Russian and Belarusian Women Are Leading the Anti-War Movement
Within hours of President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, on Feb. 24, 2022, women in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus posted their maternity photos with this tagline across social media. The grassroots group Souz Materei (Union of Mothers) launched and led the online anti-war campaign centered on women’s perspectives on peacebuilding and resistance.
During the first days of the war, Ukrainian mothers recorded videos pleading with Russian and Belarusian mothers not to send their sons to Ukraine and shared them on Telegram. Shortly after the invasion, mothers of conscripts in Russia found themselves unable to communicate with their sons. They later learned that while the unit commander told the conscripts that they would conduct exercises on the Russia-Ukraine border, the military instead took them into Ukraine to fight directly.
A few days after the beginning of the war, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry launched the initiative Look For Your Own (Ishchi Svoikh), which provided information about fallen or captured Russian soldiers to their families. When the Russian government swiftly blocked access to the initiative’s website for people browsing in Russia, Souz Materei leveraged its grassroots connections. The network of women outside of Russia continued accessing the Ukrainian website. It provided information to mothers in Russia and Belarus who had lost contact with their family members in Ukraine.
Putin is well-known for his misogyny, and so the resistance movement connects women through their conviction against the war. Across these warring states, whether in Belarus, Ukraine, or Russia, women speak the same language of motherhood, and they know the value of bringing life into this world. They are not afraid to resist a senseless war that will deprive them of their children.