When Hillary Clinton arrived in Burma (Myanmar) on November 30, she became the first U.S. Secretary of State to visit in 50 years. Her visit underscored the United States’ support for the country’s recent governmental reforms. It also called attention to a country in which sexual violence is rife. Decades of war and military rule in the border regions–home to the country’s ethnic minorities–have systematically destroyed the fabric of society, impoverished and uprooted hundreds of thousands of people and left the health and education systems in complete disrepair. In these border states in particular, women and girls have been increasingly targeted by government forces, who use rape as a weapon of war and operate with complete impunity.
Michelle Brané has a new blog out on the Huffington Post calling for the protection of immigrant detainees held in U.S. custody from sexual assault.
As the world marks the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3, it is gratifying to be able to share encouraging developments related to the well-being of the estimated 4 million refugees and internally displaced people who are living with disabilities today. But there is much more that the international community must do now to protect this highly vulnerable population.
Read Sarah's Huffington Post blog here.
Today on World AIDS Day, the Women’s Refugee Commission celebrates the progress that has been made in addressing the epidemic, while acknowledging the distance still left to go. This year’s theme, “Getting to Zero,” in honor of UNAIDS’ (the Joint UN Program on HIV/AIDS) multi-year vision of achieving “Zero New Infections. Zero Discrimination. Zero AIDS-related Deaths,” speaks to a shifting reality of what is possible. We embrace this vision and draw attention to humanitarian settings, where HIV vulnerabilities are prevalent and under-acknowledged—and yet critical to this vision.
Globally, 33.2 million people are living with HIV. Two-thirds of them are in Sub-Saharan Africa, and women and adolescent girls account for more than 60 percent of people living with HIV. In developing countries—particularly those in, or recovering from, humanitarian crises—HIV and AIDS continue to have devastating impact. Extreme poverty, loss of livelihoods, lack of support networks and decaying health and legal systems all contribute to increased risk of infection.
This week, we mark the start of the annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence Campaign. 16 Days, an international campaign launched in 1991 by Rutgers University’s Center for Women's Global Leadership, mobilizes people and organizations to take a stand against gender-based violence. The campaign begins on November 25th, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, reminding us this is an issue that affects women around the world. The very name “16 days of activism” calls on us to do whatever it takes to stop the violence. Twenty years after the initial launch of the campaign, our collective efforts and commitment are more vital and needed than ever.
Maribel was driving in Virginia with her one-year-old child when she was pulled over by a police officer, who asked to see her driver’s license. A Mexican citizen living in the U.S. without a visa, Maribel was arrested for driving without a license. She was quickly transferred to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody and agreed to be deported. Maribel only wanted to take her child—a U.S. citizen—with her. Her child, however, was placed in foster care because Maribel was not allowed to make the child care arrangements of her choosing. More than three months later, the child remains in state custody. Maribel is unable to comply with the requirements that the state child welfare agency established as a precondition to get her child back because she is in immigration detention awaiting removal from the country. She is afraid that she will be deported soon and will be unable to take her child with her; she’s trying desperately to make sure this doesn’t happen, but there are many obstacles in her way.
Erin Patrick, senior program officer of our Fuel and Firewood Initiative has a new blog out featured in the Huffington Post, disscusing the negative impacts of conflict and displacement on the environment.
On Friday, October 28, the UN Security Council met for its annual debate on Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. It was the 11th anniversary of the adoption of the resolution and the theme of this year’s debate was Women’s Participation and Role in Conflict Prevention and Mediation. We tweeted a few highlights from the morning session of the debate, but this important annual event deserves some additional consideration.
Since the passage of this resolution in 2000, there has been increased attention to women, peace and security issues by the international community as well as by the media. The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize last month to three women peace activists (two from Liberia, one from Yemen) contributed further to this. The Nobel Committee’s announcement recalled Hillary Clinton’s comments at last year’s open debate, “…women’s participation in these activities is not a ‘nice thing to do’…Including women in the work of peace advances our national security interests, promotes political stability, economic growth and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
Like women’s rights and peace activists around the world, I was thrilled earlier this month when I heard that the Nobel Committee had chosen to honor President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, peace activist Leymah Gbowee, also of Liberia, and pro-democracy campaigner Tawakul Karman of Yemen with the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize.
These women have worked tirelessly and with great courage to bring peace and stability to their countries. It is especially fitting that this tribute comes in the month that we mark the 11th anniversary of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325) on Women, Peace and Security. This landmark resolution acknowledged the distinct impact of armed conflict on women and recognized women’s vital role in conflict resolution, peacekeeping and peacebuilding.
It has been two years since the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) John Morton announced plans for significant reform of ICE's immigration detention system, moving from a penal model towards civil detention more appropriate for administrative immigration detainees. The announcement was welcomed by the Women's Refugee Commission and advocates around the country, who had been saying for years that ICE's system was archaic, inefficient and cruel....In the past several months my staff and I have visited a number of detention facilities. We came back from each visit extremely disappointed and disheartened. The reality is that despite efforts at policy change in Washington, not much has changed on the ground.
Read Michelle Brané's call for immigration detention reform in this Huffington Post blog.