March 2012 NewsletterLatest News Latest Reports
Today we celebrate International Women’s Day, and this year’s theme is connecting girls and inspiring futures—a goal absolutely central to our work and one that all of us should be working toward.
The facts are startling. Girls are less likely to be in school than boys, and in some places, they are often married by the time they are 16. In a humanitarian crisis—whether it’s war, famine or natural disaster—girls are often the most overlooked, neglected and vulnerable. When adolescent girls are forced to leave their homes and communities, they are even more isolated from support systems.
The Women's Refugee Commission’s new adolescent girls initiative is focused on addressing these pressing needs, identifying and promoting ways that displaced adolescent girls can stay safe, access health care, complete school, build leadership skills and be seen as valued members of their families and communities. The theme of this year's Voices of Courage Awards Luncheon is protecting and empowering displaced adolescent girls, and we hope you will support our efforts to effect lasting change and consider making a donation. We are working with our partners to enable girls to lead healthier, more stable lives and plan their futures.
We must create a better world for our daughters, and girls everywhere. By investing in girls today we are investing in the women of tomorrow.
Shining a Light on Gender Equality
What particular challenges do women and girls in rural areas face? How do insecurity and violence affect their capacity to gather food or the firewood needed to cook this food? These and other questions are being addressed at the 2012 Commission on the Status of Women, which ends tomorrow. Every year delegates from around the world gather for this two-week conference at the United Nations looking at progress made in advancing women’s rights. The theme for this year’s meeting is the empowerment of rural women and their role in eradicating poverty and hunger.
Senior Advocacy Officer Elizabeth Cafferty moderated the panel discussion “Rural Women, Food Sovereignty, Conflict, Peace,” and Senior Program Officer Erin Patrick spoke on the panel “Empowering Women and Girls through Clean Cookstoves and Fuels.” At these and other events, delegates discussed what the barriers are to women’s advancement and how successful strategies can be replicated to make gender equality a reality. As Executive Director of UN Women Michelle Bachelet said in her opening statement for the conference, “Research shows that empowering women is not just good for women. It is good for all of us—for peace, the growth of our economies, for food security, for human security—in short, for the well-being of current and future generations.”
Healthy Women and Healthy Families
Access to reproductive health care, including family planning, saves women’s lives and benefits their families as well. Yet, access to and use of these services is particularly limited in refugee settings. For the past two weeks, our website has featured facts about the state of reproductive health care and family planning in conflict and disaster-affected areas, based on our recent research. Learn more about our findings.
WRC Recognized on Women Deliver’s Top 50
Women Deliver, a global advocacy organization, has recognized our work to reduce the reproductive health risks women face in disaster situations as a top health intervention, as part of a contest looking at the most inspiring ideas and solutions for women and girls.
Positive Reforms in U.S. Immigrant Detention System
In 2008, Antoinette, who was being held at an Arizona immigrant detention center, told a Human Rights Watch research team, "I'm not well and I would have to stay without medical care…It's hurting me. What was I supposed to do, die of cancer here?” Antoinette waited months for a mammogram while she was held at the facility. When one was finally performed, and it was determined that at least one of two lumps required further investigation, she was told that she would have to wait to be released from detention before she could pursue further medical care.
Like Antoinette, many immigrant women lack access to adequate health services in detention. But this situation may finally be changing. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently issued new standards for the way in which immigrants are detained in the United States, and among the most crucial reforms was a women’s health standard. The new standards also include many of our other recommendations—including provisions for prenatal care and reproductive health services for women, access to family courts for parents whose children are in the child welfare system, and sexual assault prevention measures. The new standards are still based on a criminal model, still need to be incorporated into detention center contracts and enforcement of these guidelines are not guaranteed—but this is nevertheless a big step forward in creating a more humane detention system.
ICE has also announced that it is creating a Public Advocate position within the Department of Homeland Security to enhance engagement with the community, a welcome move that we had recommended.
In the News
Sarah Costa and Samuel Witten, WRC board member, published the blog "A Priceless Investment: Protecting and Empowering Adolescent Refugee Girls" on the Huffington Post.
Michelle Brané spoke on the Kojo Nnamdi Show about the effects of immigration enforcement, specifically on family separation and parental rights issues.
Michelle was also quoted in this ABC News article on the case of Encarnación Bail Romero, who is currently fighting to regain legal custody of her son, and in this National Journal article on the abuse of immigrants in detention centers.
The Women’s Refugee Commission’s Top 10 list of the most critical interventions for refugees and those displaced in emergency situations was published on the AlertNet blog.
Our Huffington Post blog Pregnant and Displaced: Double the Danger was picked up and posted on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s blog Impatient Optimists.
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The Women's Refugee Commission was established in 1989 to address the particular needs of refugee and displaced women and children.