With war raging in Europe after 70+ years of peace, this International Women’s Day is a time to acknowledge the courage, intellect and grit of the array of extraordinary women in key roles in every aspect of this conflict.
From the women fleeing the violence in Ukraine with their children and families, to those on the front lines, or bringing us their stories on the ground as journalists, to the geopolitical leaders managing the crisis, there are many women playing pivotal roles in this crisis.
In commemoration of International Women’s Day 2022, here are some of these extraordinary women making history today, who will help determine what tomorrow looks like, both in Ukraine and around the world:
· Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Representative to the United Nations (pictured above): Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield is the leading U.S. voice at the United Nations pressuring the world body, day after day, night after night, to hold Russia accountable for the atrocities its leader is waging against the innocent civilians in independent, democratic Ukraine.
A highly-skilled and experienced diplomat, she nonetheless does not speak in diplomatic code. She tells it like it is and stands for the American and democratic values of peace, freedom, human rights and women’s rights.
“By the grace of God, the world narrowly averted a nuclear catastrophe last night. We all waited to exhale as we watched the horrific situation unfold in real time,” the Ambassador told the United Nations Security Council in an emergency meeting after Russia attacked and seized the largest nuclear plant in Ukraine and Europe.
“Over the past nine days, we have witnessed the devastating impacts of President Putin’s war of choice on the Ukrainian people. Yesterday, the UN reported that Russia’s invasion had turned half a million children into refugees. Russia has killed thousands of Ukrainians – and sacrificed thousands more Russian soldiers’ lives in the process. Russia is destroying critical infrastructure which is denying people drinking water to stay alive and gas to keep people from freezing to death in the middle of winter….A hundred forty-one nations across the world have called loudly and clearly on President Putin to stop this brutal, unjustified, unprovoked attack. Not only has he not listened, we’ve just witnessed a dangerous new escalation that represents a dire threat to all of Europe and the world.”
· Ambassador Oksana Markarova, Ukraine’s Ambassador to the United Nations, who has steadfastly defended her country and advocated for more and more military, financial and humanitarian support for her besieged people. Like her boss, Ukraine President Zelenskyy, she has been adept at using all forms of media to rally the international community to Ukraine’s aid, while also working the levers of geopolitical power.
“I think Ukrainians have shown to all the world that we’re not going to stop and we’re not going to surrender. And we will defend our homes….Our brave men and women of the armed forces and all of the civilians who are stopping the enemy without weapons, even, will fight, and we need all of the support in order to sustain this fight,” she told CBS’s Margaret Brennan on “Face the Nation.”
The bipartisan and extended standing ovation for Markarova at President Biden’s state of the union address on March 1st (pictured) was a remarkable, overwhelming show of support for the Ukrainian people, represented by her presence in First Lady Dr. Jill Biden’s box.
· The women of Ukraine’s Parliament, negotiating the geopolitics and taking up arms to defend their country: This includes Kira Rudik, a member of Ukraine’s Parliament, who remains in Kyiv to represent, advocate for and defend her people, including learning to use a Kalashnikov rifle (pictured).
There’s also Solomia Bobrovska, who lived in Boston, Massachusetts previously and now serves in Ukraine’s parliament, choosing to remain in Ukraine to support her people. Even a woman who, dressed in military fatigues and a veil and carrying a bouquet of flowers, married her fellow soldier husband surrounded by armed soldiers with rifles.
· The women at the refugee centers easing the transition to an unknown country for these traumatized, lost, fearful, and emotionally and physically exhausted Ukrainian refugees. They work 24/7 at train stations and other locations in Poland, where the majority of Ukrainian refugees have fled to, and in Romania the second-largest hub for these refugees, as well as in other neighboring countries.
· European Union President Ursula von der Leyen, who announced and has been instrumental in rallying the EU in concert with NATO and the U.S. to develop and implement the sanctions against Russia bringing its economy to a halt, and hitting Putin and his cronies, in response to this unprovoked and barbaric attack on Ukraine.
· Jill Hruby, the Under Secretary for Nuclear Security, in the United States Department of Energy and the Administrator for the National Nuclear Security Administration, who is helping us understand the nuances of the risks to and management of attacks on these incredibly dangerous facilities. Janet Yellen, U.S. Treasury Secretary, who shifted the Treasury department into overdrive on a dime to implement the crippling sanctions against Russia, Putin and his allies, and to set up an infrastructure to track and enforce those sanctions. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, helming the effort with Secretary of State Antony Blinken to manage the discussions around sanctioning Russia’s energy infrastructure and the U.S. imports of their oil and gas, to try to minimize the financial impact on Americans.
· The intrepid women journalists risking their own lives keeping us informed of what’s really happening on the ground, including CNN’s Clarissa Ward, CBS’ Holly Williams, NBC/MSNBC’s Erin McLaughlin, Molly Hunter and Ellison Barber – whose recent story about the refugees was gently interrupted by a delightful young girl and her soccer ball wanting Barber to go back to playing soccer with her (pictured).
And, of course…
· The brilliant female Russia experts who give us extremely valuable perspective on Putin’s malicious ways, especially Dr. Fiona Hill, a former U.S. National Security Council official specializing in Russian and European affairs (of Trump’s first impeachment trial fame), Anne Applebaum and Julia Ioffe, each of whom has written extensively about Putin and Russian geopolitics.
The management of this crisis is in better hands with these truly extraordinary women doing their extraordinary work for peace, democracy, women’s rights and human rights.
These women – and many, many others – are literally making history today and we owe them our gratitude this International Women’s Day, this Women’s History Month, and every day.