The Swedish government’s decision to make the largest cut ever in the Swedish Development Cooperation budget (to cover for costs for refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine) risks becoming a disaster for girls and women in conflict-affected countries. These are among the most vulnerable groups in the world and they have already been hit hard by the covid-19 pandemic and rising prices and food scarcity issues from the war in Ukraine.
Wars and conflicts particularly affect women in the form of increased poverty, greater vulnerability and increased sexual violence. Therefore, Swedish development assistance is contributing to increased security for millions of women and girls around the world—until now.
As Swedish humanitarian aid is protected, the cuts on long-term work on girls’ and women’s rights will be dramatic. Between 30 and 40 percent of funds for sheltered housing for abused women, schooling for teenage mothers and legal aid for raped women will disappear. These are examples of how some of the partner organisations The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation supports may be affected.
Out of the total of Swedish development assistance, 84 percent has a gender equality perspective and almost 20 percent has a ‘direct goal is to contribute to gender equality’. By making these cuts, however, the Swedish feminist government is putting the long-term work with girls’ and women’s rights at risk, especially since we are experiencing a global backlash on gender equality.
Gender equal societies are more peaceful and women are essential actors for creating lasting peace. In civil society, it is often women who push for democracy and human rights. Following Russia’s attack on Ukraine, democracy work in Europe must be intensified. But the cuts also hit democracy aid hard.
The calculations for the reduction is based on one of the very first forecasts done by the Swedish Migration Agency, trying to predict the number of refugees from Ukraine arriving in Sweden. Despite the fact that the Migration authority has now revised the number of refugees (hence the predicted cost) the Swedish government still chooses to maintain the reduction in aid by as much as SEK 9.2 billion, instead of SEK 6.4 billion.
It seems absurd that Sweden is now the largest recipient of its own development assistance. We demand that the Swedish feminist government carry out a feminist analysis and reverse the decision on the dramatic cuts in aid for 2022.
—Petra Tötterman Andorff, Secretary-General