EU initiative helps Ukrainian women enter Belgian workforce

EU initiative helps Ukrainian women enter Belgian workforce
Many Ukrainian refugees are mothers with higher education degrees or highly qualified specialists from sought-after professions. Credit: Belga

Around 3.5 million people fleeing the war in Ukraine have registered for temporary protection in the EU, including many women. Although this simplifies entering the labour market, it poses new challenges regarding economic integration.

Many Ukrainians may return home when Russian violence subsides, however, the implosion of Ukraine’s economy could mean millions stay to work in host countries. In anticipation of this, one initiative is working with dozens of major European companies, from Coca-Cola to Hilton, to help tens of thousands of Ukrainian women join the EU workforce.

The "Sunflower Project," initiated by Tent Partnership for Refugees, is active in Belgium where it partnered with Randstad's Ausy to help a Ukrainian woman called Nataliia Plonstak find a job at CNH Industrial as a Tech writer.

"When I left Ukraine there was so much uncertainty. I thought: where will I go? Will I be safe and how will I make a living? It has not been easy, but I am so grateful to have arrived safely in Belgium and I’m happy to have found a job," she said in a statement to The Brussels Times.

"I have never worked in this sector before so I am grateful to have received training so I can thrive in my new role," she added. She also received technical and pharmaceutical training through the programme.

Facing double discrimination

Although a recent survey showed that around two-thirds of Ukrainian refugees are mothers with higher education degrees or highly qualified specialists from sought-after professions, they face “double discrimination” when seeking jobs.

Obstacles to integration range from a lack of understanding of the local labour market to language barriers, a lack of access to social and professional networks, and higher childcare and domestic burdens, according to Tent.

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European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, welcomed the initiative and how it addresses the critical need to ensure displaced Ukrainians can get livelihoods in the EU. "As the majority coming from Ukraine in this crisis are women and children, this initiative can broaden opportunities for women to have a job in the EU."

PepsiCo has also started a mentoring programme for Ukrainian refugees with Tent in Belgium, according to Tent. Across the continent, another 18 anchor companies including Accenture, Deloitte, LinkedIn and Swarovski are taking part in the project.

Tent is working with Impact Force, a leading Ukrainian NGO, to ensure the voices and needs of Ukrainian women are reflected in the initiative.


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