To highlight the role of women and their needs in Ukraine’s recovery process, Cities Alliance, Streetnet International, and WIEGO hosted a workshop in Brussels. The event served as a platform to discuss their recent publication Rebuilding with Women: Amplifying Their Voices in Ukraine’s Recovery, with representatives of the European Commission, the European Investment Bank, UNOPS, NGOs, and other actors involved in the response and recovery of the country, and identify ways of collaboration and next steps. 

Gender Matters: Including women in reconstruction plans in Ukraine from the start

After one year of the war, 5.5 million people in Ukraine remain internally displaced. The war has caused the destruction of cities, decimated basic infrastructure, and increased levels of informality. According to the ILO, 5 million formal jobs have been lost since the beginning of the war.

This situation has exacerbated existing inequalities, especially in terms of gender. Ukrainian women and girls are increasingly vulnerable to displacement, loss of livelihood, poverty, violence, and trauma while facing even greater pressure to meet their needs and those of their families. Yet, women have mobilised across the country – serving in the army on the front lines, providing humanitarian aid, and protecting the injured and infirm. And there is no question that women must play a crucial role as Ukraine rebuilds.


Cities have been the worst hit areas in Ukraine, with large parts of their buildings and other infrastructure partially or completely destroyed.


The discussion highlighted the role of women and their needs in Ukraine’s recovery process, by exploring three key areas:

  1. Current initiatives European institutions are carrying out in support of Ukraine and its people, and how they are incorporating gender equality; 
  2. The results of 'Rebuilding with Women', how women are impacted by the war; and 
  3. How to ensure that the medium and long-term recovery process in Ukraine incorporates the needs of women and girls.

While the event participants agreed on the fact that women must play a central role in the reconstruction and recovery of Ukraine, it remains unclear, how this recognition will translate into effective urban plans and strategies, and how they will be implemented.


So far, the issue of gender inequality is mostly addressed in relation to gender-based violence but it is not associated with the planning and reconstruction of urban services. The risk is to rebuild infrastructure and public spaces that will reinforce existing inequalities.


Some of the key messages that emerged from the discussion include: 

The need for a multi-stakeholder approach. Civil society, local communities, and governments must all be actively involved in the recovery and reconstruction. The process must be participatory, with women at its core. All levels of government should involve women-focused civil society actors in the development and/or revision of city master plans. Many European cities have undergone post-war reconstruction processes, and their experiences, especially in terms of gender-sensitive and participatory approaches, can help Ukraine restore its cities in an effective and inclusive way. Increasing decentralisation and strengthening the capacity of local governments can also improve the reconstruction process by making sure the needs of all represented actors are addressed. 
Women must be at the centre of efforts to rebuild Ukraine. The workshop participants highlighted the importance of engaging women and girls in mapping the war’s damages, expressing their needs and priorities for urban services, and finding inclusive and innovative solutions for restoring destroyed buildings. Women-friendly urban services include well-lit footpaths for prams, wheelchairs, and walkers; playgrounds and public spaces; providing street lighting and accessible toilets; and relocating food, health, education, and entertainment facilities to easily reachable distances. In particular, adequate childcare spaces for all workers – whether they are formally, informally, or self-employed – are crucial to allowing women to play a full role in reconstruction. For this reason, it is essential to collect gender-sensitive data and carry out gender needs assessments.
There must be a framework for socioeconomic inclusion. Beyond the reconstruction of infrastructure systems, themes such as access to land, services, education, economic opportunities, and inclusive urban planning need to be addressed with the participation of all stakeholders. The Ukrainian government and the international community both have a role to play in fostering income-generating activities during and after the war. This means working together to restore and prioritise childcare and women’s healthcare services, as well as designing mobility services that incorporate women’s needs. 
Women's skills need to be developed. It is important to support the development of women’s human capital by improving their skills in growing areas such as digitalisation. Any labour legislation should be in line with international and EU standards and protect workers’ rights.
Develop gender-responsive budgeting and audit mechanisms. These mechanisms will ensure gender mainstreaming within the funding disbursed in support of Ukraine, adequate financial support to women-led organisations, and monitoring of initiatives for women’s empowerment and gender equality.

Read the full report of the workshop here

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