Ukraine_Yulia standing with women and children on the roadside
Photo: CARE Ukraine

World Humanitarian Day: “May love, tolerance, and understanding unite our world”

Even as women are disproportionately impacted by crises, they continue to be central in leading efforts for sustainable solutions to their compounding effects. In the lead up to World Humanitarian Day on August 19th, we are shining light on the role of women in humanitarian crises around the globe. 

Through their work at CARE, our partner organizations, and communities around the world, womanitarians are empowering women everywhere and amplifying their voices in the fight for a world of hope, inclusion, and social justice. 

Join us in learning about Yulia's amazing journey! 

Yulia Hladka: “May love, tolerance, and understanding unite our world”

Yulia Hladka is a part of Winds of Change, a women-led NGO based in Odessa, Ukraine, which works with CARE to promote women’s participation in the response to the current humanitarian crisis. She shared the deep impacts that the escalation of the conflict has had on their work and how they plan to continue supporting women in a context of growing needs. 

Portrait of woman wearing glasses

How has the conflict impacted your work at Winds for Change?

Back in 2017, Winds of Change was formed by members of a support group for women affected by gender-based violence. Since then, we have worked to support women to take leadership positions as employees, mentors, and role models for other women.  

We also established a community center where Romani women could meet and discuss issues, and later, a social sewing enterprise called Petalentsa.  

Since the beginning of the conflict, people in Odessa have welcomed many internally displaced people (IDPs). We met people at train stations and bus stations, providing social and psychological support. We advocate for fair distribution of humanitarian aid and actively provided humanitarian assistance to remote locations where the concentration of aid was lacking, starting from February 24th. 

What are the challenges and strengths of being a woman working in the humanitarian sector?  

As women working in the humanitarian sector, we need to be highly stress-resistant, non-biased, and consider the diverse needs of families and individuals. We also need to be more aware of safety than our male colleagues, especially in areas with greater gender-based violence risks (for instance, where roads are poorly lit). 
However, we also have multiple sources of strength. Historically, women have been imposed the responsibility of guaranteeing the well-being of the family, acting as the main caretaker, providing meals, etc. Although this has been obviously harmful, it also means we know the needs of women with children and families, who are often the ones at the frontline of humanitarian disasters.  

"We work to support women into leadership positions as employees, mentors, and role models for other women."

You work with CARE on Women Lead in Emergencies, a project which supports women’s groups to take a lead role in responding to crises. Can you tell us about your efforts in this project? 

Our project is aimed at helping Roma women. We go to the communities of Odessa region, hold advocacy meetings, identify problems for Roma families (for example, helping Roma girls access education and medical care), and work with Roma women and girls to strengthen their voice and leadership.  

Thinking about the communities you work with, is there a particular person that you will always remember? 

Olya Stepnova reached out to the "Winds of Change" Foundation for support for herself and her children. She lived in a small house with five kids and her sister, who had 13 children. Olya didn't attend school and struggled to find employment. We were able to assist Olya in obtaining quality medical services for her and her sister's children. Currently, Olya is participating in a leadership skills workshop, organized by CARE and Winds of Change. She is kind and responsible and wants to help her community - the village of Gradanicy - create a new playground for the Romani children who spend their days outdoors and want somewhere to play.  

"Let's overcome suffering together, support each other, and strive to ensure a dignified life for everyone."

What are your priorities for Winds of Change over the next five years? 

Our priorities for the upcoming year will be to continue providing emergency assistance to women and children who move to Odessa because of the conflict, and helping Romani women and IDPs integrate into their new communities. We’ll also continue working on preventing domestic violence and violence based on gender or sexuality.  We’ll also be continuing with the sewing workshop Petalentsa.  

Finally, if you have one message for the world on behalf of the women in Ukraine affected by the conflict, what would it be? 

We, the women of Ukraine, address the whole world with words of peace, harmony, and compassion. Let's overcome suffering together, support each other, and strive to ensure a dignified life for everyone. Together, we can make the world a better place. Thank you for supporting "Winds of Change." May love, tolerance, and understanding unite our world. 

Read more stories of women leading in crisis