How events in Ukraine have affected Russian CSOs and domestic violence
Domestic violence: why women have become less likely to seek help and the problems CSOs are facing
On 11 October 2022, the International Day of Girls, the Woman Summit opened in Moscow. At the plenary session ‘Impact and Charity: How the social agenda and support for women in Russia will survive’, attendees discussed changes in the social sphere since the end of February 2022.
In March 2022, no one understood whether what was happening would be “a short race or a long marathon”, says Ekaterina Shergova, Russian TV presenter, journalist, PR expert, and director of the charitable foundation Gift of Life. For five months now, the Gift of Life has been using its emergency funds due to its fall in income. Many business representatives have closed support programmes and private donors have reduced their support: some having left, and some having lost money.
“But we won’t stop helping. There are hard days, but on the whole, I get up in the morning and say that we will continue out of spite. Children won’t stop getting ill, and we must stay with them for as long as we can”, says Shergova.
Since the February events, many Western companies have left Russia. Russian patients are no longer able to get skin grafts, which made it easier to tolerate bone marrow transplants. According to Shergova, Russian medicine has been repurposed, but it won’t be clear how effective any of the new solutions will be for the children until the end of the year. Reagents for analysis are still available, but the foundation has found that Russian doctors are already eying the Chinese market.
A rather difficult situation has developed with the drugs that the foundation imported from abroad. It is no longer possible to deliver medicine requiring temperature control measures that is necessary for children in acute conditions. DHL, the delivery company that delivers Gift of Life’s medicine, has ceased business in Russia but has so far agreed not to interrupt deliveries and recognises these shipments as humanitarian. In matters of purchase and delivery of medical equipment, the foundation is still negotiating with foreign companies. Due to the decline in donations, the Gift of Life foundation has decided to build eight, rather than the planned fifteen homes for children who come to Moscow clinics for treatment. Nevertheless, it is a project that the foundation has not abandoned.
“On my stupidest days, I make donations to Safe House and Violence.No (both CSOs are registered as foreign agents) because I feel that I have to help girls who are struggling with slavery and violence”, says Alexandra Babkina, director of social projects VK, and head of the Dobro Mail.ru service.
VK, too, has not left its social campaigns and continues to help, saya Alexandra Babkina. Everything remains the same, as fees for CSOs through the Dobro platform have not changed. Neither has promotion through VK, Odnoklassniki, or free cloud services.
Not so long ago, the company adopted a new strategy in which VK will continue to be a place not only for entertaining but also for helpful content. Among the changes is a new trajectory of work which promotes inclusion. All services, Babkina notes, are improving accessibility for everyone. According to Babkina and her conversations with colleagues, many companies in the market maintained their social programmes and have not cut budgets despite uncertainty. For example, companies are still coming forward to host New Year’s parties to raise money for charity.
Marina Medvedeva, Managing Director at the Charity Foundation for the Support of Social Projects (SIBUR) believes that socially responsible companies in Russia are not abandoning their projects. According to Medvedeva, SIBUR has left both short-term and long-term social projects unchanged. The main thing, in her opinion, is not to lose focus and both consciously and consistently to follow through with plans.
Domestic violence and human rights protections
Women have stopped paying attention to their problems related to domestic violence because their attention is occupied by what is happening in the world, says Manizha Sangin, musician and co-founder of the Foundation for Support and Protection of People in Difficult Life Situations (SILSILA).
Refugee women who are in temporary accommodation have repeatedly applied to her foundation. They needed help in finding employment and processing documents. But then after leaving the temporary accommodation, the same women came for help because of domestic violence. According to Manizhi, women cannot apply as soon as the violence started, because they already have a lot of other difficulties.
The topic of domestic violence is also falling out of the state agenda. Mari Davtyan, Head of the Centre for the Protection of Victims of Domestic Violence at the consortium of women’s civil society organisations’ lawyers, believes that the law on domestic violence is “gathering dust” in the federation council and that no one is engaged with it.
The phrase domestic violence is gradually disappearing and being replaced by the expression “family well-being” which is less clear in meaning. This may affect federal and regional support for CSOs dealing with the problem of domestic violence.
“I have no favourable forecasts: we left the Council of Europe and all the standards we relied on disappeared. But we will continue to work despite everyone, to the end”, says Davtyan.
Babkina believes that no matter how the situation develops, sooner or later the horror will end, and everyone will have to restore what has been destroyed and that for this restoration we need to unite.