Around the world, up to six of every ten women experience physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime. During war or other humanitarian crises—such as the brutal conflict currently occurring in Syria—the risks to women and girls are heightened. With the breakdown of moral and social order that occurs during emergencies, women and girls are particularly vulnerable to physical abuse and exploitation, rape and human trafficking. Perpetrators may be family members, neighbors or others in the community, members of armed groups or, in some instances, humanitarian workers. Even after a crisis abates, gender-based violence (GBV) may continue at high levels as communities struggle to heal and rebuild.
Since its founding in 1989, the Women's Refugee Commission has been a leading proponent of efforts to promote women's empowerment, gender equality and protection against GBV. Efforts to prevent and respond to gender based violence have been mainstreamed throughout every area of our work. We address GBV in detention centers (or facilities) through our Migrant Rights and Justice Program, GBV against women leaving refugee camps to gather cooking fuel in our Fuel and Firewood Program, GBV against young girls in our Adolescent Girls and Children and Youth Programs, against women with disabilities in our Disabilities Program and against women in our Sexual and Reproductive Health Program.
On the policy level, we have advocated for the passage of landmark Security Council resolutions on the protection of women and children. Our groundbreaking 2002 report If Not Now, When? documented the shortcomings of previous efforts to address GBV. This report and others by the Women's Refugee Commission influenced the development of such standard-setting guidance as the Inter-Agency Standing Committee's Guidelines for Gender-Based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Settings and the Gender Handbook in Humanitarian Action. We also worked closely with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on the development of its Handbook for the Protection of Women and Girls.
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