Women’s vulnerability increases—Sweden must do more

Photo: Liza Simonsson
Photo: Liza Simonsson

Today, October 31st, is the anniversary of the ground-breaking resolution 1325—the first ever from a united UN Security Council on the theme of women, peace and security. 22 years after the adoption of the resolution, the situation is not very bright. A recent report from the UN secretary-general states that women in areas affected by war and conflict are more vulnerable than they have been for a long time. Sexual violence against women and girls in war and conflict increased by 20 percent already between 2020 and 2021 and in 2022 it risks increasing further.

This year, we’ve, among others, been reached by stories about elaborate sexual violence against women and girls in Ukraine. The support for women and girls in the country is largely humanitarian and few resources are available to document the war crimes that are now being committed. The long-term work for women’s rights in Ukraine must therefore be supported now and not later. The level of trafficking and sexual exploitation of women fleeing the country is also increasing.

The ongoing uprising in Iran, by some referred to as “The Feminist Revolution”, is literally putting women in the line of fire. They are shot in open street and beaten and tortured to death by police and security forces when they stand up for their human rights. The outside world must now persevere, not forget the Iranian women’s quest for freedom and find ways to give them concrete resources to continue their struggle.

The number of armed conflicts is increasing globally. The world’s military spending is increasing for the seventh year in a row, while investments in human security, sustainable development and basic human rights are decreasing. In addition, women’s participation in peace processes is decreasing and the number of peace agreements that specifically refer to women and girls has not increased significantly in the last two decades.

The report by the secretary-general’s also states that extreme poverty has increased faster among the world’s women after the pandemic, just as many women’s organisations—including The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation—have warned about. The percentage of extremely poor women is around 25 percent higher than men in the same situation.

Increasing support for women’s organisations and the women’s movement in conflict-affected countries is fundamental to combating violence against women, pushing peace forward and promoting the fight for gender equality. This is something that Kvinna till Kvinna has argued for almost 30 years. Nevertheless, bilateral funding to women’s organisations in conflict-affected countries decreased between 2019 and 2020, which is completely incomprehensible and, above all, counterproductive.

Not even the UN’s own development program (UNDP) is able to live up to the goals of earmarking money for gender equality work in conflict-affected countries. Despite a set goal of allocating 15 percent of the funds, they only managed to assign 2.7 percent of the budget to work to promote women’s and girls’ rights.

It is therefore crucial that Sweden continues to be a strong voice for women and girls in international contexts. For Sweden, the concept of feminist foreign policy is now history, but the new government has promised to continue standing up for the rights of women and girls and to reduce their vulnerability. With the gloomy outlook of today’s reality, it is high time that Sweden stepped up.


—Petra Tötterman Andorff, Secretary-General of The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation

More statements by our secretary-general