Ukrainian migrant women are not just powerless victims
28 Mar 2023
Pictures in media of mothers crossing the border, representing the victims of the war, has aroused sorrow and pity in audiences. But forced migrant women are also active agents, says Maria Chiara Cerio in an article for the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS).
After Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February 2022, millions of people were forced to leave the country. According to UNHCR data, 86 percent of the forced migrants were women and children. Ukrainian women have been in the spotlight of international media for months, representing the victims of the war in the news.
The war in Ukraine is not an isolated case, over the years forced migrant women have extensively served as figures representing victimhood and become the tangible image of violence. Moreover, as many of them are mothers escaping war with their children, motherhood plays an essential role.
Overshadowing other identities
While these images and stories in the media are essential to inform about the brutality of war, they tend to present only one aspect of the woman’s identity; the one of a victim. The “powerless victim” label has systematically been assigned to forced migrant women, overshadowing all their other identities.
By giving voice to the migrant women themselves, we can break the often empty-of-meaning victim category in forced migration and fill it with real stories and real voices of protagonists, which in turn can create more nuances in the narrative.
Capturing the agency of migrant mothers challenges the categorisation of them as only victims, as it shows how forced migrant women are also active agents.
The comment is written by Maria Chiara Cerio and based on fieldwork conducted from March 2022 to May 2022 as part of Cerio’s master thesis and of the DIIS research project Women on the Move. Maria Chiara Cerio interviewed 15 Ukrainian women in Denmark.
19 Dec 2022