Research on Women Participating in the ATO

The research is metaphorically titled “Invisible battalion” as it provides information about women who are fighting at war (mobilized or serve as volunteers) but whose interests and needs are often ignored by the state. The research has confirmed that the armed forces of Ukraine are not too reluctant towards women soldiers, however, results of the research can be fundamental for the military reforms to change the approach, particularly, taking into account the transformations that occur with armies around the world.

It was announced on December 4, 2015, in Kyiv during the presentation of the results of the research “Invisible battalion”: women’s participation in the ATO operations ”
The research which is considered to be the first comprehensive sociological monitoring of women at war in the East lasted several phases. In particular, 42 women from different subdivisions who participated in the ATO were interviewed to become the voices of the “Invisible battalion.”

Among others, the research examined such topics as legal aspects of women’s participation in the ATO, domestic circumstances contributing to women’s participation in the ATO, gender stereotypes towards the women participating in the ATO and the separate section was devoted to the representation of women participating in the ATO in the media.
The research has revealed the existing stereotypes towards women in the military among those in command and in the armed forces and the existing legal conflicts, domestic paradoxes and many other nuances that accompany women during their participation in the ATO.

The research was presented by the following authors: project coordinator Maria Berlinska, head of the volunteer organization “Center for the support of air-reconnaissance”; Tamara Martsenyuk, a candidate of social sciences, associate professor, department of sociology, National University of “Kyiv-Mohyla Academy”; Anna Kvita and Anna Grytsenko, a researcher on gender issues.

The research was supported by the Ukrainian Women’s Fund.

The results of the research and surveys of women who are participating in the ATO revealed that the main challenges that were outlined by almost all the respondents include issues that prevent them from making decisions in the army. Women are not actually allowed to take decisions in the armed forces. Many of them are not formally registered and in fact, cannot get remunerated for their work and will not have government benefits, veteran’s status.

Another problem refers to the fact that some women are not formally registered to be employed in positions that they are actually occupying. That being said, they are limited in choice as they are told that the staff list does not envision any positions for women. There is a host of issues that are not discussed at the state level, in particular, domestic issues: the lack of specialized health care for women, sizes, and shape of shoes, inadequate living conditions. In fact, the entire infrastructure in the Armed Forces of Ukraine was developed to meet only the needs of men by excluding women with their specific needs from the army.

Natalia Karbowska, chairman of the Ukrainian Women’s Fund hopes that the security forces of Ukraine will pay attention to the results of the research because the understanding of the problem makes it possible to build effective strategies for reforms. Many European countries create conditions for women in completely different areas of life as they admittedly lack human resources and therefore they just can’t afford to neglect a respective part of the population, namely such a large part as women. Therefore, those women who feel the need to defend the country deserve the support and they should not be shamed.

Anastasia Dyvynska, UN Women gender issues advisor in Ukraine has said that the UN Security Council elected Ukraine as a non-permanent member for 2016-2017 has also adopted a resolution on women, peace, and security, which contain clear requirements for promoting women’s rights in the area of security. She stressed that by recognizing the military role of women in conflict and cases of discrimination, which they encounter in the area of security in general, as well as in everyday life during the ATO, reforming the security sector requires special activities aimed at the elimination of discrimination.

The authors believe that the research results will change the approaches of the Ministry of Defense and security forces as a whole to the status and needs of women in the ATO and they believe that the transformation of the army, which is continuing and has already begun will also contribute to the integration of women.

Read full text of the research in * .pdf format