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Ukraine must prioritize women in post-war reconstruction: opinion

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Ukraine must prioritize women in post-war reconstruction: opinion
Article by: Hanna Anisimova, Maria Perrotta Berlin, Maja Bosnic, Yuliya Markuts, Michal Myck, Monika Oczkowska, Nataliia Shapoval

As Ukraine begins the challenging process of post-war reconstruction, the need for a gender perspective cannot be ignored. The importance of women’s representation for effective governance, the impact of the built environment on gender equality, the urgency of supporting displaced women and children, and the need for gender-sensitive labor market policies and education initiatives are all critical aspects that must be considered.

Gender equality in Ukraine and policy initiatives

The Ukrainian government announced a State Strategy for gender equality in August 2022, in the midst of the full-scale Russian invasion, reiterating its commitment to eradicating gender-based discrimination with a focus on empowering women. Before the war, the World Economic Forum noted that despite Ukrainian women having higher levels of education than men, they were less likely to hold key positions in business or politics or engage in the labor market. Women and men have also been subjected to many different risks and threats during the conflict. The recovery process presents a unique opportunity to address both pre-war and war-related gender inequalities. The Strategy builds on a larger legislative initiative that puts gender equality at the forefront of Ukrainian public policy, including through the adoption of Gender Responsive Budgeting (GRB) principles.

A new report suggests that considering the gender perspective and, in particular, applying gender-responsive budgeting (GRB) principles is essential for the reconstruction to ensure sustainable development and real benefits for all Ukrainians. This is in line with the Ukrainian State Strategy, which acknowledges gender equality as a human right and a catalyst for social and economic advancement.

Gender-responsive budgeting and post-war reconstruction

Recognizing how financial and fiscal policies may differently affect men and women, and provide differentiated benefits to various groups of the population, is at the core of GRB. GRB aims to ensure that government policies support goals for gender equality and that enough money is set aside to accomplish them.

The process should take into account the participation of population groups with diverse characteristics (e.g., gender, age, disability, and profession) to inform reconstruction priorities to ensure fair and effective use of reconstruction funds in accordance with GRB principles. Policies prioritizing the demands of the majority must consider the needs of minorities. A reconstruction plan with “everyone” in mind runs the risk of severe financial misallocation that benefits “no one.”

Historical experiences

When considering reconstruction in Ukraine, the Marshall Plan often comes to mind, but numerous examples of post-disaster relief and reconstruction worldwide emphasize the significance of a gender perspective. O

n the one hand, overlooking this perspective can lead to costly consequences and widening of the existing gaps. After the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka, large investments in fishing boats and nets ended up deepening labor market inequalities, as the demands and losses of workers engaged in fish processing and selling, mostly women, were ignored.

On the other hand, reconstruction presents a valuable opportunity to challenge the status quo. During relief operations after the 1992 flood in Pakistan, the practice of registering households or newly built houses in men’s names was contested. Registration under women’s names greatly increased aid access for disadvantaged households of single mothers and widows, who had previously been often disregarded. After the relief houses were registered to both husband and wife, or to women in female-headed households, a longer-term trend started of increased female homeownership, housing stability, and improved women’s status in the household. Similarly, the success of a public platform created to give voice to Aceh women who survived the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami is thought to have started the legislative process that led to the establishment of a gender quota in local elections in Indonesia since 2008.

Women’s representation in governance

Concerns of gender equality, including GRB principles, might easily be dismissed as low-priority issues, especially during times of crisis. This might be alleviated if more women were in political leadership positions in Ukraine. It has been demonstrated that when men and women are more evenly represented in political institutions, public funding, and policymaking better reflect women’s priorities. Additionally, project proposals developed by more gender-equal organizations tend to more closely reflect the interests and goals of both women and men. Increasing enforcement efficiency is the first step in improving the female representation quotas already present in Ukraine’s electoral system. Placement laws that require men and women to be listed in strictly alternating order should be considered to further gender parity on election lists.

A new agency that also needs to be gender-equal

Plans are in motion to establish a new agency to oversee reconstruction funds. As part of this effort, the Multi-Agency Donor Coordination Platform (MDCP) held its inaugural meeting on 26 January 2023. Integrating GRB principles into the practice of this new agency to allocate funds can facilitate the fair and effective distribution of reconstruction funds. Ukraine has been utilizing gender budgeting in its public finance system for several years, thus, there is likely a readily available supply of qualified personnel who can collaborate with international experts to implement GRB. It is also recommended that more women are involved in the agency itself, as well as in Ukrainian politics. Recent research shows that individual characteristics, including gender and other traits that are associated with it, have an impact on shaping public procurement methods and outcomes.

Rebuilding the physical environment

Many Ukrainian cities will need to be rebuilt from the ground. The built environment has important consequences for many aspects of gender equality, including effects on employment, housing, open spaces, transportation, and environmental quality.

These all have an impact on women’s lives and their ability to make choices. The quality of sidewalks, lighting, zoning, and connectivity are all important factors to consider in the rebuilding process.

Additionally, empowering women might benefit the key objective of increased energy efficiency, that will help Ukraine achieve its long-term goal of energy independence. Recent research shows that homes, where women have more decision-making power, are more energy efficient, and businesses with more women on their boards are far more likely to employ renewable energy sources.

Rebuilding and strengthening Ukraine’s human capital

The displacement of almost 8 million Ukrainians, 90% of whom are women with children, underscores the importance of prioritizing women’s and children’s needs in post-war reconstruction efforts. Supporting their return to Ukraine and reintegration into society will be vital to the reconstruction process. Gender-receptive active labor market policies will be necessary to improve employment conditions, and skill training should consider the gender dimensions of Ukraine’s labor market. Healthcare and education are areas where women represent a significant majority of workers, and supporting their skills development and utilization will be important for the recovery process.

The impact of war on education is another area of concern, as more than 5 million children have been affected by the conflict. Disrupted schooling routines may further disadvantage girls, who may be tasked with greater home and care responsibilities. It will be important to monitor school coverage and incentivize attendance, particularly among girls.

In conclusion, a gender perspective must be integrated into post-war reconstruction efforts in Ukraine. Building back better requires addressing social inequalities, and applying gender-responsive budgeting can help ensure efficient allocation of funds and strengthen the legitimacy of support from the international community. By prioritizing the needs of women and children in the reconstruction process, Ukraine can move towards a more inclusive, stable, and sustainable future.

This article was published in partnership with the Centre for Economic Policy Research


En bild som visar person, kvinna, inomhus Automatiskt genererad beskrivning Hanna Anisimova obtained her PhD in Economics from Donetsk National University in 2010. She has been working as a Research Assistant at the Stockholm Institute of Transition Economics (SITE) since June 2020.
En bild som visar person, kvinna Automatiskt genererad beskrivning Maria Perrotta Berlin is Assistant Professor of Economics at the Stockholm Institute of Transition Economics (SITE) and affiliated to the Mistra Center for Sustainable Markets (MISUM). Her research interests include development aid, gender gaps, gender-based violence, prostitution, corruption and environmental policy.
Maja Bosnic is an economist, specialized in public financial management and gender-responsive budgeting with 20 years of professional experience in international development projects. Ms Bosnic is currently Sector Lead for Governance portfolio of Niras International Consulting.
Pamela Campa is Associate Professor of Economics at the Stockholm Institute of Transition Economics (SITE) at Stockholm School of Economics. She is a Research Affiliate at the Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), the Mistra Center for Sustainable Markets (MISUM) and Dondena Gender Initiative. Her research interests are in Political Economy, Environmental Economics, and Gender Economics.
En bild som visar person, klädsel Automatiskt genererad beskrivning Yuliya Markuts, Ph.D., is the Head of the Center of Public Finance and Governance at the Kyiv School of Economics, and Associate Professor of Finance at the State University of Trade and Economics.
En bild som visar träd, utomhus, gräs, person Automatiskt genererad beskrivning Michal Myck is the Director and Member of the Board of the Centre for Economic Analysis (CenEA). Michal has a PhD in economics, and his research focuses on modeling of labor market behavior and on the implications of labor market regulations on employment and retirement decisions.
En bild som visar träd, utomhus, person, ung Automatiskt genererad beskrivning Monika Oczkowska is a Senior Research Economist at the Centre for Economic Analysis (CenEA). She works also as a Research Assistant at the Institute of Statistics and Demography at the Warsaw School of Economics. Her research interests focus on the economics of aging, labor market, and gender inequalities.
Nataliia Shapoval is Vice President for Policy Research at Kyiv School of Economics & Head of KSE Institute. Since the war started, Natalia and the KSE Institute team have focused on providing direct research-based analytical support on sanctions, damages, food security, and recovery issues to the Presidential Office, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, and the Yermak-McFaul International Working Group on Russian Sanctions.


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