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Thank you for everything you do to help refugee women, children and youth

As 2012 comes to a close, check out some highlights of the Women's Refugee Commission’s accomplishments and impact over the past year.

Read more: Thank you for everything you do to help refugee women, children and youth

Children Take their “Wish for the Holidays” to Capitol Hill

“Children need to be with their parents so they can succeed.  I just want to be with my family.  Please don’t take my parents away, and I promise I will be a productive member of society.”

—Letter from a young boy from Florida, read at the Wish for the Holidays press conference

Over the past few months, thousands of young people across the country have written letters to Congress as part of the A Wish for the Holidays campaign. Each letter expresses one shared wish: an end to immigration policies that separate children from their parents. Last week, a delegation of over 50 children and youth—accompanied by staff from Women’s Refugee Commission’s Migrant Rights and Justice program—visited Capitol Hill to hold a press conference with Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA). They hand-delivered the letters to the members of Congress who will play a key role in upcoming immigration reform efforts.

Read the full blog on MomsRising.com

Making Progress in Protecting Immigrants From Sexual Abuse and Assault

The Department of Homeland Security finally issues credible sexual assault protection for immigrants in detention. Will Health and Human Services follow suit?

Last week, after years of debate over whether immigrants in their custody needed protections against sexual assault, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released long-awaited draft regulations that detail the agency's plan to satisfy the requirements of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). It has taken enormous amounts of time and advocacy to reach this place, but this is a major victory. These regulations are a critical step for creating real safeguards to protect the human rights of immigrants in detention. Immigrants in detention -- who often do not speak English, are facing deportation and have little access to lawyers -- deserve the same protections as everyone who is in confinement in the United States.

Read the full blog on The Huffington Post.

Immigration Reform Picture Not Complete Unless It Includes the Face of Women

President Obama recently announced that immigration reform will be a top priority in his second term. As comprehensive immigration reform begins to take shape at long last, it is imperative that we see the face of immigrants for who they really are. According to a Pew Hispanic Research study released this spring, total illegal immigration from Mexico has drastically fallen, but 46% of immigrants still coming from Mexico are women. This data flies in the face of traditional stereotypes of migrants who cross the border in droves. The picture of a wave of single males flooding the border for work is outdated and inaccurate.

Read full blog on MomsRising.org

The Cost of Cooking Dinner: Rape or Assault

2012-12-05-12resizedCooking a meal for your family shouldn't put you at risk of rape or assault. Yet, collecting the wood or other cooking fuel essential for their survival, crisis-affected women and girls are forced to put their safety at risk on a daily basis.

While shelter, water, health care and food are provided in refugee camps, families almost never receive the fuel they need to cook that food. They must find it on their own, no matter the threat.

The longer a camp exists, the farther women and girls (and it is almost always women and girls) must go to collect cooking fuel. When they do, they risk attack, including rape and physical assault. With the average long-term refugee situation now lasting 17 years, this is clearly a huge problem.

Read the full blog on The Huffington Post.

The Time is Now: Meeting the Rights of Displaced Persons with Disabilities

Today is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Those of us in the United States hope that the U.S. Senate will help us mark the 2012 observance by voting tomorrow for ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. I urge my American readers to contact your Senators immediately to urge them to vote “yes” on ratification of the Convention and help advance the rights of persons with disabilities across the globe.

Read more: The Time is Now: Meeting the Rights of Displaced Persons with Disabilities

Keeping the Peace: A Call for Women’s Participation in International Security

WPS_blog_11.30.12_photoElizabeth 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.

Read more: Keeping the Peace: A Call for Women’s Participation in International Security

16 Days, 16 Ways: Preventing Violence Against Displaced Women and Girls

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.

Aid Worker Diaries - It’s Time for a New Approach to Urban Refugees

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.

Read the full blog on AlertNet.

Notes from the Field: Congolese Refugee Girls in Tanzania Speak Out

Girls at the Nyarugusu Camp map out where they feel safe and unsafe in the community.

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.

Read more: Notes from the Field: Congolese Refugee Girls in Tanzania Speak Out