Since Russia’s full-scale invasion, Fight For Right has provided humanitarian aid and evacuation assistance to people with disabilities. With their unique expertise, they are ready to contribute to an inclusive recovery process for Ukraine.
The organisation “Fight For Right: organisation of people with disabilities” was founded in 2017 by a group of women with disabilities in order to foster leadership among this group and make the voices of people with disabilities heard. They operate throughout Ukraine, providing direct support to people with disabilities, in regions where it is most needed, for example at the frontline, border areas and de-occupied territory.
After Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Fight For Right was forced to adapt their work and started to focus on providing humanitarian aid, evacuation, and psychological and legal support to people with disabilities and mothers of children with disabilities. As of 2023, they are one of The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation’s partner organisations.
Amongst other things, Fight For Right supports the evacuation of people with disabilities including those who need medical equipment or medical assistance. They also grant emergency humanitarian aid, cover the basic needs of the evacuated people, and grant financial help.
Last year, 80% of the gas pipelines in Donetsk, a city in eastern Ukraine, were destroyed and the electrical grids were damaged heavily as a result of shelling. To help mitigate the effects of the lack of heating and damaged energy infrastructure, Fight For Right provided blankets, power banks, thermoses, and heating bottles to women, men, and children with disabilities living in small towns, villages, and rural areas and/or near the line of hostilities.
This year, they plan to repeat this project. The damaged infrastructure has yet to be fully restored, and shelling in some regions close to the frontline continues. Depending on the severity of winter conditions this year, Fight For Right also expects cuts to power and heat in the area.
”We would like to ensure power banks charging stations,” says Maryna Tekuchova, head of the department of emergency response at Fight For Right.
“In the face of a power outage, the internet and mobile communication in general often goes down with it. With the help of power banks, it is possible to keep phones and/or laptops and other devices charged,” adds Viiktoria Kharchenko, advocacy manager at Fight For Right.
Besides humanitarian aid, Fight For Right provides financial, psychological, and legal support to people with disabilities and mothers of children with disabilities.
They also run clubs for internally displaced women with disabilities and mothers of children with disabilities in Dnipro. At these clubs, the participants can receive psychological support, engage in art therapy, and establish a network. Fight For Right plan to open new groups in Kyiv and Lviv.
Fight For Right also directly secures essential equipment for people with disabilities, for example hearing aids, wheelchairs, crutches and white canes. It’s not uncommon that people lose their equipment during the evacuation, which can severely hamper their independence, safety, health, and emotional well-being.
“Right now, it’s a huge problem in Ukraine. We are probably the only organisation that can help with hearing aids. At least, we can cover a small number of those expenses and buy some equipment,” says Maryna.
“This equipment really changes the life of people.”
In order for a person with a disability to receive assistive technologies from the government, for example a wheelchair, they need to have a disability certificate along with other documents required by the state. Fight For Right provides case management and legal support to guide them through the process.
“Case managers at Fight For Right advise people on all procedural points: where to go, what documents to submit, and so on. If there is a violation of human rights or a person with a disability needs legal support, they can turn to a lawyer for consultation,” says Viiktoria.
In June 2023, an explosion destroyed a key infrastructure in southern Ukraine—the Kakhovka Dam. Fight For Right received support from Kvinna till Kvinna’s emergency fund and was one of the first organisations with an emergency response, sending immediate assistance such as lifeboats, clean water, hygienic products, medicine and equipment for assistance.
“After the hydropower plant was destroyed, indeed, the situation looked horrible. We still have plenty of damage. The buildings were damaged directly because of the flooding or increased humidity,” says Maryna.
Fight For Right knew exactly what was needed from day one and collaborated with other organisations to evacuate people.
“We had a lot of information from individuals, so we helped them evacuate. We had them move to other family members and we organised humanitarian and evacuation missions.”
Local authorities secured modular buildings, meaning a type of prefabricated home often used to temporarily house displaced persons, as a short-term solution for the people affected, but it was clear no one could spend the winter in those buildings. Moreover, many people struggled to leave their flooded homes behind.
“To many people, it is even psychologically difficult to leave their houses to evacuate. They say that they have lived through the occupation, the destruction of the power plant and the flooding, and they simply don’t want to leave,” Maryna continues.
When it comes to addressing conflict-related sexual violence, Fight For Right does everything they can to empower their community of people with disabilities.
“We want to teach them how to secure their rights,” says Viiktoria.
Fight For Right is part of a big coalition called Ukraine 5 A.M. Coalition. The coalition has 30 members and aims to gather all data and documents of crimes that were committed on territories that are temporarily occupied by Russia. In their experience, people with disabilities are generally more vulnerable to war crimes—though gathering statistics on the issue has proven difficult in the face of active hostilities and occupation.
“We don’t know how many, for example, women with disabilities were victims of conflict-related sexual violence, but it doesn’t imply that there are no such cases. It only implies that there is a problem with data gathering,” says Viiktoria.
According to Fight For Right, no one expected the war to go on for as long as it has and for it to generate such enormous damages. People with disabilities are at a higher risk of being affected by the difficulties that stem from the war and the crisis.
Fight For Right will continue their work for the rights of people with disabilities during the recovery of Ukraine. They advocate for an inclusive recovery process of Ukraine—where women with disabilities are part of decision-making processes—and for more transparency and of the impact of the war on people with disabilities.
“Transparent communication from the government is needed on how many people with disabilities actually remain in the temporarily occupied territories [and] how many people have been forcibly transferred to the non-controlled territories of Ukraine and/or the Russian Federation,” says Viiktoria.
“And most importantly, what is the government doing to return all these people with disabilities and will they be provided with access to a fair trial and reparations as victims of war crimes?” she ends.
Soon after Russia’s full-scale invasion, Ukraine signed an official request to join the EU. An EU membership would have financial benefits, but would also establish Ukraine as an independent, sovereign European state. To become a member state, the country has to adopt all EU laws and regulations. For Fight For Right, this would be an important step towards improved legislation on the rights of people with disabilities. One example is EU social policy on deinstitutionalisation, which states that there should not be any closed institutions for people with disabilities. Right now, Ukraine is not meeting this requirement.
“There is a huge multi-branch system of closed institutions for people with disabilities, including women with disabilities. Unfortunately, it is a place where violence happens very often. There are also instances of forced abortion or sterilisation,” says Viiktoria.
These institutions have been damaged during the full-scale invasion. To be in line with the EU convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, they shouldn’t be rebuilt. This is the opposite of what happens in reality.
“The recovery is not only rebuilding damaged houses or bridges. Recovery also encompasses systemic reforms. Right now, when Ukraine tries to enter the EU, [the country] has to change on a systemic level,” says Viiktoria.
“Our long-term objective is to rebuild Ukraine in a way that would be inclusive on an EU level. We really hope for that,” Viiktoria ends.
Kvinna till Kvinna has supported women’s rights in Ukraine since 2014. Learn more about our work in Ukraine »
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