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Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

End Militarism, End Gender Violence

Every year, the international community marks 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence, and this year's theme is “Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Gender-Based Violence!” Militarism is both a direct and indirect cause of violence against refugee women and girls–they are vulnerable both to conflict and to the violence that militarism imbues in societies. 

I’m Here Approach for Adolescent Girls

Gender-based violence is a complex and widespread problem, and so solutions must be far-reaching and multi-faceted. Refugee women and girls are an incredible resource for rebuilding conflict-torn societies, and here are some of the most important ways that we can protect and empower them.

The WRC’s new tool for identifying and reaching adolescent girls is named after a comment made by Ayan, a girl in South Sudan. She stopped a WRC researcher on his way to a meeting, saying “I heard about the adolescent girls’ meeting. I’m here!” Her eagerness to raise her voice and be included in community solutions embodied all the tremendous potential that all refugee girls have.

Yet, in the chaos that follows a disaster, well-meaning practitioners are overwhelmed and don’t realize that there are quick and concrete ways to incorporate girls. The WRC’s new “I’m Here” approach outlines a way to ensure that refugee adolescent girls get the protection and the services that they need and deserve. This field-tested approach helps practitioners to:

  • identify girls and their vulnerabilities (Girl Roster tool)
  • identify their priority needs and risks (Girl Roster tool and participatory consultations)
  • collate and analyze findings to inform programming (Emergency Girl Analysis Integration Matrix, or eGAIM).

Learn more about how to identify, protect, serve, and engage refugee adolescent girls

Livelihoods: A Double-edged Sword

When implemented correctly, livelihood programs can nurture a women’s economic strength, enabling her to acquire the resources to protect herself and her family from violence. However, poorly designed or implemented livelihood programs may increase women’s vulnerability to violence and abuse. For example, the very livestock intended to supplement a woman’s income and her children’s nutrition may actually make her more vulnerable to violent theft. A recent WRC study demonstrated just how overlooked this issue is, and outlines five steps that can be taken to ensure that livelihood programs actually decrease women’s risk of gender-based violence. The WRC also developed and tested a tool, Cohort Livelihoods and Risk Analysis CLARA, to help humanitarian workers uncover and confront these GBV risks.

Learn more about how to ensure that livelihoods programs make women safer and stronger.

Basic Infrastructure: Locks, Lights, Latrines + Water Points

The role of basic infrastructure in keeping women safe is well documented, and today, it is as urgent as it has ever been. There must be locks on doors—in homes, shared latrines, and other spaces—so women have a reliable place of safety and refuge. We must provide adequate lighting, especially in areas that are heavily trafficked at night, like residential walkways and paths to latrines. Latrines themselves are one of the most common settings for gender-based violence. So, in addition to having adequate lights and locks, latrines must be gender segregated for women’s safety. Women and girls are often in charge of fetching water, and those who seek to prey on them are well aware of this. To safeguard women from assault, water points must be located in safe spaces with adequate lighting, near women’s homes.

Although these issues were among the first accepted foundations for women’s protection, they are frequently inadequate. Just last May, in Zaatari camp in Jordan, 53% of toilet stalls and 61% of shower stalls did not have functioning locks, and 57% had no light at all.

Safe Spaces, Strong Girls 

It would be a grave mistake to see refugee girls merely as a vulnerable group. They possess enormous capacity to transform their families and communities. Growing evidence supports the premise that investing in girls’ economic and social empowerment can reduce their risks of experiencing violence and is an effective pathway to sustainable development. Likewise, conflict and crisis situations often lead to shifting gender roles that open up possibilities for positive social changes, resulting in an opportunity for gender norms to change for the better.

Creating safe spaces for adolescent girls, aged 10-16 years, is an essential part of good refugee policy. These settings become portals where displaced girls can build confidence and agency while gaining critical skills for their future livelihoods. Instead of staying home alone, where they are vulnerable to assault, girls can acquire classroom and vocational learning while strengthening their networks of peers and mentors.

Learn more about creating safe spaces for adolescent girls.

Sexual and Gender-Based Violence