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Gender Centre

Caring to Survive, Surviving to Care: Gendered survival practices, social reproduction and circuits of violence in Ukraine

Timeline: 01 March 2024 - 28 February 2027
Funder: Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) within the Solution-oriented Research for Development (SOR4D) programme

Wars fuel different types of violence, which are often gendered – meaning that they affect people with different gender identities and sexual orientations differently. They are often also coupled with economic policies that aggravate inequalities, including through invisibilising and under-valuing the type of work and services necessary for societies to survive, that is, to assure social reproduction. Such has been the case in Ukraine, where the violence of war has been exacerbated by austerity policies. At the same time, post-war reconstruction creates a window of opportunity to challenge harmful norms that fuel both gendered inequalities and violence.

The project examines the intersectionally gendered practices of survival in the context of Ukraine. It documents how diverse Ukrainians experience and respond to different but interlinked forms of violence – from the violence of war and Russian invasion, to the economic violence unleashed by structural and austerity reforms. Using a feminist political economy lens, the project examines how the coping strategies are shaped by gender and other intersectional identities, and influenced by national and international policies. 

The project adopts a participatory action research approach, using a combination of fieldwork in two oblasts in Ukraine, policy analysis, and a prefigurative workshop, in order to make a two-fold contribution. On the one hand, it provides a concrete illustration of feminist conceptualisations of violence, and a deeper understanding of the place of social reproduction in war and war economy. On the other hand, it addresses an urgent practical need for information and analysis that will inform more gender-responsive and feminist policy-making and recovery planning in Ukraine.

The research will seek to achieve the following objectives:

  1. To make visible and document the ways in which diverse Ukrainian people experience the interlocking circuits of violence, and ensure their own and their communities’ survival.
  2. To analyse how diverse Ukrainians’ survival practices and strategies - including those in the private and public sphere, such as wartime volunteering and peace activism - have been shaped both by informal rules and norms related to their gender and other intersectional identities, and national and international policies.
  3. To critically assess international and Ukrainian wartime policies through a feminist political economy lens that centres the goals of reproduction and survival.
  4. To co-create, with diverse Ukrainian activists and academics, concrete recommendations and advocacy plans to advance effective feminist post-war economic reconstruction in Ukraine.

To achieve these goals, we will aim to answer four research questions:

  1. How have Ukrainian people from different socio-economic backgrounds, and with diverse gender, sexual, ethnic and other identities, experienced intersecting violences, including the physical violence of war and the systemic violence of economic austerity?
  2. What strategies have diverse Ukrainians pursued to ensure social reproduction and survival in the context of the interlocking circuits of violence stemming from the war and economic reforms introduced in 2014?
  3. How have international, national and sub-national policies addressed the goals of social reproduction and everyday survival during the war in Ukraine?
  4. How can post-conflict reconstruction policies in Ukraine more effectively support a gender-just and sustainable recovery, building on the everyday survival practices of diverse Ukrainians?


The project builds on the concepts of “continuum of violence” and “circuits of violence” developed by feminist security studies scholars. It recognizes that the violence of the war is not just physical but also economic, expressed in the experience of austerity.  And the physical and economic violences of war are entangled with symbolic violence, various forms of Othering, from the construction of Russian-speakers as enemies, to the militarization of masculinities and associated gender-based violence.

Furthermore, the project applies the feminist political economy lens of social reproduction. It uses it to make visible, disentangle, and better understand these everyday survival strategies, and work together with activists, practitioners and policy-makers to imagine the ways in which post-war policies could elevate and amplify the everyday strategies.

The project will adopt a participatory action research approach. It was designed in consultation with a network of Ukrainian activists, civil society and academics – the network that was created will act as an advisory board to the research throughout all of its stages. The project is also strongly geared towards generating concrete policy recommendations, scenarios and action.

The project will use multiple methods. For the study of experiences of violence and survival strategies, the project will focus on two oblasts, Lviv and Kharkiv, which provide a variation with regard to levels of wartime violence and economic structure. The empirical work in these oblasts will combine narrative interviews and PhotoVoice, engaging with a carefully selecting sample of diverse Ukrainians that are representative of different communities –differentiated along the axes of sex/gender and ethnicity, but also by occupation and class.

In addition, the team will carry out a policy analysis at the sub-national, national and international levels. This will involve the collection of policy documents and expert interviews.
Lastly, the team will organize a prefiguration workshop with key stakeholders to formulate alternative policy scenarios.

The project is carried out by an interdisciplinary team that brings together academic, policy experts and practitioners.

The project’s core team includes:

  • Elisabeth Prügl, Geneva Graduate Institute, Switzerland (lead applicant)
  • Yuliia Soroka, Karazin National Kharkiv University, Ukraine and Geneva Graduate Institute, Switzerland (co-applicant)
  • Nina Potarska, Center for Social and Labour Research (co-applicant – Ukraine)
  • Nela Porobić, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (project partner – global advocacy)
  • Agnieszka Fal-Dutra Santos, Geneva Graduate Institute (research coordinator)

For any questions about the project, please reach out to the research coordinator, Agnieszka Fal-Dutra Santos.

The below publications were produced by the members of the research team prior to the start of the research project. They inform the research, but do not constitute part of the research outputs. Publications from this research project are forthcoming.

Drumond, Paula, Elisabeth Prügl, and Maria Consolata Spano. 2022. Mobilizing Gender for Conflict Prevention: Women’s Situation Rooms. Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding. 16(3) (27 May 2022): 249–68.

Fal-Dutra Santos, Agnieszka. 2024. Building Trust Through Care: A Feminist Take on Inclusion in Multi-Track Mediation. Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding. 1–22.

Fal-Dutra Santos, Agnieszka. 2022. Towards feminist peace: Imagining a future without war. King’s College London, 17 August 2022.

Fal-Dutra Santos, Agnieszka. 2022. Where Are the Women? Feminist Financing for Peacebuilding and the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda. NYU Center on International Cooperation, 18 April 2022.

Fal-Dutra Santos, Agnieszka. 2021. Towards gender-equal peace: from ‘counting women’ to meaningful participation. The Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue.

Porobić, Nela, and G. Milnarević, G. 2022. Dealing with the past in the shadow of neoliberalism. Bosnia Peace.

Porobić, Nela, and G. Milnarević, G. 2022. Dismantling the structures of violence, building a society of peace. Bosnia Peace.

Rigual, Christelle, Elisabeth Prügl, and Rahel Kunz. 2022. Gender and the Micro-Dynamics of Violent Conflicts. International Feminist Journal of Politics. 24(3) (27 May 2022): 345–67.

Soroka, Y. 2016. Hostility towards internally displaced people: researcher contribution to its formation. Visnyk of the V.N.Karazin Kharkiv National University. Sociological studies of Contemporary Society: Methodology, Theory, Methods. Issue 37, p. 125–128.

Soroka, Y. and A. Savchenko, A. 2022. Social Theater in the Crisis Time in Ukraine: A Sociological Perspective (based on Data from Kharkiv). Laboratorium. 13 (3). 111–133

Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), Center for Social and Labour Research, East Donbas Regional Development Agency, Theatre for Dialogue, Gender Dnipro, Centre of the Future, Child Smile, & Alternative Youth Centre. 2017. Obstacles to Women’s Meaningful Participation in Peace Efforts in Ukraine.

Poster of the project

Poster of the project