Around the world, women overwhelmingly bear the brunt of crisis, facing increased gender-based violence and disproportionate risk of discrimination.
However, mothers facing multiple threats to themselves and their children continue to show remarkable resilience, compassion and strength as they flee conflict in search of safety for their family, or distribute life-saving aid to those most in need.
This Mother’s Day, International Rescue Committee is highlighting the stories of IRC staff and mothers from Yemen, Syria and Ukraine, as well as mothers and daughters in Ukraine receiving support from our Safe Healing and Learning Spaces for women and children.
Safe Healing and Learning Space, Vinnytsia, Ukraine
When the war in Ukraine broke out, and massive missile strikes caused a loss of communications, electricity and gas in her city, Tatiana fled West to protect her children.
They eventually settled in the Vinnytsia region. Here Tatiana was able to find work and her daughter Maryia (10) has been able to attend IRC’s Safe Healing and Learning Space and receive emotional and psychosocial support.
Tatiana said, “When there was no electricity, there was no gas, and the problems with water had already started, we made the decision that we should leave for a safer territory of Ukraine. And then more massive strikes from the sky began.
“So we just went as far as the eye could see. And we drove, drove and arrived in Vinnytsia.”
Fun and educational activities
After being forced to evacuate their home in 2014, Inna and her family packed up their belongings and drove to Vinnytsia, leaving behind Inna’s grandmother and their dog Pesa.
Despite leaving under difficult circumstances, Inna was able to adjust to life quickly in Vinnytsia, finding a job within a week after she arrived.
When the war escalated in Ukraine in February 2022, Inna began working as an administrator at a local organisation that helps newly displaced people who arrive in Vinnytsia.
Through her work, she discovered the IRC’s Safe Healing and Learning Space, and was grateful to have her daughter Yana (13) participate in the programme.
Having been displaced for several years, both Inna and Yana are big advocates of the SHLS, which helps displaced children heal from the trauma of war. It has been particularly helpful for Yana to participate in fun and educational activities with other children her age, and receive psychosocial support.
Meeting basic needs, Ukraine/Poland
Natalia is a cash and basic needs officer with the IRC in Poland. But like many mothers from Ukraine, she experienced the same terror and impossible decisions to make for her family when the war in Ukraine conflict escalated.
“There is one rule which I use in my life to understand people and their personal situation. Just imagine yourself in the place of this person.
“So, if you imagine that Ukrainians lost their houses, places they know, or if you imagine that they can’t be safe any more in their homes… Just imagine this and you will understand who refugees are: people.”
Helping mums-to-be, Yemen
Dr. Waood is a 34-year old reproductive health officer with the IRC in Yemen. As a mother of two children, she has experienced first-hand how being pregnant and giving birth during conflict is traumatic for women.
She recounts an experience from 2015, where she was pregnant, and clashes all around her home were at an all-time high. Suddenly, a plane started to drop missiles on the ground.
Desperate to protect her child, she was able to find safety by running to the ground floor of her apartment building.
After having lived through this, she felt that no other woman should go through a similar experience.
The experience motivated her to help displaced women who had been affected by conflict.
Today, Dr Waood supervises midwives who provide reproductive health services to women in affected communities.
Vital admin support for refugees, Syria
Lina is a case processing officer who works with the IRC in Mahmoudli Camp in north-east Syria. It’s home to approximately 8,000 internally displaced Syrians who have fled from their homes due to the conflict, and provides aid to young mothers and children.
Lina is a working mother herself; her children go to nursery so that she’s able to start work in the camp at 8am. At 8.30am she starts receiving patients for self-help sessions, psychosocial support sessions and case processing services – helping other women in the camp who have suffered the trauma of displacement.
She works tirelessly at the camp all day, and then spends her evenings looking after her children and helping them with their homework.