The following audio story one piece in a collection on our VOICES blog focused on the gendered experience in conflict and how gender differences should factor into the protection of civilians.

In this entry, guest contributor, Mikayla Goetz, shares a glimpse of her experience working with civilians impacted by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Mikayla is turning interviews she gathered in Ukraine into a feature film.

 

At CIVIC, we engage civilians and communities to identify and address their protection concerns. We support women as they take on leadership roles within their communities, are recognized as experts on protection issues, and, working with male allies, excel as advocates in championing protection for all.

Across the world, from Afghanistan to Nigeria, we provide tools and resources that equip civilians to be positive catalysts for change within their own communities and agents of their own protection. Each step of the way, we amplify the voices of women caught in armed conflicts.

In discussions about the impact of conflict on civilians, we too often hear even well-intentioned comments default to stereotypes of “women as victims” and “men as perpetrators.” Our Senior Advisor Chitra Nagarajan explains this binary misconception – and an interesting but little discussed phenomenon that debunks it:

 

There is no question that men suffer a great deal of harm in conflict, including often being the first to be killed:

 

Chitra recounts the story of a woman seven-months pregnant with her seventh child whose husband was killed and who, shortly thereafter, rescued more than a dozen other men from the same fate:

 

How did this woman’s ingenuity, walking, and khimar save these men?

 

When her six children were at risk, how did she save them as well?

 

The extraordinarily grueling reality of conflict can yield extraordinary responses that far exceed the limiting stereotypes about the civilian experience.

As Chitra explains, the powerful stories that debunk the limiting narratives about how men, women, girls, and boys experience conflict showcase their different protection concerns. It is only through understanding these differences that protection strategies can be well-informed and, ultimately, effective.

These stories need to be told.

 

Conflict often forces a shift in the roles that men and women traditionally fill, as this story from Nigeria exemplifies. While life for civilians who have endured armed conflict is never the same, nor do all of the shifts during conflict remain once the violence ends. In short, civilians can’t “go back” to before and what happens next is both complicated and important in ensuring effective protection of civilians:

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