Sifa Mateso's father passed away when she was in primary school. Her mother was left alone to care for her and her sibling. At age 14, Sifa decided to get married.
"I thought I could make a better life and assist my mother and my sibling," she explains. "My mother faced many difficulties. The situation at home was getting worse every day."
Soon after her first child was born, Sifa's husband began to abuse her, both physically and emotionally. She divorced him, packed up and headed back home with her child.
Read the blog by Kulsoom Rizvi of the International Rescue Committee, about an adolescent girls project that is supported by the Women's Refugee Commission.
Last year in Lebanon, my colleague Emma met 16-year-old Zeinah*. Zeinah, who had recently arrived as a refugee from Syria, had been shot in the back while shielding her 3-month-old baby as they were fleeing the city of Homs, leaving her unable to walk and wheelchair dependent.
Of the world's 51.2 million people displaced by conflict and persecution, an astonishing 7.7 million are persons with disabilities. While many of their disabilities are longstanding, many are new, like Zeinah's, the result of war-related violence.
Editor's Note: Rather than recognizing the humanitarian refugee crisis, the Obama administration is responding as though it were an immigration issue, writes Michelle Brané, director of the Migrant Rights & Justice Program at the Women's Refugee Commission.
In recent months, an unprecedented surge of refugee women and children has been traveling alone to the United States to seek protection at our southern border. The vast majority are fleeing their homes in the Central American countries of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, and risking their lives as they make long and incredibly dangerous journeys to seek refuge on our soil.
Jakir's story is not an isolated incident—and for many families, the process is even worse. Apprehended parents are not guaranteed a phone call to make care arrangements for their children. Children can end up in the child welfare system if both parents are apprehended, if the migrant is a single parent, or if another parent or caretaker doesn't know how to find them.
Those children are why we've written our new guide: Detained or Deported: What About My Children? This in-depth guide is for migrant parents and their relatives, friends, advocates and lawyers. It provides step-by-step instructions for how to ensure that they get their children back at the end of the immigration process.
There have been a lot of sleepless nights at the Women's Refugee Commissionlately. Despite our best intentions of leaving work at work, our minds have been fixed on the Southern border, where a humanitarian crisis affecting primarily women and children is worsening by the day.
Because of extreme and intensifying violence and organized crime in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, women with young children -- some as young as infants -- are fleeing for their lives. These families are fleeing domestic violence, forced gang recruitment and the collapse of economic and social systems. Countries throughout the region have seen an increase in women and children seeking asylum. In the neighboring countries of Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua and Belize, applications for asylum are up 712 percent. In the United States, Border Patrol stations are packed with exhausted, frightened families in need of immediate physical and psychosocial care. The vast majority of these families have harrowing tales to tell of being physically and emotionally abused by partners, or being threatened by gangs who tell them, "join or die."
The scale of violence committed against women and girls, mostly by men, constitutes a global crisis affecting all people and all societies. From physical and psychological abuse, rape and genital mutilation to exploitation and human trafficking, gender-based violence (GBV) has profound and long-lasting consequences for individuals, families and communities. Some of the worst atrocities may appear in the headlines, but the majority of survivors' stories go untold.
The global summit on sexual violence in conflict, convened last week by UK foreign secretary William Hague and UN special envoy Angelina Jolie, provided an important platform for survivors to be heard and propelled the issue to the top of the international news agenda - at least for a few days.
"Please, can you explain to me, because I don't understand. Why is there this discrimination? Why do they differentiate between men and women? I don't understand why?"
(Kuwaiti woman married to a stateless man, who is unable to pass her Kuwaiti nationality to her children).
In 27 countries around the world, women are unable to pass on their nationality to their children, or to their non-national spouses, on an equal basis with men. In over 60 countries, women face discrimination in their ability to acquire, change or retain their nationality on an equal basis with men. Such discrimination is in violation of international law and can have devastating consequences on women and their families.
Today in Geneva, the International Campaign to End Gender Discrimination in Nationality Laws will be launched during the 26th session of the UN Human Rights Council.
I was recently a panelist at a fascinating conference called "Advancing Women: Leadership in Our Lives." It was sponsored by Thomson Reuters and the Women's Refugee Commission, an organization which through a range of humanitarian efforts seeks to improve the lives and protect the rights of women, children, and youth displaced by conflict and crisis. I'm honored to sit on its board.
My fellow panelists were an amazing group of women with a vast amount of experience dealing with women's issues around the world. Despite our different lives and backgrounds, we're all working toward the same goal: empowering women. A mother struggling to keep her family fed in Sierra Leone, a schoolgirl in Pakistan trying to learn to read in order to advance herself, and a working woman in New York all face gender discrimination of some sort that hampers their ability to control their destinies, and in the most dreadful of situations places their lives at risk.
Few things prove our interconnectedness more than the environment and climate change. Our actions, both individual and collective, ripple through the ecosystem that we live in. Those very changes come back to us— in ripples, yes, and also in waves and in floods. Intensified by climate change, natural disasters have human causes and tragic human effects. Natural disasters currently account for more than 40 million of the world's displaced people, and the impact appears to be increasing each year. But they don’t have to.
Lawmakers are mad, and they should be. Advocates are mad, and they should be, too. Right now, incredibly vulnerable people are being put in harm's way every day in this country. Thousands of children are fleeing their homes in Central America and risking their lives by traveling―without parents or other adult relatives―to seek safety in the United States. These children are getting younger and younger, and more girls are making the journey in search of safety. Families traveling with small children are presenting themselves at our ports of entry to ask for asylum. These people are fleeing horrific violence perpetrated by organized criminals and gangs in their home countries. Their governments do not have the resources they need to protect their own citizens.