Turtle Bay, the small neighborhood of New York that is home to the United Nations, is much quieter this week. Over the weekend, the last of the more than 6,000 advocates who were in New York for the United Nations’ annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) returned home.
This year’s CSW was the largest gathering ever assembled to address violence against women and girls, the theme of this year’s meeting. Some advocates, especially those who were unable to stay the full two weeks and see the meeting through to its conclusion, left weary and discouraged. It’s not that these advocates, of which I was one tired of hearing women’s stories, or failed to be inspired by the millions of women, girls—and increasingly boys and men—from South Sudan to Burma who are working to eradicate gender-based violence. These civil society activists, parliamentarians and others who spoke are models of how to work in extremely challenging conditions to end human rights abuses and gender inequality. Their efforts on behalf of the most vulnerable, including girls, those with disabilities and migrant and displaced women, moved everyone who heard them.
Today the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative (SRSG) for Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Bangura, released her annual report on sexual violence perpetrated in conflict and post-conflict situations. And while I reminded myself that it is major step for this office to exist, and this report to be issued at the request of the Security Council itself, I could not help but be depressed and disturbed as I read it.
This year, as we mark International Women's Day (March 8), we have some major milestones to celebrate. Just last week, for example, the U.S. House and Senate approved the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, which assists victims of domestic and sexual violence. And yesterday, President Obama signed the Act into law. This is a great victory for women in the United States.
At the opening of the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations last Monday, the chair of the Commission spoke in clear and succinct language about this year’s theme—eliminating and preventing all forms of violence against women and girls. As the chair put it, “The current situation of violence against women and girls is unacceptable. Together we can find the solutions and bring about change.”
The two young girls were looking for firewood when the insurgents attacked them. They had left the refugee camp at six in the morning and begun their trek through the desert in search of scraps of wood or roots that could be used as fuel; firewood rations distributed by the United Nations had long been used up, and in the camp, no fuel meant no food. Five miles and several hours later, the two thirteen-year-olds had found only a few small sticks, hardly enough to keep a fire going. As a last resort, they knelt in the dirt near the shriveled stump of a tree, digging with their hands in search of hidden roots, littering the small patch of earth around them with holes. When they saw the five soldiers approaching, they tried to run away, but the men were too fast.
As sequestration looms, the Internet and listservs are abuzz with the controversy of Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE's) decision to release immigration detainees across the country to save money. The reality is that this is the right time to be questioning how we will pay for maintaining over 34,000 immigration detention beds at an average cost of $164 per night during a fiscal crisis, which is threatening to shut down critical components of Defense and Homeland Security.
Read the full blog on Huffington Post.
As the largest donor to humanitarian assistance programs, the U.S. government’s policies and strategies have a huge influence on humanitarian practice in the field. That’s why the Women’s Refugee Commission was so pleased when the U.S. released its first government-wide Action Plan on Children in Adversity: A Framework for International Assistance: 2012–2017.
Written with input from all the government agencies providing international aid for children, the Action Plan focuses on kids affected by disasters and HIV/AIDS, orphans, trafficked children, kids exploited for child labor, those recruited as soldiers and others in vulnerable situations—including the estimated 20 million children forced from their homes by war.
Last month, the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) released its report "Immigration Enforcement in the United States." This report looked at how much the federal government's spending and programming for immigration enforcement since the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) has increased. The amount of money the United States has spent on immigration and border enforcement has skyrocketed in recent years as a result of the U.S.'s "enforcement first" approach to immigration. The report's findings are shocking. The U.S. government now spends more on immigration enforcement than on all other major federal criminal law enforcement agencies combined and immigration enforcement is the federal government's highest criminal law enforcement priority. Surprisingly, at a time when our government must be fiscally conservative and unauthorized immigration has abated, the call to increase spending on border enforcement is as loud as ever.
What does unprecedented enforcement spending actually mean for a vulnerable migrant seeking protection in the United States?
Read the full blog on Huffington Post.
Zahra Albarazi is a conducting research for the Women's Refugee Commission on statelessness in four countries. Read her blog on the situation for children of Jordanian mothers whose fathers aren't Jordanian, and therefore who don't have Jordanian citizenship.
I have been working on the issue of statelessness for several years now. During this time, I have focused mainly on legal research and awareness raising work, and I have been continually fascinated by the legal intricacy statelessness unfolds. Despite this interest, and despite having done previous field research on the issue, I do not think I truly comprehended the extent of the problem of statelessness until now. Through my involvement in a project co-ordinated by the Women’s Refugee Commission, conducting advocacy-oriented research in four countries that maintain or have recently removed gender discrimination from their laws, I have had the opportunity to spend time with affected families.
Periodically, we’ll be featuring interviews with members of our staff talking about how they got into the field and what inspires them. Here we highlight Dale Buscher, Senior Director for Programs. Dale oversees the Women's Refugee Commission’s reproductive health, livelihood, disabilities, child protection, adolescent girls, and migrant rights and justice programs.
Q. Where are you from originally?
A.I grew up in a very rural area—on a farm in northern Iowa near the small town of Algona.
Q. When did you start working at the WRC?
A. July 2005
Q. How did you get involved with the WRC?
A. I was working as a consultant with UNHCR [the UN refugee agency] in Geneva and was recruited by the Executive Director to come to New York.