Boys from Central America riding on "La Bestia," which they hope will bring them to a safer life in the U.S. Screen still from the documentary film, “Which Way Home.” Courtesy of Mr. Mudd/Documentress Films.
People are often surprised when I tell them I advocate on behalf of unaccompanied youth, many of them as young as 11 or 12, coming to the United States alone. “What do you mean alone, they must be with someone” people often reply. But I really do mean alone. I mean youth who leave their homes, and on their own find smugglers or other migrants to help them find their way North. They board buses, ride on top of trains or hide in the back of trucks alone, with no one protecting them. They are vulnerable to unimaginable dangers from smugglers, drug cartels, traffickers and even other migrants. Yet, to these youth, the dangers they face in their home country are worse than the dangers they face on their journey, so they risk their lives to reach a place of safety.
It was Libby's* turn to speak, and so she did. She put together her statement in as articulate manner as she could. She spoke for about 30 seconds, sharing her thoughts and reaching out to resonate with somebody…anybody. When she was finished, there was an awkward silence in the room. It wasn't because she had said something wrong. It wasn't because she had offended anybody. It was because no one in the room had actually understood what she said. And so, without a response, or any bit of probing to find out what she had been trying to say, the moderator thanked her and moved on to the next question.
Communities are usually best placed to identify and implement solutions to their problems. Outsiders often only see and tackle the most visible needs and miss opportunities for addressing underlying issues and engaging communities and tapping their capacity.
Watch this short video, produced by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees with the Women's Refugee Commission, to see an example of how community-based protection addresses underlying issues and engages communities in identifying and implementing their own solutions.
Yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry presided over a high-level meeting at the United Nation’s Security Council to discuss the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a peace agreement—signed in February by 11 African nations—to end the conflict in eastern Congo.
The meeting came at a crucial moment for the women and girls of the DRC. In recent months, a new wave of violence has flared up in the eastern region of the DRC, forcing an estimated 66,000 people to flee to Uganda. Many women, children and youth are vulnerable to the brutal sexual violence that has so often characterized conflict in this region. In his remarks, Kerry drew attention to this “targeted, grotesque violence,” calling on governments to “hold human rights violators and abusers accountable” and urging participating governments to “move forward together so that we can address the root causes of this conflict and end it once and for all.”
Yet, while he declared the peace agreement “a very important first step,” Kerry also recognized that the agreement must be paired with concrete action on the part of governments and the international community to be truly effective. “The key question before all of us today is whether the commitments prescribed in the framework can be kept, will be kept,” Kerry stated. “Will they come to life, or are they only going to be destined to live on paper?” For the thousands of women and children who experience and/or are at risk of experiencing sexual violence on a daily basis, the importance of moving from promises to action cannot be overstated.
The Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) is honored to have the opportunity to participate as an Observer in the sixth session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). WRC welcomes the theme, “Ensuring adequate standard of living: empowerment and participation of persons with disabilities within the framework of the CRPD” and the sub themes: “Economic empowerment through inclusive social protection and poverty reduction strategies”; “Disability-inclusive development in national, regional and international processes”; and “Community-based rehabilitation and habilitation for inclusive society.”
We look forward to hearing from the distinguished panelists on each of these important topics, which are so critical to the well-being of persons with disabilities, including those displaced by conflict and crises.
During the convention, WRC will be LiveTweeting from various events; follow us at https://twitter.com/wrcommission #CRDP.
To read our official statement click here.
Sharon Waxman, Vice President, Public Policy and Advocacy at the International Rescue Committee writes about Lebanon for the Huffington Post.
"On June 7, the United Nations launched its largest humanitarian appeal in history: $5.2 billion to aid people affected by the Syrian civil war. It may surprise some that the U.N. is seeking the lion's share (32 percent) of that money for one small country -- Lebanon -- but numbers tell the story.
A country of 4.2 million people, Lebanon now hosts more than 500,000 Syrian refugees, and the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) expects that number to double by the end of the year. At that point, nearly one in five people in Lebanon will be a Syrian refugee. If we consider everyone affected by the conflict -- the 1.2 million Lebanese in the communities struggling to absorb the Syrian refugees, plus the 80,000 Palestinian refugees and 49,000 Lebanese who had been living in Syria -- the staggering figure would exceed 2.25 million, about half the prewar population of Lebanon."
World Refugee Day is a time to celebrate the strength and resilience of refugees around the world. It is also a time to bring attention to ways in which the humanitarian community can better meet the needs of displaced people. This World Refugee Day, we reflect on the state of displaced persons with disabilities, and look forward towards the future of disabilility inclusion in the humanitarian field.
The Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) seeks to improve the lives and protect the rights of persons with disabilities, including women, children and youth, displaced by conflict and crisis. Over the past 18 months, with support from AusAID and other donors, the WRC has been providing technical advice to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to translate operational guidance on Working with Persons with Disabilities in Forced Displacement into practice at field levels.
Adolescents' access to quality reproductive health care, including family planning, is essential to their health, well-being, and future success. Yet too little is being done in humanitarian settings to meet this basic need. The Women's Refugee Commission and Save the Children, in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the United Nations Population Fund has documented the gaps in the humanitarian sector and outlined recommendations for donors, governments, and humanitarian and development organizations in a new report, "Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Programs in Humanitarian Settings: An In-depth Look at Family Planning Services."
The need for action on reproductive health care for adolescents could not be more urgent or obvious. The statistics are striking. Two million girls under the age of 15 give birth every year. Adolescent girls have a higher risk of maternal mortality than any other age group. And half of sexual assaults are committed against girls younger than 15.
An estimated 12 million people worldwide are stateless, with no country to call home. They are not recognized as nationals of the countries where they live, and as a result are denied basic human rights. For many people, this situation arises because of gender discrimination in nationality laws. This occurs when nationality legislation prevents women from acquiring, changing, retaining or passing on their nationality to their children and/or their spouses on an equal basis with men. This discrimination must end and nationality laws must be changed.
Today, the Women's Refugee Commission, and the Statelessness Program at the University of Tilburg (Netherlands) are launching a report, Our Motherland, Our Country: Gender Discrimination and Statelessness in the Middle East and North Africa.
On April 17, we at the Women's Refugee Commission (WRC) welcomed the introduction of S. 744, the "Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013." For those of us who are veterans of the immigration reform efforts of 2006 and 2007, this day marked a long-awaited return to a serious national conversation about our immigration system. But April 17 also represented a major step forward for the protection of immigrant women's rights -- something we at the WRC have been working towards for more than 15 years.