We support women and girls in war and crisis zones
17. June 2022 - Press release

International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict: Support women’s rights organisations

Press Release: Cologne 16 June 2022. Sexualised violence against women and girls during wars has always been a part of human history – no matter which era, where in the world, or what type of warlike conflict. On the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict on June 19, medica mondiale is calling for feminist foreign policy in general, and specifically for more support for women and girls affected by violence and for the women’s rights organisations that assist them – in Ukraine and other crisis regions around the world.

Several women release balloons in a square in Pristina.
Even today, activists are still battling for acknowledgement of the severe violations of human rights committed against women in the Balkan Wars during in the 1990s.

Sexualised violence occurs in most wars and conflicts. In the vast majority of cases, it is women and girls who are raped, kidnapped, enslaved, and forced into marriage or pregnancy,”

says Monika Hauser, Board Member at medica mondiale.

“After these existential experiences of violence, above all else they need peace, security trauma-sensitive psychosocial support and medical care.”

In Ukraine and elsewhere, it is the women’s organisations who generally provide this support, working themselves into exhaustion to do so. It is essential that the international community and the German government provide financial and political support for local women’s organisations and activists in crisis regions. All too often, their valuable expertise is ignored or overlooked – they need to be given the opportunity to contribute from their experiences. Counselling points and support structures have to be expanded for women and girls who have been affected by sexualised and gender-based violence.

“Low-threshold contact points for traumatised women are required – both in the crisis regions and in the countries where people are seeking refuge from the wars, many of whom are women and children,”

says Hauser. medica mondiale has been in contact with local women’s rights organisations since the start of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. In May the organisation began to offer specialised training courses on the provision of support during situations of war for women affected by violence.

medica mondiale has extensive experience, in some cases over decades, of dealing with the trauma that result from sexualised violence. This is not just a case of supporting the individual women and girls affected; the organisation takes a broader approach which involves society acknowledging the women’s suffering and recognising the strength which enabled them to survive this severe injustice. One example of this is Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the war that took place 30 years ago, sexualised violence was used systematically as a weapon. Many women and their social environments are still suffering today from the consequences of that violence. And activists are still battling for the acknowledgement of this serious violation of human rights.

Jasna Zečević, Director of the Bosnian women’s rights organisation Vive Žene and a cooperation partner of medica mondiale says:

“Coping with and processing trauma is a very long process which many people need to be involved in: not only psychotherapists, but also governmental institutions, the public and the media. However, this has not happened yet. The survivors are still being ignored. We have seen how long it took for the Bosnian society to be able to speak about the rapes at all. It cannot be allowed to take this long again for Ukraine. We offer our solidarity and support to all women who have survived sexualised wartime violence.

In an appeal to the German government, medica mondiale is calling for feminist foreign policy. Monika Hauser explains:

“In many regions of the world, sexualised wartime violence is increasing with every wave of military violence. Currently we can see this in Ukraine, DR Congo and Ethiopia, for example. This makes it very clear how urgently our foreign and security policies need to be transformed. Human Security and the rights and needs of women have to be brought into the political focus.”