Struggles of Female Refugees
Welcome back to another edition of Tuesday Newsday!
Just yesterday, we celebrated International Women’s Day to raise awareness on issues of equality hindering women across the globe and celebrate the achievements of women everywhere. Today, we’ll be understanding the challenges faced particularly by women refugees and how refugees, international bodies and organisations are aiming to resolve this issue.
The UNHCR has stressed that COVID-19 exacerbated already alarming levels of gender inequality for refugee women and girls. With the deteriorating socio-economic situation, the UNHCR has reported increases in gender-based violence like domestic abuse, child labour, adolescent pregnancies and forced marriages due to the increase tensions at home. Many survivors, struggling to survive in this economic climate, resorted to continuing to risk their lives by remaining dependent on their abusive partners to ensure they have enough to get by with, enduring harsh and brutal living conditions in the process. With schools closed coupled with the economic conditions, girls have been withdrawing from school to work or be sold-off, leaving them prone to a cycle of vulnerability to sexual exploitation and trafficking. Coupled with the issue of child marriage, which many refugee families have resorted to due to their debilitating economic situation, women refugees are clearly at risk.
This article by The Conversation highlights the statistical reality of the issues adolescent girls who become displaced in conflict face — reinforcing the grim reality of gender-based violence and the lack of avenues to support and educate them on such issues that ultimately result in the lack of positive outlook on their futures, affecting their mental health. Nonetheless, this article also suggests some solutions. Particularly, it highlights the International Rescue Committee’s implementation of the Creating Opportunities through Mentoring, Parental Involvement and Safe Spaces (Compass) programme to empower refugee girls in Ethiopian camps and conflict-ridden communities in DRC, with the results being very promising.
Besides refugees, evidence has pointed to the fact that adolescent girls from refugee backgrounds have often been left out in sexual risk reduction interventions, impacting their overall health and well-being. Due to the lack of information regarding sexual health information and resources in refugee camps as well as their resettlement homes, this increases the risk of unplanned pregnancy, adolescent pregnancies and STI diagnosis. This article highlights how refugee adolescent girls remain one of the most vulnerable groups to sexual health morbidities, risking becoming the next wave of HIV infections in the EU, UK and the USA, which poses another dimension to the challenges faced by female refugees.
Nonetheless, some international organisations, like the Council of Europe, are currently in the process of drafting recommendations to address gender-based issues that migrant and refugee women and girls face with the aim to analyse the deficiencies hindering equitable access for women. Find out more about the Drafting Committee on Migrant Women in the link above.
⭐ Protecting forcibly displaced women and girls during the COVID-19 pandemic: Examples of UNHCR gender responsive and Gender-Based Violence (GBV) prevention, risk mitigation and response interventions
Take a look at this document above to find out more about gender-based violence and its relationship with the pandemic, its impacts and consequences on female refugees and what the UN has been doing to mitigate these issues in countries like Pakistan, Syria and Yemen, where many women have taken up the mantle of leadership to help other women in refugee camps or settlement homes.
Furthermore, here is a story of Hafiza, who spent her a majority of her life living in refugee camps in Ethiopia having fled violence in South Sudan, who is taking the lead in ending violence against women and girls in refugee camps. As someone who understands the harsh environment of refugee camps that structurally stigmatise and disadvantage women, she aims to put an end to this by campaigning and advocating for women’s rights and connecting other women to social services to help them.
As a final note, last year, as part of their 16 Days of Activism, the International Rescue Committee put up a list of resources and ways to help to ensure equity for refugee women and girls. You can find out how to help and more at: https://www.rescue.org/article/how-you-can-help-end-violence-against-women-and-girls
Written by Ariel Koh. Edited by Maya Thanky.