immediately

If you have clothing to donate then please take items to the charity shop of your choice. Not all agencies will be working in the Ukraine but may well be seeking to help refugees coming to the UK.

If you wish to accommodate refugees then you can enrol with the UK Government’s scheme at https://homesforukraine.campaign.gov.uk. This can be done as an individual or organisation. Organisationally for SIGBI this means individual clubs working with others, as we do for women escaping domestic violence. The agencies best placed to help in this situation are local authorities and the Refugee Councils:

There will, I am sure be refugee centres, but this will be particular to your local areas.

Other needs of refugees are money, family reunion, help with settling into a new culture/community. For help with this see the advice from the British Red Cross at https://www.redcross.org.uk/get-help/get-help-as-a-refugee which has long and extensive experience in doing so.

There are examples of trafficking at the borders of Ukraine so we need to be alert for women affected in this way. They could be arriving near you. UKPAC has long been working on this vexed subject. See https://sigbi.org/ukpac/our-work/modern-day-slavery-human-trafficking/ for more information.

Hopefully a ceasefire and peace between the Ukraine and Russia will be achieved. Experience of doing this illustrates that it is more successful when women are involved. See President Cathy’s letter to the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office in which we asked for implementation of Security Council Resolution 1325 (Women, Peace and Security). Sadly the response told us about the Government’s view of their help for Ukraine but no mention of SCR 1325. You could lobby your MP about this; I have.

The CSW66 is running at present and much concern over Ukraine has been raised with the Government Equalities Office and through the North America and European Caucus, of which we are members. Agreement has been reached that we should lobby for full implementation of SCR 1325 and related resolutions. Watch this space for updates.

I hope this helps set out the current situation and how we, as soroptimists, can contribute to helping the refugees and IDPs most effectively.

Kay Richmond
Programme Director

 

 

SIGBI Statement

Originally published 4 March 2022

 

SIGBI Ltd shares the mounting concern about the devastating humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, and the attacks on the lives, livelihoods, safety and welfare of the Ukrainian people.

SIGBI’s Emergency Relief Fund has already donated £5,000 to the British Red Cross Ukrainian Appeal to help those refugees who are fleeing the armed conflict, and those remaining in the Ukraine, plus £1,000 to Soroptimist International of Europe’s Disaster Relief Fund.

A letter has been sent from Cathy Cottridge, President of Soroptimist International Great Britain and Ireland, to Elizabeth Truss MP, Foreign Secretary, urging her to implement UN Resolution 1325 in this situation:

The latest figures from the  United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees show that one million people have left the country, and many more thousands are displaced from their homes within Ukraine. The ICRC together with the Ukrainian Red Cross volunteers are reaching as many people as possible, distributing food and hygiene parcels, and helping evacuate people with disabilities. Teams have also provided first aid training to people in metro stations and bomb shelters, and are supporting fire fighters, medical and civil protection units.

 

Donating to help Ukraine

The Charity Commission has released the advice below on safe giving to charities to support Ukraine. Links to safe charities are also included below:

We would ask Members and Clubs who may wish to donate to give funds, not items of clothing/food etc, via the following appeals:

Disasters Emergency Committee.

https://www.dec.org.uk/appeal/ukraine-humanitarian-appeal

This is match funded by the UK Government at present.

British Red Cross

https://donate.redcross.org.uk/appeal/ukraine-crisis-appeal

International Committee of the Red Cross

https://www.icrc.org/en/humanitarian-crisis-ukraine

The UN Refuge Agency

https://donate.unhcr.org/int/en/ukraine-emergency

Soroptimist International of Europe

https://www.soroptimisteurope.org/donate/disaster-relief-fund/

SIGBI Ltd urges all parties involved in this conflict to swiftly work for an agreed peaceful outcome.

Cathy Cottridge
SIGBI President