Ukraine’s female soldiers are fighting versus Russians and sexism


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Female members of the Ukrainian Army’s 128 th Carpathian Mountain Assault Brigade train in various battle situations as they prepare to sign up with the frontline in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine on July 15,2023

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War, the military, battle, the frontline– all generally viewed as a “man’s world” regardless of the numerous authorities and informal contributions that ladies have actually made both on the battleground and on the home front in disputes over the centuries.

Women’s function in warfare is quickly altering in the modern-day age, nevertheless, and especially in Ukraine where Russia’s intrusion has actually triggered countless ladies to register and serve in the military, both on the frontline and in non-combat functions.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense stated last October that nearly 43,000 ladies are presently serving in the military, a 40% boost because 2021, before Russia’s full-blown intrusion.

Female contenders in Ukraine state the war is altering social understandings of a lady’s strength, abilities and worth, however modification does not occur over night. Sexism, bias and discrimination are still swarming, they informed CNBC, and they feel they continuously need to show themselves to their male coworkers.

Female members of the Ukrainian Army’s 128 th Carpathian Mountain Assault Brigade train in July,2023

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“On the battlefield, due to the fact that you are a woman, you must prove your ability to perform a combat mission with quality. On the other hand, if you’re a man, you don’t need to prove anything,” kept in mind Iryna Tsybukh, a battle medic in the Hospitallers Medical Battalion for the last 4 years.

“This discrimination is manifested in the doubt of the commander who does not want to give you difficult tasks because he is afraid that you will not fulfil them because you are a woman,” she stated in emailed remarks to CNBC.

Tsybukh explained her present function as a “crew chief in a very female-friendly unit,” stating she felt safe and appreciated by her peers due to the fact that of the high-quality of her work.

“But my example does not impact their basic bias versus ladies. They consider me and individuals like me to be an exception to the guideline and they would [rather] pick a male, not a lady, for the job.”

A years of modification

The status of Ukrainian ladies in the nation’s military began to alter substantially 10 years back when Russia annexed Crimea and backed separatists in Donbas in easternUkraine A simmering dispute in the area ended up being a precursor to Russia’s full-blown intrusion ofFeb 2022.

The dispute in Donbas served as a call to arms for numerous ladies in Ukraine with the variety of female military workers more than tripling in the last years; in 2014, the variety of military servicewomen was around 14,000, Ukraine’s defense ministry specified. By 2020, their number had actually more than doubled with more than 31,000, representing 15.6% of the overall variety of workers at that time.

As ofOct 2023, there were around 43,000 servicewomen with an approximated 5,000 on the frontline, the ministry stated.

Female members of the Ukrainian Army’s 128 th Carpathian Mountain Assault Brigade train.

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In the past, ladies in the militaries had actually likewise been limited to specific functions such as logistics, interactions or medical functions, although that has actually altered in the last couple of years. In 2016, Ukraine’s defense ministry opened more battle positions for ladies and this was broadened in 2018, permitting ladies to formally serve in functions such as as infantry leaders, armored car gunners and snipers.

Former reporter and present sniper Olena Bilozerska informed CNBC that she acknowledged that some extremely physical functions were much better matched to males, however that didn’t prevent ladies from carrying out a range of military functions well.

“Of course, I’m not treated exactly as men are, but this is impossible — at least, because an average woman will always be physically weaker than an average man, and this has to be taken into account,” she stated by means of e-mail.

“At anything else, military ladies are no various from males … [and] the more ladies there are who perform their tasks well, the much better the mindset towards military ladies ends up being. Of course, the mindset can not alter basically in one day, or perhaps a year, it is a long procedure,” she stated.

Bilozerska has actually had the ability to see that procedure happen, having initially signed up with a volunteer battalion in 2014 when Russian proxies were advancing in Ukraine’s east.

She ended up being popular in the motion requiring ladies to be able to use up battle functions in Ukraine’s militaries, a relocation that entered force in 2016 and to have their previous service acknowledged. Bilozeska ended up being an officer in 2018 and was then the leader of a weapons squadron for 2 years in Donetsk before “retiring” in 2020.

Olena Bilozerska, a Ukrainian reporter who ended up being a sniper in2014 Bilozerska has actually raised the profile of female soldiers in Ukraine and has actually ended up being a target of Russian propaganda, incorrectly stated dead a variety of times.

Olena Bilozerska

A week before Russia got into onFeb 24, 2022, she stated she, her spouse and other “brothers in arms” registered at a military system in anticipation of the intrusion.

Since 2022, she has actually gone back to her function as a sniper and has actually accomplished a famous status in Ukraine for her capabilities and guts, a lot so that Russia has actually attempted to spread out phony news about her “elimination.” It’s something she’s favorable about, nevertheless, stating it implies the Russians have not ignored her: “That means they are afraid,” she states.

Nonetheless, Bilozerska has her own experience of discrimination amongst her peers, keeping in mind “every woman in the military has her own story, even several, about how she was not allowed somewhere because she was a woman, or that somebody was allowed to make offensive remarks.”

Ukrainian female soldiers are seen before heading to the frontline as Ukrainian displaced civilians continue to swarm around the train station to leave due to continuous Russian attacks, in Lviv, Ukraine on March 24, 2022.

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Bilozerska remembered among her own experiences when she remained in a truck with 8 other male coworkers, consisting of a leader. The truck got stuck in Ukraine’s notorious mud and the males went out to press the car.

“I didn’t go as I considered it unnecessary because there were more than enough men and I wouldn’t even have a place near that truck (although when there were only three of us in a similar situation, then I pushed together with the men). The guys quickly pushed the truck out, turned back, and the commander tells me: ‘That’s why I’m against women being accepted into the army. Because we have nine fighters on paper, but only eight in reality’,” she stated.

“Of course, the longer the war lasts, the more women are on the front lines, the better the treatment becomes,” Bilozerska kept in mind, “although there are still military men who are convinced that if there are no girls at the front lines in their unit, then there are no girls at the front lines at all.”


Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy consistently applauds the efforts of the nation’s female protectors; last International Woman’s Day thanking “all the women who work, teach, study, rescue, heal, fight — fight for Ukraine.” Ukraine’s defense ministry is likewise eager to highlight efforts it has actually made to level the playing field for female employees.

Last October, it stated it had “canceled all restrictions on the access of servicewomen to all positions” in the army, keeping in mind that “previously, ladies might serve primarily in positions of medical specializeds, interactions employees, accounting professionals, clerks and cooks. Now, a lady in the army can be a motorist, grenade launcher, deputy leader of a reconnaissance group, leader of BMP [a Soviet-era infantry fighting vehicle], technician, maker gunner, sniper, and so on,” the ministry stated on Telegram.

Previously, an agreement for military service was signed by ladies aged 18 to 40, while males did not deal with the very same constraint. “Now, from 18 to 60 years of age, representatives of both sexes can become contractors,” the ministry kept in mind.

It’s a far cry from 2021 when Ukrainian female soldiers were photographed practicing for a parade using high heels with observers calling the policy sexist and idiotic.

While favorable modifications are being made to motivate equality in the forces, there is still some method to choose reports of unwanted sexual advances in addition to discrimination, although the ministry has actually promised to root “unacceptable” habits out.

Women in military uniforms posture for a picture throughout the discussion on February 1, 2024 in Kyiv,Ukraine The Ministry of Defense of Ukraine has actually held a discussion of military uniforms for ladies with 50,000 sets produced in Ukraine.

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One location of development has actually been propeled by ladies, for ladies, which remains in the location of uniforms, protective equipment and necessary products. Kseniia Drahaniuk was a blog writer before the war however she now runs a not-for-profit that has actually established and made properly-sized army clothes and devices for ladies.

“[Before] ladies improvised different services, stitching their own uniforms with regional tailors, changing males’s clothes to fit, or utilizing belts for changes. However, handling these obstacles throughout full-blown war substantially affected their service performance. These were not jobs military servicewomen ought to have been strained with,” she informed CNBC.

She states her company, Zemlyachky, has actually now satisfied 15,000 private ask for uniforms, body armor, helmets, properly-sized shoes, underwears, and other requirements. It has actually likewise offered mental assistance and rehab to female soldiers. For some, it has actually even used totally free wedding events as soldiers attempt to continue to have a “normal life.”

For numerous, war has actually required a total modification of identity with previous lives hardly identifiable to their service on the frontline now. Yuliia, who chose not to offer her surname for security factors, was a design before the war however offered not long after Russia’s intrusion and is now functioning as a paramedic in an attack routine in the war’s hotspot, Donetsk.

Yuliia, whose call check in “Diia” or “Action” (call indications are utilized to rapidly recognize coworkers and accelerate interaction in the army) becomes part of a medical team leaving injured fighters, civilians and even animals. “I also meet the bodies of fallen soldiers, this is the most difficult line of work,” she informed CNBC over e-mail.

Former design Yuliia has actually worked as a paramedic in an attack routine in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, because the start of the Russia-Ukraine war.


On the frontlines now in an area experiencing severe damage and attritional fights with numerous soldiers approximated to be passing away on both sides, daily, Yuliaa’s life and work now could not be even more from her previous life when she worked as a design.

On the catwalk, “a lot depends on you, but definitely not someone’s life,” she stated, keeping in mind that now she sees pictures or videos on social media networks that were taken before the war and believes “I don’t realize that it was in my life.”

Yuliia can’t envision what life will resemble after the war, stating the possibility of peace “seems something distant and even strange” and states she is sorry for the time that has actually been lost with enjoyed ones.

“I do not regret my choice. Both before and now, I am sure that if I can help at least one of our soldiers, all of this is not in vain,” she states. “At the moment, there is not one but dozens of them and it is scary.”