Sat Feb 24, 2024
February 24, 2024

In Ukraine, Women Also Resist!

The invasion of Ukraine has already lasted more than a month, and it is impressive to see the Ukrainian people’s heroism in carrying out the resistance against the Russian army. Women are the most admirable battalion in this unequal struggle.
By Lorena Cáceres
When Putin initiated the invasion and started bombing Ukraine, Zelensky’s orders were very clear: men should stay in the country and women should take refuge and flee with their children. It seemed that the war “was a man’s business”. Although in desperation many women fled the country and high-risk situations, the truth is that an immense majority stood their ground and joined the resistance.
Far from the image of weakness and rearguard duties, Ukrainian women have for years taken the defense of their country into their own hands. They are almost 25% of the regular army and since the fight against the annexation of Crimea in 2014, they have put up a fight to take up tasks on the front lines.
At that time hundreds of women enlisted voluntarily because they understood that it was necessary to fight against the attack on their sovereignty, that it was also their fight. However, they had to fight against the Russian invader at the same time that they had to face the internal machismo that delegated them non-combat tasks, made them invisible, and placed them in a secondary role.
Since then, thousands of women enlisted in the army and not only broke records but also, by dint of their struggle, managed to obtain specific combat tasks.
Resistance at all levels
While the First Lady herself had to pose as the protagonist of the struggle and help to change Zelensky’s public image, the women of Ukraine have refused to flee and instead have joined all levels of the resistance. In the first days, we saw them preparing Molotov cocktails, more and more of them have enlisted in military training, with many young women saying that it is the first time in their lives that they handle a weapon and although they are afraid, they are convinced that they must do it.
Volunteers in Kyiv
But the tasks are not only combat: those who for various reasons cannot join the front lines instead take up the work of organizing the feeding of troops, the preparation of camouflage, and many take turns to care for children, the elderly, and the sick in shelters and bunkers throughout the country.
An important task in times of war, and no less during an ongoing global pandemic, is health care and care of the wounded. This front is largely female. Nurses, caregivers, and doctors work tirelessly to care for the wounded. We have witnessed with horror the bombing in Mariupol that destroyed a maternity hospital and we have similarly seen images of improvised hospitals in shelters that had been built during the Second World War.
Women fight against the invasion in Russia as well
It is well known that there are Russians who oppose this criminal invasion and that for years they have been questioning the oppressive regime of the Kremlin. The demonstrations across Russia are admirable and courageous and have had an impact, leading to arrests and internal repression. Women there have equally decided not to be spectators, feminist groups and organizations fighting for women’s rights raise their voices and oppose the war in the very heart of the invader.
With the Stalinization of the Soviet workers’ state and the subsequent capitalist restoration, Russian women have lived through the reversal of the gains of the October Revolution of 1917, once the greatest victory for women’s rights. Today, they live under an oppressive, sexist, and homophobic regime. But it is not so easy to erase the traces of that important revolution: the women of Russia say that they are here to join the just struggle against the invasion.
The refugees
According to the UN, this invasion has as of this writing created almost 4 million refugees, a massive exodus where those primarily affected are women, children, and the elderly. They have had to leave the country in terrible conditions, with small children, leaving part of their family on the battlefield and not knowing if they will have food and shelter where they arrive.
The reality of this capitalist system is so cruel that, in addition to the scourges of war, many women are becoming the victims of human trafficking networks, which, taking advantage of the desperate situation, kidnap them and turn them into sexual commodities. This danger is also present for the thousands of children who are alone: it is heartbreaking to see the number of stories of children who go through such a painful situation alone.
There are volunteers at the borders and many Europeans are in favor of giving homes to refugees. Nevertheless, discrimination is still the order of the day, and black refugees face mistreatment and persecution when they reach “safer” grounds outside the war zone.
Keep resisting!
A few days ago a declaration was issued by feminist groups and leaders from Russia, USA, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, etc. calling themselves the “Feminist anti-war resistance”[1]. They are right to follow the initiative of Russian anti-war groups, denounce the invasion, and call for solidarity with Ukraine. This very important sector also calls for peace and demilitarization.
As the IWL, we share the demands that they raise for the cancellation of the Ukrainian foreign debt, for the cancellation of the treaties with the IMF in that country, and also their denunciation of NATO as an oppressor in the region.
However, we do not agree that pacifism is an appropriate answer to an ongoing military invasion. The Ukrainian women show the correct path by their example: armed resistance against the invaders. The cancellation of the debt should serve, contrary to what the feminist manifesto proposes, to guarantee arms and food, and health aid to the resistance. To repel the invader, it is necessary to reinforce and give adequate military equipment to the Ukrainian people.
The women of the world, especially of the working class, have the same task as our comrades, to support the resistance, to organize boycotts of Russian interests, and to demonstrate in order to support and strengthen this just struggle. Just as we uphold the right of self-defense for women who suffer gender violence, and call for the release of women imprisoned for killing their rapists or would-be murderers, we similarly call for the right and importance of Ukrainian self-defense.
Women in Ukraine are suffering, but this fight that puts them side by side in defense of their country’s sovereignty also advances the struggle for their rights as women. Now that they are fighting, having broken stereotypes, and facing a superior army, will they be sent back home to take care of the family or to be surrogates on demand for couples who pay for their children as commodities? No, they are advancing in the fight against male oppression also by taking up arms in battle. The common struggle for the defense of their country is also the struggle for their rights as women. For this reason and in order to advance it even further, far from resisting “unarmed” or waiting for world leaders to act, a military triumph with women leading the way will give Ukraine a victory that women will also be able to take advantage of in their daily lives.

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