Report on European Advocacy Tour SEMA Ukraine November/December 2022


        In the context of a project funded by the German Federal Government, and in collaboration with the Polish Women Council and its partners, SEMA Ukraine held a European Advocacy Tour taking place in November and December of 2022. As part of this tour SEMA members Iryna Dovhan and Alisa Kovalenko travelled to the UK, Belgium and France between the 25th of November and the 6th of December 2022 to attend various meetings and events. Furthermore, other events have been attended remotely. This report gives an overview of those meetings and events attended, the message that was shared by SEMA Ukraine during these meetings and events, and the follow-up that has resulted from the tour.


More pictures of the tour can be found here.

Key messages:

       As Iryna and Alisa were able to attend many meetings and events of various natures, their advocacy strategy depended on the audience in question. Nonetheless, a number of key messages were the common thread for all meetings and events:​

  • In their capacity as SEMA Ukraine members, Iryna and Alisa act as spokespersons for survivors of conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) in Ukraine, both those who have been during the conflict in Eastern Ukraine that has been going on since 2014 and those that were victimised more recently after the full-fledged invasion in February 2022.
  • Based on their own experiences and those of other survivors, victims of CRSV usually are in need of urgent assistance, especially financial support to satisfy immediate needs and psychological support. While services are generally available in Ukraine, there is a large issue of underreporting due to fear of being stigmatised and reprisals, mistrust of the quality of available assistance, the experience of other violations, and the perceived need to report to authorities to gain access to supportive services.
  • SEMA Ukraine and the Mukwege Foundation are currently actively working with the Ukrainian government to improve the quality of the available supportive services for victims of CRSV and reduce underreporting by closely working with communities. SEMA Ukraine is especially key in reducing mistrust and hesitation among victims to seek the assistance they need through peer-to-peer support, and in reducing stigma by speaking out and denouncing CRSV as survivors.
  • In addition to their ongoing activities, SEMA Ukraine has the medium to long-term goal to obtain justice including reparations and punishment of perpetrators. To do so, Iryna and Alisa stressed the importance of documentation of crimes, which is lacking in areas still occupied or recently de-occupied. They mentioned the work of SEMA Ukraine in this regard, and the support needed to continue this.
  • In order for SEMA Ukraine to continue to support recent victims of CRSV to get access to the care they need and continue to combat underreporting, audiences were asked for continued political support for Ukraine and justice for survivors, as well as financial support for survivors in general, and SEMA Ukraine in particular. Finally, Iryna and Alisa asked for continued military support for the Ukrainian government, seen as the precondition for the war – and alongside it, conflict-related sexual violence – to end. 


Roundtable ‘Sexual Violence as a weapon in Russia's war against Ukraine’ at the Ukrainian Institute of London (26 November

Description:  This event was a roundtable discussion co-organised by the Ukrainian Institute London, Birkbeck, University of London, SEMA Ukraine, International Council of Polish Women and Cambridge Families for Ukraine on the use of CRSV in the conflict in Ukraine. Both Iryna and Alisa were part of the discussion panel along with Mukwege Foundation programme manager Apolline Pierson and researcher Anna Kvit.


Event report: While the turnout was relatively small with around 30-40 persons, the audience was very engaged and asked many questions. 


Useful contacts:





Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI) Conference (28-29 November)















    Description: The UK Foreign Secretary hosted an international conference as part of their Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative with the aim to strengthen the global response to and prevention of CRSV, and strengthen justice and enhance support for survivors. The 2-day conference welcomed over 800 delegates, including high-level participation from a range of governments, international organisations, civil society and survivors. Both Iryna and Alisa attended the conference, and Iryna was a speaker during the following sessions:​

  • The breakout session: ‘Five years of SEMA: the successes and challenges of the global movement of survivors of conflict-related sexual violence’ alongside other SEMA members
  • The plenary session: ‘Prevention of conflict-related sexual violence’ with Kim Thuy Seelinger, Special Advisor on CRSV to the ICC Prosecutor, Hon. Mme. Bineta Diop, African Union Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security, Hon. Mrs. Angelina Jany Teny, Minister of Defense and Veterans Affairs, South Sudan, and Hon. Mr. Ivica Dačić, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Serbia

            Event report: During two days, many opportunities for high-level networking arose, including meeting Dr Mukwege, and the Ukrainian delegation (including the First Lady, and representatives of civil society organisations and the Prosecutor office, amongst others). While this was a global conference on CRSV, the Ukrainian war featured as a priority for many of the delegates present.

During this trip in London, Alisa and Iryna were also able to network with fellow SEMA members and other survivors, coming from more than 14 countries.

The UK proposed a new political declaration on CRSV to strengthen global action which was adopted by more than 50 states. During the conference, State representatives were asked to submit their national commitments in writing outlining the steps they will take to tackle CRSV. Ukraine committed to promote the implementation of the Framework of Cooperation between the government and the UN on the prevention and response to CRSV.