HIAS, WRC, Local Organizations Helping Ukrainian Refugees Say Response Must Keep Focus on Women and Girls

Delegation of Women- and LGBTQ+-led Groups Coming to U.S. to Meet UN and Other Stakeholders

SILVER SPRING, Md. — Since the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine two years ago, women- and LGBTQ+-led civil society organizations have been at the forefront of helping people who have been displaced by the conflict, many of whom continue to be affected by gender-based violence (GBV). This month, seven women on the front lines of the humanitarian response will join HIAS and the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) in New York and Washington to bring their first-hand accounts to United Nations officials and other stakeholders about the war’s ongoing disproportionate impact on women and girls — and the urgent need for support for women-led initiatives in the region.  

“We still have a lot of occupied territories in Ukraine and there will be many more cases of sexual violence and we need to be prepared for this,” said delegation representative Iryna Kuratchenko, a Ukrainian Psychologist and Forensic Specialist focused on violence against women and girls, who leads the organization Vzayemodiya in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. “It is not just about reparations; it is about the full support for survivors. And these cases need to be taken to the International Criminal Court.”

Delegation members represent grassroots organizations that work with Ukrainian refugees in Moldova, Poland, and Romania, as well as with internally displaced people inside Ukraine. Their visit is part of the organizations’ ongoing partnership with HIAS, which works with local organizations through its offices in Ukraine and surrounding countries where refugees have sought protection. In 2023, HIAS piloted the Women and Girls Fund, an emergency participatory grantmaking funding model in Ukraine, to shift power to communities leading response efforts and to promote equity and agency in humanitarian funding. 

“In our response to the displacement crisis and the continuing incidence of GBV in Ukraine and surrounding countries, HIAS is dedicated to supporting local organizations that provide services to refugees and internally displaced people, and our programming is built around a commitment to the increased representation and leadership of women and girls,” said Heidi Lehmann, HIAS’ Senior Advisor, Gender and Inclusion. “This delegation of our partners will play an important role in highlighting the need for the humanitarian response to continue to be based on gender-responsive and equitable support of women- and LGBTQ+-led initiatives.” 

“These are the leaders that people in power need to hear, and really listen to,” said Melanie Nezer, WRC’s vice president of advocacy and external relations. “Every day, they witness and respond to the needs of people who are displaced by the war in Ukraine, focusing on meeting the unique needs of people who are often underestimated and overlooked. One day the war will end, but to achieve real peace, the humanitarian response and the rebuilding must include leaders like these and other women- and LGBTQ+ leaders who have a profound understanding of the problems and have through their daily work made real progress towards solutions.”

With the support of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Care International, and the Women’s Refugee Commission, local partners are undertaking a landscape assessment to inform stakeholders and develop recommendations on how cash and voucher assistance can be used to improve access to and uptake of family planning among Ukrainian refugees in Poland. 

Following their arrival in New York City on March 16, delegation members will participate in panels co-sponsored by the Permanent Missions of Germany and Ukraine to the United Nations, in association with HIAS and WRC, to discuss gender-responsive approaches to recovery and reconstruction in Ukraine, and the role of local women- and LGBTQ+-led organizations in promoting accountability and justice for gender-based violence. On March 21, the delegation will join a discussion organized by the UN Commission on the Status of Women about financing and institutional reform for gender-responsive recovery and reconstruction. While in New York, members also plan to meet with other stakeholders, including UN Women, UNICEF, and UNHCR.  

On March 25, delegation members will travel to Washington, D.C., where they will meet with policymakers in Congress and the administration.


About WRC

The Women’s Refugee Commission improves the lives and protects the rights of women, children, and youth who have been displaced by conflict and crisis. With partners in crisis-affected communities, we research their needs, identify solutions, and advocate for programs and policies to strengthen their resilience and drive change in humanitarian and displacement practice. Learn more at www.womensrefugeecommission.org

About HIAS

HIAS is the international Jewish humanitarian organization that provides vital services to refugees, asylum seekers, and other forcibly displaced people in 23 countries across the globe. We advocate for the rights of all forcibly displaced people to rebuild their lives and seek to create a world in which they find welcome, safety, and opportunity. Learn more and take action at HIAS.org.

Delegation members: 

Jarmila Rybicka, Co-Founder, Conflict Kitchen, Poland

Jarmila Rybicka started Conflict Kitchen in 2016 as a multicultural space for dialogue and belonging, co-created with refugees. Starting with a bistro run by refugees, Conflict Kitchen created a place where delicious food brought people together, offered legal employment and stability and a sense of belonging. In 2021 Conflict Kitchen passed the bistro over to the refugee-led initiative Women on the Move. Conflict Kitchen sprang into action when the war broke out in Ukraine, and with a focus on third country nationals providing shelter, organizing safe travel, and providing other life-saving support to refugees coming to Poland. Today, Conflict Kitchen continues to support the most marginalized refugees, including those from third countries (those without Ukrainian passports), stateless people and LGBTQ+ refugees. 

Natalia Postolachi, Executive Director, CASMED, Moldova

Natalia Postolachi, Executive Director of CASMED is passionate about driving transformative change in healthcare and social services. She has led the organization toward its vision of an active and healthy Moldova where quality services are accessible to everyone for over a decade. Founded in 2006, CASMED supports refugees living on the margins of displacement, disability and aging, through the development and implementation of social, educational, and health services. CASMED also supports medical institutions to develop effective assessment tools and elderly-friendly communities so they can better address the needs of elderly patients.

Anna Burtea, Inima de Copil (A Child’s Heart), Romania

Inima de Copil, a refugee- and local Romanian-led organization, provides social assistance (including legal registration support and help finding accommodation), daily education programs for preschoolers and after school activities for children, and social integration programs for children and adults, along with specialized psychological counseling, specialized assistance for mothers and people with disabilities, in-kind goods and services, Romanian-English language classes, accommodation, and medication. Inima de Copil runs two ‘Refugee Resource and Support Centers’ in Galati and Brăila where Ukrainians can build community and feel accepted. Inima de Copil has assisted over 6,300 refugees, provided 4,200 hot meals, helped 100 children, organized over 3,000 donations for refugees, and run over 10 humanitarian transports.

Iraida Gerashchenko, Uspishna Zhinka (Successful Woman), Ukraine

Uspishna Zhinka, located in both Odesa and Kherson regions, works to protect displaced women and girls; and advance gender equality by offering GBV services, safe spaces for women and girls, and through improving access to basic social services. 

Iryna Kuratchenko, Specialist Psychologist, Vzayemodiya, Ukraine

Iryna Kuratchenko is a Ukrainian Psychologist and Forensic Specialist focused on violence against women and girls. She leads Vzayemodiya, a Ukrainian organization that is providing psychological support and assistance, and protection to internally displaced individuals in Ukraine, with a focus on conflict related sexual violence.  

Hanna Rozhkova, Invisible, Ukraine

Invisible provides services, such as self-defense classes, to Internally Displaced Persons, Roma, and other groups of women who are vulnerable due to their citizenship status.

Olena Shevchenko, Founder, Insight, Ukraine

Olena Shevchenko, one of the most visible lesbian activists in Ukraine, co-founded Insight in 2006. As an advocacy and humanitarian organization, Insight offers education and legal support, medical and psycho-social services, and works toward LGBTIQ+ inclusion within the humanitarian sector and crisis response to the war on Ukraine.


Search HIAS