December 2011Latest News Latest Reports
As we near the holidays and take time out to be with family and friends, I’m reminded of the refugees and displaced people around the world who are far away from their homes—struggling just to survive—and what we can do to help.
If you are looking for an inspiring and unique gift for a friend or family member, please consider making a gift to the Women’s Refugee Commission in their honor. We will send a card to them on your behalf.
A donation to the organization will have a lasting and meaningful impact. And thanks to a matching gift opportunity, your donation, if made by the end of the year, will be worth twice as much. I invite you to make a gift and help us improve the lives and protect the rights of displaced women and children around the world.
Thank you for all that you do. Together, we will make a difference.
Sending best wishes for the holidays to you and yours.
16 Days of Activism Puts Gender-based Violence in the Spotlight
"Violence against women is a threat to democracy, peace and security, and national economies, and it is the most pervasive human rights violation in the world." –Michelle Bachelet, executive director of UN Women.
The UN estimates that up to six in ten women worldwide experience some form of physical and/or sexual violence during their lifetime. Each year in November, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence campaign focuses global attention on the need to take action against this serious human rights abuse.
This year, we are taking part in this international effort through a social media campaign, publishing a series of blogs and daily tweets and Facebook posts on the subject. We will send a round-up e-mail early next week with links to all of our blogs. Read our latest one on community-based health care for survivors of sexual violence on the Burma-Thailand border.
New Report Highlights the Challenges and Opportunities of Being an Urban Refugee
Elle* is a Congolese refugee and a proud businesswoman who lives in Kampala, Uganda. She owns a small grocery store, where she sells drinks, cell phone air time and food, such as corn, flour, beans and snacks. She is the sole breadwinner in her household, supporting three children. Her income is usually enough to feed her family, keep her children in school and make a payment on the loan she took out to start her business—but she often has trouble paying rent at the end of the month. Like many of the urban refugees we’ve interviewed, Elle works hard but still does not make enough money to cover her basic needs.
While better off than some, Elle faces the same obstacles as most urban displaced women—a lack of legal rights in their host country, employment discrimination, police harassment and a constant risk of sexual violence at their jobs, on the streets and in their homes.
With half of the world’s refugees and internally displaced persons currently living in cities rather than camps, it’s never been more important to support their livelihoods. Our staff conducted a year-long research initiative to better understand the unique challenges and assets of this overlooked population.
Dawn in the City is the final report and guidance from this project, with findings based on field assessments in New Delhi, Johannesburg and Kampala, as well as secondary research and interviews.
The Framework for Urban Refugee Self-Reliance: A How-to Guide, a six-page companion document, highlights the report’s key findings and outlines our recommended approach to promoting refugee livelihoods in urban settings.
*Name changed for anonymity.
New E-learning Tools Present Innovative Methods to Keep Refugee Women Safe
Displaced women, both in camps and cities, are often forced to adopt risky strategies in their struggle to survive. All too often, those who work to assist these women do not address the complete range of challenges they face, leaving them vulnerable to violence. For example, women in refugee camps are provided with food rations, but are rarely given adequate fuel to cook this food, and they are faced with the choice of either letting their children go hungry or risking sexual assault every time they leave the camps to collect scarce firewood. Likewise, refugee women who move to cities require livelihood interventions that provide them with safe and sustainable ways to support themselves and their families, rather than exposing them to physical or sexual violence on the way to, or at their place of, work.
We’ve produced two interactive online courses to share what we’ve learned from our years of work in these two important areas.
Fuel and Firewood: Life and Death
Check out our latest video on the perils that women and girls face every day in the quest for firewood to cook food for their families. Watch the video, learn about solutions and share it with your friends and networks.
Children Helping Other Families Stay Together This Holiday
As a member of the We Belong Together coalition and a co-sponsor of the “A Wish for the Holidays” campaign, the Women’s Refugee Commission stands in solidarity with the more than 5,000 children who have written to President Obama and Congress asking them to end immigration enforcement policies and practices that separate children from their parents. A recent study found that at least 5,000 children are currently in the child welfare system because their parents were detained or deported, and 15,000 more children will be unless changes are made in current immigration policy.
Speaking with Spanish-language reporters, President Obama recently acknowledged that this is a “real problem” and told them, “If parents are deported, they have to have access to their children.” These are welcome words, but we are advocating for quick action by the President and policymakers so that children will not have to live with the fear that their parents will be taken away from them this holiday season—or ever.
Today, our Detention and Asylum program staff members are moderating a press conference on Capitol Hill and leading delegations of children delivering the letters. Read our statement here.
WRC in the News
It’s Time to Protect Women and Children in Immigration Detention from Rape, by Michelle Brané, Director, Detention and Asylum. Huffington Post, December 6, 2011.
Invisible and Overlooked: Refugees with Disabilities, by Sarah Costa, Executive Director. Huffington Post, December 2, 2011.
Immigrant Detainees: The New Sex Abuse Crisis, New York Review of Books blog, November 28, 2011.
Children of Deported Immigrants Languish in Foster Care—as the Obama Administration Fights Itself, New York World, November 16, 2011.
Jump in U.S. Deportations Leaves Moms Stranded, Women’s eNews, November 16, 2011.