The Women's Refugee Commission announced today that it will donate its historical archives, which document its 20-year role as an influential voice for improving the lives of refugee women, children and young people, to the Archive for Human Rights at Duke University Libraries in Durham, North Carolina.
Under an agreement reached this week by the two organizations, the Women's Refugee Commission, which was known until January 2009 as the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children, will transfer its inactive physical archives, including memoranda, correspondence and publications dating back to its 1989 founding, to the Duke Libraries, where they will be available to researchers, students and the general public.
"I can't think of a more perfect way to honor our 20th anniversary year," said Women's Refugee Commission Executive Director Carolyn Makinson. "Through our archives, researchers will see how the Women's Refugee Commission has been a vital voice for a vulnerable population that often has no voice—helping refugee women, children and young people speak and advocate for themselves."
Women's Refugee Commission archives contain crucial documents in the organization's research, advocacy and evaluation roles on issues ranging from reproductive health to refugees with disabilities to U.S. detention and asylum.
"The archives of the Women's Refugee Commission will be a remarkably rich addition to Duke's collections, and will be of great interest to a broad array of students and scholars from many disciplines," said Deborah Jakubs, Rita DiGiallonardo Holloway University Librarian, and Vice Provost for Library Affairs. "The Libraries, through our Archive for Human Rights, are committed to preserving the Women's Refugee Commission archives and to ensuring that they will be accessible to researchers well into the future."
The agreement with Duke University Libraries will provide for the transfer of inactive documents, papers and electronic files from all facets of Women's Refugee Commission's work. Certain internal documents, including personnel files or sensitive meeting notes not covered by the agreement, will remain at the Women's Refugee Commission's offices in New York City.
For two decades, the Women's Refugee Commission has advocated vigorously for laws, policies and programs to improve the lives and protect the rights of refugee and internally displaced women, children and young people—bringing about lasting, measurable change.
In 1994, its groundbreaking study "Refugee Women and Reproductive Health: Reassessing Priorities" was the first comprehensive report on this issue and shed harsh light on the almost total lack of reproductive health services for refugees. Since then, the Women's Refugee Commission has been in the forefront of advocacy efforts to improve policy, practice and funding for reproductive health. Since 2007, the Women's Refugee Commission has led an international effort to find safer fuel alternatives to lessen/decrease risk the dangers—including rape and murder—that women and girls face when they leave refugee camps to collect firewood to cook meals for their families.
Other seminal reports produced include: the 2004 "Global Survey on Education in Emergencies," which made the compelling case for uninterrupted education for children and young people in conflict and emergency situation; a 2007 report detailing the appalling conditions at a former prison in Texas where families seeking asylum are held, which led the Department of Homeland Security to implement many of the recommended changes and to introduce new standards of care; and, in 2008, the first global study of the problems faced by refugees with disabilities, and a companion resource kit to train humanitarian workers in the field.
This week marks the launch of "Building Livelihoods: A Field Manual for Practitioners in Humanitarian Settings," which will, for the first time, provide humanitarian workers with practical tools for designing and implementing more effective programs to help those displaced develop their skills, find dignified work and help rebuild their communities.
The Women's Refugee Commission was founded in 1989 by actress/director Liv Ullmann and refugee experts Catherine O'Neill and Susan Martin, and others. Its board of directors and advisors include women and men working at senior levels in human rights and refugee organizations, as well as in education, medicine, law, journalism, government and communications. Many of them are former refugees. The Women's Refugee Commission is affiliated with and is legally part of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, but does not receive direct financial support from the IRC.