Today marks the 105th day of the invasion of Ukraine. At WAVE, we want to use this Thursday to amplify our members’ voices from the frontlines and share their stories with you. How have they been coping and what can you do to support them?
The work of our colleagues in Romania is highly affected by the war in Ukraine, as many Ukrainian refugees crossed the border to Romania. However, many refugees are only in transit, intending to leave for other European countries. Because of the short period that some refugees stay in Romania, our member organisations face difficulties establishing trusting relationships and safe places for women to talk about their needs and traumas. At the same time, necessary support for the women that are staying in Romania is also high. The language barrier poses additional challenges to best accommodate the needs of the women. Despite these challenges, our colleagues in Romania have quickly responded to the current situation by offering various support and services.
The Anais Association was founded at the end of 2011, focusing on providing and developing social services for victims of domestic violence. In light of the high influx of Ukrainian refugees to Romania, our colleagues at Anais are in the process of organising new projects to best respond to the current needs. With the financial help of the Care Foundation, they are starting a project dedicated to Ukrainian refugee women. The project idea is to create a Women and Girls Community Centre. The aim of this centre is to build an informal safe space for refugee women and girls for socialisation, cultural exchange, social and psychological support, recreational activities, and information about specialised support services. The idea behind the centre is to respond to the needs of women and girls who have experienced or are at risk of exposure to sexual abuse, domestic violence, and other forms of abuse or exploitation. In this line, many activities are planned, such as psychological counselling, information sessions on sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), sessions on reproductive health, and others.
One present challenge for Anais is that due to the current context generated by the war in Ukraine, they face a drastic decrease in funding to support the organisation’s core activity: the social services offered in the counselling centre to prevent and combat domestic violence. Therefore, they call on funders not to forget supporting the organisation’s core activities next to funding specific projects dedicated to helping Ukrainian refugee women.
One of our other Romanian members, the Filia Centre, has also adapted its work to the current situation. The Filia centre was founded in 2000 and is a feminist non-profit organisation fighting gender inequalities through activism, advocacy and research. Since the start of the war, our colleagues at the Filia Centre have been in close contact with two organisations from Ukraine. One is the Women’s Consortium Ukraine (a network of multiple NGOs working on women’s rights, children’s rights, and gender equality). The other organization is Way Home, an NGO from Odessa working with women from vulnerable groups and survivors of gender-based violence (GBV). For these two organisations, the Filia Centre has started a fundraising campaign to donate money and other products such as food, hygiene products, and baby supplies to the organisations. In addition, together with Way Home, they safely relocated 82 refugees (women and children) from Ukraine to Romania.
Next to supporting the Ukrainian organisations, our colleagues at Filia are launching a website for Ukrainian women in Romania with information about reproductive health and rights (access to abortion, monitoring of pregnancies), safety and GBV, and general information about social issues and benefits in Romania. In addition to that, Filia is in the process of accessing funds to help refugees from Ukraine pay for these services, such as doctor’s appointments, abortion pills, psychologists, and lawyers.
The third member organisation we would like to introduce in this article is the Necuvinte Association. They are a non-governmental organisation established in 2013 to combat discrimination, abuse, and gender-based violence. Like our other Romanian member organisations, our colleagues at the Necuvinte Association have been involved in supporting Ukrainian refugees arriving in Bucharest. Since the beginning of the war, the focus has been on raising awareness by distributing informative flyers at the customs points regarding GBV, the risk of human trafficking, sexualised violence, and reproductive rights. This campaign was created in partnership with the General Inspectorate of the Romanian Police (IGPR), the General Inspectorate of the Border Police (IGPF) and the National Agency Against Trafficking in Persons (ANITP) and is still ongoing.
Moreover, our colleagues at Necuvinte started helping families staying in Bucharest by providing dignity kits (containing essential hygiene products for women and girls), clothes for women and children, and psychological/trauma support. Additionally, they are in the process of finding extra financial assistance to cover medical care, more dignity kits, and other necessary support for Ukrainian refugees. As the needs of women coming from Ukraine are constantly changing, Necuvinte is adapting to the situation every day by providing many kinds of additional support.
How to best support the work of our Romanian members
If you want to support the activities of our member organisations, such as the Anais Association, the Filia Center and the Necuvinte Association, please consider donating to our fundraiser: https://www.betterplace.at/support-womens-human-rights-defenders-in-ukraine