A group of volunteers has placed a giant replica bulletproof vest, bearing the words “She Needs Armor Too” over the statue of Princess Olga which stands in front of St Michael’s Cathedral in Kyiv. This highlights the need for the provision of women’s body armor for the more than 40,000 women now serving.

As more and more women enlisted into the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) little thought was initially given to their physical differences to the men serving alongside them.

At the beginning of July, the count reached over 40,000 women who were faced with wearing uniforms that didn’t fit properly, boots that didn’t account for their different foot structure and more worryingly the available body armor that was heavy and the wrong shape.

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The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense (UMoD) announced on Aug. 3 that it had approved designs for a new women's summer field uniform which is currently being rolled out.

A female soldier called Anita is quoted in the Organization for World Peace (OWP) website as saying it’s hard “…to run in the army’s standard, 15-kilogram-bulletproof vest – which just never fits snugly to the body with boobs like mine.”

She added “If I take the army armor off and get wounded or get killed, there would be no compensation paid to me or my family. Our lives, our security, often depend on what we wear on our body and our feet, how healthy we are.”

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In parallel with unveiling the new women’s uniform UMoD said they were currently testing the first samples of women's body armor.

The then minister Oleksii Reznikov said: “Eventually, our military servicewomen who defend our country will have the opportunity to receive not only a field uniform but also personal protective equipment according to their anthropometric data.”

Apart from being so heavy, a man’s bulletproof vest is flat, does not fit a woman’s body, places pressure on the chest and is invariably too broad across the shoulders to comfortably support its weight. What was needed was a lighter armor, that is tailored and contoured for the female form and evenly distributes its weight.

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The Ukrainian company “Ukrainska Bronya” recently unveiled what it boasts is the first body armor to fit the female anatomy and structure and fully meets the AFU required standards for protection, which it calls “Ruta Lyuta.”

“Ruta Lyuta” body armor. Photo: “Ukrainska Bronya”

It says the body armor suit is significantly lighter than the male version while providing improved anti-trauma protection area.  The vest includes an external pocket to hold a shaped ballistic plate which they say improves comfort and prevents chafing in the chest area. It is currently available in four sizes and is available with added options such as an armored load-bearing belt with shoulder straps.

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The body armor completely covers the chest area with modules available to protect the abdomen, neck, shoulders, groin, and outer thighs. These and the ballistic plate cost extra.

The positioning of the replica on a statue in the center of Kyiv is intended to bring the issue out into the open and to spur the authorities and the public to provide the funding needed for the equipment for which prices start at Hr. 18,000 ($488) for the basic vest and rise to over Hr. 50,000 ($ 1,350) depending on the size and the options selected.

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