Sydney Lewis Sydney Lewis
Associate Manager, Communications

Published

March 18, 2024

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The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's 14th Annual International Women’s Day Forum served as a pivotal platform for addressing the challenges and opportunities facing women and children, with a special emphasis on Ukraine. This year's forum, held on February 28, offered a poignant exploration into how multi-sector partnerships can foster resilience and support for those most affected by global adversities.

A Focused Lens on Ukraine

Marking two years since the onset of the conflict in Ukraine, the forum brought a special focus on the resilience and empowerment of women and children amidst crisis. Through the insights of speakers H.E. Oksana Markarova, Ambassador of Ukraine to the United States, Tetyana Prokopchuk, vice president of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Ukraine, and Marjorie Chorlins, senior vice president for European Affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, attendees received a firsthand look at the challenges and triumphs in these regions.

Ambassador Oksana Markarova highlighted the war's impact on Ukraine's women and children, emphasizing their resilience and crucial roles in defense and community support.

 “Women have to not only defend the country, but also sometimes it’s the women who stay behind, creating jobs, raising children, protecting their families,” Markarova said

She underlined the importance of gender-oriented budgeting, women's inclusive participation across sectors, and the need for international backing for peace, envisioning a future where women play a central role in rebuilding a resilient Ukraine.

"Women are the secret ingredient in so many success stories."

– H.E Oksana Markarova

 

Marjorie Chorlins of the Chamber of Commerce and Tetyana Prokopchuk vice president of the AmCham Ukraine discussed the resilience of Ukrainian women and their critical economic roles during the war. AmCham Ukraine has over 600 company members, a “testament to the resilience and determination of the people in Ukraine,” said Chorlins. The conversation highlighted initiatives from U.S. company engagement, including MasterCard, Visa, The Coca-Cola Company, and Pfizer in Ukraine's rebuild and the growing presence of women in sectors like construction, mining, and energy. The conversation also emphasized the importance of leadership development and supporting female entrepreneurs to foster a competitive market in Ukraine, driven by both local and global companies, contributing to the biggest recovery of Ukraine since World War II.

 

"We see that there's a will, shared purpose, and joint effort that is possible and we are not going to stop."

- Tetyana Prokopchuk

 

Two years into the war:

  • 12
    million displaced Ukranians.
  • 5
    million displaced Ukranian women and children.
  • 86%
    of Ukrainian AmCham members are fully operational today despite hardships.
  • 51%
    of newly registered 36,000 SMEs in Ukraine run by women.
  • 40%
    increase of Ukrainian women joining the military.

 


Building Resilience: A Global Imperative of Identifying Challenges and Driving Solutions

Women and children are 14 times more likely to die after disaster strikes, and in 2020, 600 million women and girls were living in crisis-affected countries, according to Humanitarian Programs Manager, Asia and the Pacific at Airlink, Jenny Torner. 

The breakout session on "Safety and Security Outcomes for Women and Girls" highlighted the universal challenges faced by women and girls, from natural disasters and human trafficking to political turmoil. It emphasized the indispensable role of partnerships in supporting women and girls to not only survive but thrive after emerging from crises. 

In an era marked by escalating threats to the safety and security of women and children due to disasters and conflicts, a surge in empowerment, education, and collaborative efforts offers a glimmer of hope. These organizations are not only focusing on combating human trafficking but also on supporting vulnerable communities through comprehensive programs that include economic empowerment, legal education, and health services. 

With human trafficking rapidly ascending as the country's second most prevalent crime after drug trafficking, purpose-led companies such as Southwest Airlines are at the forefront of battling this issue, particularly in trafficking hotspots in their headquarters of Dallas. Southwest Airlines exemplifies corporate responsibility by employing its resources to safeguard passengers, providing critical support to trafficking victims at airports—from assistance through security without IDs to offering meal vouchers—demonstrating a compassionate approach to crisis management and leveraging the power of business for good.

The establishment of a Women's Business Resource Center, also known as Corali, in Guatemala by the U.S. Chamber affiliate, the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) serves as a beacon of hope, providing a safe space for women to grow, learn, and combat gender-based violence through economic empowerment. The program has launched over 30 businesses in the first year and a half of operations. 

CIPE program officer Morgan King told an empowering story of Mercedes, an indigenous woman, mother of two, and survivor of domestic violence living in Guatemala. Mercedes, a vegetable street vendor, was making ends meet to feed her children. Looking to take her business to the next level, she enrolled in CIPE’s program for nascent women entrepreneurs and, after three months of incubation, was able to launch her business to market. Over 600 women entrepreneurs have engaged with CIPE’s support services with demand continuing to grow. 

These initiatives, together with the emphasis on localizing humanitarian responses and addressing the links between gender-based violence and crises, highlight the importance of cross-sector collaboration. By adopting innovative, community-centered strategies, these efforts promise a more secure and prosperous world, underscoring the critical role of multi-faceted approaches in ensuring resilience and a safer future for the most at-risk populations.

 

The stark reality of women and girls in crisis is:

  • 800
    women die from preventable causes of pregnancy and childbirth every day.
  • 1/3
    of maternal deaths happen in crisis settings.
  • 60%
    of aid sent in disaster response is not needed.

 

"Humanitarian response should always be as local as possible and as international as necessary."

- Jenny Torner


Continuing the Dialogue: The Path to Building Resilience

The insights from the International Women’s Day Forum underscore the importance of ongoing dialogue and action on advancing resilience globally. The U.S. Chamber Foundation's 13th Annual Building Resilience Through Private-Public Partnerships Conference, set for May 15-17, 2024, in Washington, D.C., will be an important moment to unite a diverse group of stakeholders dedicated to enhancing resilience through partnership and action.

This year's International Women’s Day Forum served as a powerful reminder of the resilience that communities, particularly women and children, can muster in the face of adversity. As we move forward, let's continue to foster the spirit of collaboration and innovation that was palpable throughout the forum. The journey towards a more resilient future for all continues, and together, we can make a significant impact.

Rob Glenn, Vice President of Global Resilience, U.S. Chamber Foundation

13th Annual Building Resilience Conference

Join us for the 13th Annual Building Resilience Through Private-Public Partnerships Conference on May 15-17, 2024 in Washington, D.C. to continue the conversation on ensuring resilience and preparedness for all communities to thrive in the face of adversity.

About the authors

Sydney Lewis

Sydney Lewis

Sydney Lewis is associate communications manager for education, workforce and corporate citizenship at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

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