The plight of Ukrainian mothers fleeing with their children reminds us that women’s equality is not a matter of ticking boxes, Lord Loomba said in this year’s International Women’s Day debate which took place in the House of Lords yesterday (17 March). “Equality,” he said, “requires us to take the trouble to see the reality of how others live. To see it and respond with the humanity and generosity that we are so quick to claim but so slow to dispense.”
These mothers face a “double whammy”, Lord Loomba said. “The inequality of the refugee, navigating the many obstacles placed in their way as they seek refuge, as we have seen in recent weeks, and the inequality of the single mother, who must not only be there for her children, but also put food on the table, clothe them, ensure they can go to school and receive medical care.”
The Loomba Foundation, he revealed “is planning an association with Rotary International worldwide, and with Rotary International in Britain & Ireland, to raise funds in support of Ukrainian mothers fleeing with their dependent children. We will draw on the Loomba Foundation’s extensive experience of the plight of widows – including those widowed in conflict and natural disasters – who all too often face that same double whammy of a sudden change in their status with an increased responsibility for their dependents. The mothers and children fleeing from Ukraine are in that situation and we know what it takes to give them the support they need.”
Lord Loomba appealed to the Government to connect the dots across national and local government to offer tailored and joined-up support for these refugees by “identifying the likely needs from counselling and health to schooling and economic empowerment, and to facilitate a multi-agency response, reaching out to mothers arriving with their children and telling them about the special support that’s available, and setting up a special helpline they can contact for advice.”
“Women’s inequality has all too often been invisible and ignored,” Lord Loomba said, “yet the irony is that it is women who are the first emergency service, the people we rely on to look after the children and to care for the elderly and vulnerable.
“Making women’s equality real means understanding and dealing with the barriers they face,” he concluded. “That is an investment that always pays off.”
Replying for the Government, Women’s Minister Baroness Stedman-Scott assured the House that the Government is “absolutely committed to supporting Ukrainian women and girls, recognising the critical contribution that women are making on the front line and in communities affected by the conflict”, and she noted the vital work of civil society organisations in dealing with the impact of the conflict on women and girls as “they will be more exposed to the risk of violence, particularly sexual and gender-based violence”.
The Minister praised Lord Loomba’s planned partnership with Rotary worldwide and in the UK to help Ukrainian mothers and asked him to express her gratitude for their efforts. She noted that if Ukrainian women and children are not helped to integrate into our communities, “sex traffickers will get hold of them. They will be forced into prostitution, there will be forced adoptions—the list goes on”.
The Minister revealed that she had given her word to Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN that such help would be given.