During her visit to New York, First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska took part in the HeForShe global summit and the Women in Conflict forum within the 77th session of the UN General Assembly. The President’s wife spoke about the situation of Ukrainian women in wartime conditions.
The HeForShe Summit under the auspices of UN Women is a United Nations solidarity movement for gender equality that brings together prime ministers, presidents, CEOs, opinion leaders and celebrities from around the world to act jointly to achieve such equality. This year, Prime Minister of Japan Fumio Kishida took part in the event.
During her speech at the summit, Olena Zelenska emphasized the need to talk about equality between men and women even in the 21st century.
“In times of upheaval, inequality is felt much more acutely. War exposes the nerves. So I ask the whole world, everyone: if you are an employer, what doors will you open for Ukrainian women who have been forced to leave their homes? Will you give them a decent paying job and a fair weekend? If you are a law enforcement officer, how will you respond to violence and exploitation of migrant women? Can you prevent them from becoming victims of human trafficking? Can you protect them like the citizens of your countries? If you are a local resident, would you have the strength to hear a refugee woman? A refugee child? Will your empathy and patience be enough until they can return to a peaceful Ukraine? Your answer, even if you don’t voice it, is very important. Because it is about equality here and now,” said Olena Zelenska.
The First Lady also held a meeting with UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous. The interlocutors discussed the necessity and relevance of further development of the network of shelters, training of specialists to work in them.
“The war will add to the problems caused by domestic and gender-based violence. I called on UN Women to join in solving the problem of crimes of sexual violence by the military and to keep it under their control. We have to create conditions so that our women feel safe, and then they will start testifying,” said the President’s wife.
In addition, on the second day of her visit to New York, Olena Zelenska took part in the opening of the Women in Conflict forum.
The event was also attended by: President of the European Council Charles Michel, UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth Jayathma Wickramanayake, Secretary-General of the International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF) Louise Mushikiwabo, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Nadia Murad and others.
Olena Zelenska told what Ukrainian women need the most now.
“Ukrainian women need victory the most. I am saying this after we found whole families killed by Russia in the recently liberated Izyum. Employees of the emergency service and police officers who exhume the bodies are crying because it is impossible to withstand. That’s why Ukrainian women do not need abstract “peace”, they need victory over the evil that has done it. So that it could no longer kill any child, any mother,” said Olena Zelenska.
She also emphasized the importance of psychological support for Ukrainian women who have experienced violence from Russian soldiers: “According to psychologists, a woman who has experienced violence can testify only when she feels completely safe. So we need to create such security for our women. So that they feel that they can finally speak and be heard. That there is no threat or condemnation. Currently, the National Program of Mental Health and Psychosocial Support operates in Ukraine. Its goal is to work with the psychological consequences of war. To cover the whole country with psychological support. And my call is to involve the entire international experience in order to create a special program of support and rehabilitation for Ukrainian women.”
The First Lady called on the world to support Ukrainian women.
“Look: these are women just like you. Who had plans and a normal life. And now they are fighting for it. Yes, they are heroes, but do they have to be? Is it normal in the world where we want to live for a woman to die heroically, covering her children? Should Russian aggression continue, becoming a convenient TV show for the whole world? This is not a rhetorical question. I think everyone who has empathy knows the answer,” Olena Zelenska summed up.