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  • An Interview With Our 2012 Voices of Courage Honoree Dina Dublon

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    Screen_shot_2012-04-16_at_11.24.11_AMDina Dublon is a pioneer in advancing women and promoting gender equity in both the corporate and nonprofit worlds. The first (and to date the only) female CFO of JP Morgan Chase, Dina Dublon is currently a Senior Lecturer at Harvard Business School and a member of the Board of Directors of Microsoft, PepsiCo, Accenture and the Global Fund for Women. Dina is also a trustee of Carnegie Mellon University and Chair Emerita of the Women’s Refugee Commission.

    How did you become interested in the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) and issues concerning refugees in general?

    In 1999, my friend Maha Muna was the deputy director of WRC, and we spoke often about how aid was not being provided to refugees from the perspective of the recipients of such aid—close to 80 percent of whom are women and children. When she asked me to join her on a small mission to Rwanda with WRC to interview women in refugee settings, I jumped at the chance.

    An Interview With Our 2012 Voices of Courage Honoree Rim Tekie Solomon

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    Screen_shot_2012-04-04_at_2.16.23_PMThe daughter of Eritrean parents, Rim Tekie Solomon fled Sudan and crossed the Sinai Desert on foot with her mother and five younger siblings. When she first arrived in Israel, she lived in a detention center, taught herself Hebrew and translated for other detainees.  She is now 20 years old and works as a translator with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the African Refugee Development Center (ARDC). Rim also volunteers with the Hagar & Miriam project, helping young asylum-seeking women who are pregnant or new mothers through an initiative called “African and Israeli Women in Friendship and Motherhood.”

    New York City: A Place of Freedom and Frustration for Resettled Youth

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    “Now I know who I am and what I can do for myself. I feel I can do great things for myself, my family, my country and for women!”

    “I wouldn’t have become independent in traveling alone in years of living at home as a young woman. I have learned and grown in New York City.”

    “I am now more confident and straightforward. I know more and can take care of myself.”

    These reflections were shared by young women from Afghanistan, Burma and Bhutan who now live in New York City, where 450 refugees were resettled and an even greater number of people were granted asylum in 2010. Like these young women, many displaced youth and their families find new freedoms and opportunities in New York, but others have trouble making their way in the overwhelming city.

    An Interview With Our 2012 Voices of Courage Honoree Olga Cantarero

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    After working as a Red Cross volunteer, Olga Cantarero fled her native Nicaragua. She endured a harrowing journey through Mexico and across the border to Texas, fearing for her life at the hands of her smugglers. She now works at the International Emergency Shelter in Los Fresnos, Texas, with juvenile immigrants who faced persecution in their home countries or suffered similar trauma during their own difficult journeys to the United States.

    It’s Time for a New Approach in Handling Immigrant Children

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    Often I get asked by friends and family what I mean when I say I advocate for policy reform on behalf of unaccompanied migrant children. Usually I explain that I monitor immigration detention programs for kids and use my findings to promote better laws and procedures that reflect the children’s best interests. My friends and family are usually surprised by two things: 1) that we detain these children at all and 2) that every year more than 10,000 children and youth make the risky journey to the U.S. alone. When they ask me why these children are coming on their own, I always share the story of Jesus.*

    Uganda today: The legacy of Joseph Kony and the LRA

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    The first time I traveled to the north of Uganda as the International Rescue Committee’s country director, I attended a meeting of a village saving and loans association. These are small groups whose members—primarily women—meet each week and encourage each other to save money and make very small, short-term loans to try out business ideas. The IRC has started these associations across northern Uganda as a low-cost way to provide financial services to the poor in rural communities—areas where formal banks are reluctant to invest.

    Since I was new, the group had many questions for me. “Where did I come from?” America. “How many children did I have?” Three. An appreciative nod went through the crowd as big families are still valued in this part of the world and I was well on my way to having one. “Did I love Uganda?” Yes, very much. “When would I be back?” Soon, but I couldn’t say exactly when. When it came my turn to pose a question, I asked people to raise their hand if they had been displaced during the war. Almost everyone in the group raised their hands, as did most of our staff members.

    This offhanded request yielded a response that really moved me and put our work in that region into context. It brought home the extent to which the crisis had gripped northern Uganda from the late 1980s until 2006. 

    Read the full blog on The IRC website.

    A Priceless Investment: Protecting and Empowering Adolescent Refugee Girls

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    This year's International Women's Day theme is "Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures." On this day, we think of the many adolescent girls and other young women we have met in countries torn apart by armed conflict who somehow, against the most staggering odds, are working to create better lives for themselves.

    These young women are generally quite clear about what they need to succeed--education, health care, stability and a promise for a brighter future. Betty, a 17-year-old girl who lived in a displaced persons camp in northern Uganda, spoke for many when she said, "A generation without education is doomed. We need assurance, we need to be heard and to participate, we need a future."

    Read the full blog, posted on the Huffington Post, here.

    Time for Purposeful Action to End Sexual Violence in Conflict

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    “Sexual violence, and the long shadow of terror and trauma it casts, disproportionately affects women and girls.” These stark words appear in UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s recently released report on sexual violence during conflict. On Thursday, February 23rd, I attended the UN Security Council’s open debate convened to consider this report, which documents brutal mass rapes, deliberate attacks on civilians and forced virginity tests on peaceful protestors, amongst other atrocities.

    Prioritizing Reproductive Health, Empowering Women and Girls

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    Next week, delegates from around the world will gather in New York City for the 56th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). Every year, leaders meet to assess where the world stands on gender equality, and how far we have come -- and need to go -- in advancing women's rights.

    This year's theme is the empowerment of rural women and their role in ending poverty and hunger, which very much resonates with the Women's Refugee Commission's work. Millions of women and girls displaced by conflict and natural disasters are currently living in camps or rural villages and settlements in remote areas, often in the most precarious conditions. They, too, deserve the opportunities and the tools to contribute to the well-being of their families and the development of their communities. And when we invest in displaced women and girls, we are also making a long-term investment in peace and stability when conflict ends.

    Read the full blog, posted on the Huffington Post's Global Motherhood section, here.

    Unaccompanied Children Must be Protected by the Prison Rape Elimination Act

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    Each year, tens of thousands of children cross the United States border—most travel alone or with strangers. Many are fleeing violence, sexual abuse or abandonment and are seeking protection and asylum here; others come to be reunited with family members living in the U.S. On their journey, these children are vulnerable to rape and assault, and an alarming number of them become victims of traffickers and smugglers. Once here, these children must be protected from further abuse and trauma.