As the world mobilizes, as never before, to respond to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, it is essential that we are aware of the increased risk that this moment represents for Ukrainian women, and for what may be a huge setback in achieving gender equality. On this day, International Woman's Day, I feel obligated to share my concerns.

Every year, on March 8th for International Women's Day, we celebrate the achievements of women around the world. This year, our hearts and concerns should be first and foremost with the women and girls of Ukraine.

A long, arduous - and unfinished - journey for equality

For more than 100 years, on this day, the focus has been on the problems that affect women as a result of gender inequality, whether social, political or economic. The conquest for equality has been long, arduous, and the expected results have not always been achieved. But the path was being made. In the so-called Western countries, the conquest for equality has been a path under construction, with a series of stages already conquered, for which we thought there was no turning back. Until February 24, 2022.

The history of armed conflicts can help us to understand the risks that Ukrainian women now face, such as gender-based violence, rape, human trafficking, to name a few. But a risk that particularly concerns me is labor exploitation. As refugees, and as a result of the urgent need for work and the lack of knowledge of the policies and laws of the countries that host them, these women will be at high risk of exploitation.

How we can help

As an integral part of the job market, each of us can do something to minimize this equality risk for women. Here are some ideas:

  • Raise awareness within your company and with your friends. The more people are aware of the problem, the less women will be at risk of labor exploitation. Job opportunities open for women refugees should be in line with other open job opportunities for the same role.
  • Help organize events for Ukrainian refugee women who have taken refuge in your country. They need assistance learning how things work. Bring in guests to clarify all work-related aspects to guide them in searching for a job. Make sure these events have translation for Ukrainian.
  • Bring to public any situation of possible job exploitation you come across with. Many refugees may well accept worse job conditions, just to get a job. It is our responsibility to be vigilant of these situations, and contribute to a fair integration of Ukrainian women in other labor markets.

If the last two weeks have taught us anything, it is to take nothing for granted.

Unfortunately, we now know we cannot take gender equality conquers as a given either. Too many challenges will arise in the coming weeks, and months, in a world very different from the one we had 2 weeks ago. Let us all do our part.