Elizabeth Cafferty, senior advocacy officer (center) accompanied Raz Rasool, an activist in Iraqi Kurdistan, and Hanaa Edward, of the Iraqi Al-Amal Association, to meetings with members of the UN Security Council ahead of the renewal of the UN’s mandate in Iraq.
On Monday, October 29th, the very day that Hurricane Sandy tore through New York, the United Nations was scheduled to hold its annual open debate on Women, Peace and Security. As strong as the storm was, it was not able to derail this important agenda. On Wednesday, October 31st, as soon as it was able to reopen and assemble enough representatives of the Security Council in the wake of the storm, the UN quietly, but formally, adopted a new Presidential Statement on Women, Peace and Security. And today, one month later (November 30th), UN Member States are gathering for the rescheduled open debate.
The annual global campaign 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is such a poignant time on the calendar for the Women's Refugee Commission.
On the one hand, we reflect with profound anger on the horrific violations that continue to be perpetrated every day against millions of women and girls in conflict-ridden places. But it's also a time when we take inspiration, encouragement and hope from the many courageous refugee women and girls with whom the Women's Refugee Commission works -- women and girls who are absolutely determined to stop sexual violence and exploitation in their communities. They give meaning and life to that rather academic phrase "change agents."
During this 16 Days campaign, I think of the more than 1,000 displaced women and girls who took part in the United Nation's High Commissioner for Refugees' (UNHCR) 2010-2011 Dialogues with Refugee Women. These women and girls made clear that the constant threat of sexual and gender-based violence permeates every aspect of their lives. And they demanded action. Their powerful testimonies and recommended solutions are captured in the UNHCR publication Survivors, Protectors, Providers: Refugee Women Speak Out.
Read the full blog on the Huffington Post.
More than 50 percent of all refugees today reside in urban areas.
They flock to cities like Nairobi, Cairo and Johannesburg seeking better opportunities and the chance to provide for themselves and their children—opportunities that are not available to them in the refugee camps.
And yet, the very opportunities they go to the cities to access are often elusive. Instead, they more often than not find themselves in the squalor of urban slums riddled with crime, where there are few services and fewer jobs.
It was no easy journey from Dar es Salaam to the Nyarugusu Refugee Camp in Tanzania; my colleague and I took a regional flight, ferry boat and drove for 12 hours through muddy roads. But the week that followed made it all seem worth the effort. During the 16 years of its existence, the camp had never before had anyone from the outside come to talk one-on-one with adolescent girls to learn about their specific needs and challenges.
As a relatively peaceful country in comparison to its neighbors, Tanzania, has been hosting refugees from other more tumultuous countries in the region for over four decades. There are now two refugee camps in Tanzania: Mtabila, which hosts 36,000 refugees from Burundi and Nyarugusu Camp, which hosts 66,500 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Tanzanian government wishes to close both camps, and in August 2012 announced they would close Mtabila Camp as Burundians were found to no longer be in need of international protection. The status of the Congolese refugees at Nyarugusu Camp will be reviewed this year.
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, it is hard not to reflect on human vulnerabilities that transcend borders. The importance of our own communities in preparedness and response efforts come clearly into focus. Just over a week ago, the largest Atlantic hurricane on record devastated the Caribbean, mid-Atlantic and northeast United States. Regions are still besieged with recovery efforts.
In New York City, a global financial capital, authorities are struggling to get power and heat back to hundreds of thousands of residents. Community efforts driven by volunteers are distributing food, water, clothes and blankets to men, women and children who are facing an altered reality. Residents in New York and New Jersey are being shifted to shelters for protection from yet another environmental challenge—the cold.
Read the full blog on AlertNet.
Periodically, we’ll be featuring interviews with members of our dedicated staff talking about how they got into the field and who or what inspires them. Here’s the first in our series, a conversation with Erin Patrick, Senior Program Officer. Erin works with our Fuel and Firewood Initiative, which mobilizes attention and action to increase women’s and girls’ safe access to cooking fuels.
Why are so many children risking the perilous journey from their homes in Central America to the United States?
If you pause and consider what one child told me, “you stay you will die, if you leave, you might [die]… either way it’s better to try,” you begin to see why.
Beginning in October 2011, an unprecedented number of unaccompanied alien children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras began migrating to the United States. From October 2011 to April 2012, U.S. immigration agents apprehended almost twice as many children as in previous years. The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), the agency responsible for the care and custody of these children, has seen the number of unaccompanied children in its custody double from an average of about 7000 a year, to over 14,000 in fiscal year 2012.
Walking my daughters to school this morning, I told them that they should celebrate because today is a special day for girls around the world. International Day of the Girl Child is a day to recognize the rights of girls and to reflect on the unique hardships many of them face. It’s also a day to honor their resilience, and their capacity—if given the right opportunities—to lead strong and healthy lives and to make meaningful contributions to their communities.
Yet, for millions of girls, these opportunities do not exist. Those who are displaced by war or natural disaster live on the fringes, with little to no support. Their lives have been profoundly disrupted and changed; and, they are even less visible and more vulnerable than other girls. They may be living in camps or cities far from home. They may be compelled to take on added responsibilities to support themselves or their families. Some will be sexually exploited, abused or face other forms of violence as a result of being displaced. Many will be married at a young age, some by the age of 12 or 13.
Read the full blog on the Huffington Post.
"I'm a firm believer that those who better understand the problems they face and are knowledgeable to develop solutions to those problems are the main actors of development: the people that we are trying to support. Women and adolescent girls in this case, can advise on the risks they face, suggest ways to manage them and judge whether to take certain risks."
Read the latest entry of our GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE AND LIVELIHOODS–HOW DO WE DO BETTER? blogger series, in partnership with AidSource. This series invites those working in the field or planning or implementing economic and humanitarian programs to share their thoughts on how to make livelihood opportunities for women safer. This blog is written by Soledad Muniz, Senior Associate at InsightShare.
It is very busy in New York these days as heads of state, ministers, senior government officials and civil society leaders gather for the 67th Session of the U.N. General Assembly. In conjunction with the General Assembly’s first ever high-level meeting on Rule of Law on September 24, the Women’s Refugee Commission has joined with other civil society organizations to urge all Member States to accede to the Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. Read the .