Ukrainian Women Find New Skills in Self-Care and Supporting Others

August 1, 2022

Since the start of the Russian invasion in February 2022, more than 6 million Ukrainians have fled the country. This is approximately one-third of the Ukrainian population, making it the largest human displacement crisis today. Over 90% of those displaced are women and children, many of whom are at risk of harassment, sexual and gender-based violence, and human trafficking. There is a large unmet need for them to access resources such as mental health and psychosocial support services.

To address this, the WomenLead Institute designed a workshop to promote participants’ mental and emotional health while developing peer support skills in a crisis setting. The Self-Care and Skill-Building Workshop, funded by ExxonMobil Corporation, is informed by Counterpart’s decades of experience in women’s empowerment programming, social work, and crisis intervention. In six sessions, participants will learn supportive coping mechanisms, practice healthy grounding techniques, establish and value boundary setting, and understand the roles and responsibilities of a peer supporter.

By developing peer support skills, participants will be able to foster meaningful connections with others who understand their shared experience. The workshop highlights the importance of active listening, validating experiences, creating judgment-free spaces, and prioritizing one’s own mental health. The instruction provides guidance on how to support someone experiencing trauma while mitigating the risk of re-traumatization, particularly when caring for mothers or children.

Twenty refugees took part in the first session in July. Currently living in Romania, many of these women traveled across Ukraine with their children, leaving behind their homes, careers, friends, and family. They are educators, translators, economists, lawyers, fashion designers, and artists. They have lost loved ones to the conflict, and some have not heard from those who stayed behind to fight. In the face of enormous challenges, they have had to learn how to communicate in a foreign language, find a place to stay, provide for their children, generate income, and care for other family members. Some still travel across the border to provide humanitarian aid and supplies to those remaining in Ukraine. Some are waiting for visas from other European countries. Others are looking to start a new life in Romania.

A graduate of a WomenLead Institute training program who works at Asociatia Touched Romania offered her organization’s space in Bucharest for the training. Lavinia Dinu of ExxonMobil welcomed them. She described the workshop as “an important opportunity to find support and support one another.” She presented each participant with a Samsung Galaxy tablet and listened as they exchanged stories and shared aspirations for the weeks ahead. The resiliency and courage of the women was strong as they took this next step in their journeys. Upon completion of the workshop, they will join hundreds in the global network of the WomenLead Institute.

Learn more about our Women’s Empowerment focus area.

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