Systemic inequality makes women more vulnerable to crises. Both within Ukraine and globally, shortages and price hikes are leaving women and girls behind—and putting them in increasing danger.
Even before the war, women’s access to food and energy was more precarious than men’s. The global gender gap in food insecurity, which sat at 1.7 per cent in 2019, rose to over 4 per cent in 2021. And around the world, women and girls are disproportionately affected by energy poverty.
In Ukraine, women-headed households were already more likely to be food insecure. With less access to resources like land and credit as well as to formal employment, and with gender gaps in pay and pensions at 22 per cent and 32 per cent respectively, Ukrainian women have less to fall back on in times of crisis.
Food insecurity and energy poverty drive gender inequality in other areas, including health, education, domestic work and more. In Ukraine and around the world, the ripple effects of the war are furthering existing disparities and exacerbating threats to women and girls’ wellbeing.
Gender-based violence—intensified by both conflict and food insecurity—is on the rise. Domestic violence, sexual exploitation and trafficking, and other forms of violence against women and girls are increasing in Ukraine as well as in other conflict-affected areas, where the diversion of resources and attention have created heightened risk.
Child marriage rates, already significantly elevated due to COVID-19, are expected to rise further. This is common in conflict-affected areas, with rates increasing up to 20 per cent as families resort to desperate measures. Girls are also at heightened risk of leaving school: in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, the number of children at risk of dropping out has increased from 1 million to 3.3 million over three months.
Women and girls are also going hungrier. When there’s not enough food to go around, women typically pay the highest price—cutting down their own intake to save food for other members of the household. This trend is visible in Ukraine and across other conflict-affected areas, driving worsening malnutrition and anaemia among women.
Heightened domestic workloads, too, are falling disproportionately on women. It takes more time and effort to obtain food and fuel when they’re scarce—an added burden that exacerbates existing inequalities at home.
In Ukraine and elsewhere, intersecting forms of discrimination compound gender inequality, putting already vulnerable groups at even greater risk.