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  • World AIDS Day: “Getting to Zero” in Humanitarian Settings

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    Sandra Krause, Director, Reproductive Health, looks at the condom dispenser in Eldoret Showground, Kenya

    Today on World AIDS Day, the Women’s Refugee Commission celebrates the progress that has been made in addressing the epidemic, while acknowledging the distance still left to go. This year’s theme, “Getting to Zero,” in honor of UNAIDS’ (the Joint UN Program on HIV/AIDS) multi-year vision of achieving “Zero New Infections. Zero Discrimination. Zero AIDS-related Deaths,” speaks to a shifting reality of what is possible. We embrace this vision and draw attention to humanitarian settings, where HIV vulnerabilities are prevalent and under-acknowledged—and yet critical to this vision.

    Globally, 33.2 million people are living with HIV. Two-thirds of them are in Sub-Saharan Africa, and women and adolescent girls account for more than 60 percent of people living with HIV. In developing countries—particularly those in, or recovering from, humanitarian crises—HIV and AIDS continue to have devastating impact. Extreme poverty, loss of livelihoods, lack of support networks and decaying health and legal systems all contribute to increased risk of infection.

    A Call to Action: It’s Time to End Violence against Women

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    This week, we mark the start of the annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence Campaign. 16 Days, an international campaign launched in 1991 by Rutgers University’s Center for Women's Global Leadership, mobilizes people and organizations to take a stand against gender-based violence. The campaign begins on November 25th, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, reminding us this is an issue that affects women around the world. The very name “16 days of activism” calls on us to do whatever it takes to stop the violence. Twenty years after the initial launch of the campaign, our collective efforts and commitment are more vital and needed than ever.

    Children Left Behind: Number of Children in Foster Care Due to Parents’ Detention Climbs

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    Maribel was driving in Virginia with her one-year-old child when she was pulled over by a police officer, who asked to see her driver’s license. A Mexican citizen living in the U.S. without a visa, Maribel was arrested for driving without a license. She was quickly transferred to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody and agreed to be deported. Maribel only wanted to take her child—a U.S. citizen—with her. Her child, however, was placed in foster care because Maribel was not allowed to make the child care arrangements of her choosing. More than three months later, the child remains in state custody. Maribel is unable to comply with the requirements that the state child welfare agency established as a precondition to get her child back because she is in immigration detention awaiting removal from the country. She is afraid that she will be deported soon and will be unable to take her child with her; she’s trying desperately to make sure this doesn’t happen, but there are many obstacles in her way.

    When War Stops, the Impact on the Environment Lives On

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    Erin Patrick, senior program officer of our Fuel and Firewood Initiative has a new blog out featured in the Huffington Post, disscusing the negative impacts of conflict and displacement on the environment.

    An Inside Look At Women, Peace and Security

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    Photo by: Mariangela Bizzarri

    On Friday, October 28, the UN Security Council met for its annual debate on Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. It was the 11th anniversary of the adoption of the resolution and the theme of this year’s debate was Women’s Participation and Role in Conflict Prevention and Mediation. We tweeted a few highlights from the morning session of the debate, but this important annual event deserves some additional consideration.

    Since the passage of this resolution in 2000, there has been increased attention to women, peace and security issues by the international community as well as by the media. The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize last month to three women peace activists (two from Liberia, one from Yemen) contributed further to this. The Nobel Committee’s announcement recalled Hillary Clinton’s comments at last year’s open debate, “…women’s participation in these activities is not a ‘nice thing to do’…Including women in the work of peace advances our national security interests, promotes political stability, economic growth and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

    Women Play Vital Role in Peacemaking

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    The Women's Refugee Commission met with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf during a delegation to Liberia

    Like women’s rights and peace activists around the world, I was thrilled earlier this month when I heard that the Nobel Committee had chosen to honor President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, peace activist Leymah Gbowee, also of Liberia, and pro-democracy campaigner Tawakul Karman of Yemen with the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize.

    These women have worked tirelessly and with great courage to bring peace and stability to their countries. It is especially fitting that this tribute comes in the month that we mark the 11th anniversary of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325) on Women, Peace and Security. This landmark resolution acknowledged the distinct impact of armed conflict on women and recognized women’s vital role in conflict resolution, peacekeeping and peacebuilding.

    Let's Not Give up on Immigration Detention Reform Quite Yet

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    It has been two years since the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) John Morton announced plans for significant reform of ICE's immigration detention system, moving from a penal model towards civil detention more appropriate for administrative immigration detainees. The announcement was welcomed by the Women's Refugee Commission and advocates around the country, who had been saying for years that ICE's system was archaic, inefficient and cruel....In the past several months my staff and I have visited a number of detention facilities. We came back from each visit extremely disappointed and disheartened. The reality is that despite efforts at policy change in Washington, not much has changed on the ground.

    Read Michelle Brané's call for immigration detention reform in this Huffington Post blog.

    Alabama’s new law and the impact on immigrant families

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    Fifty years ago, Alabama found itself at the center of a national battle for justice and civil rights. The bus boycotts, freedom rides and efforts to integrate schools and universities are widely looked upon as watershed moments in the march towards equality. The history books tell us that progress on this front has been significant and sustained. Yet once again, Alabama is a focal point in a controversy over civil and human rights, the outcome of which could have far-reaching implications for families and communities across the country.

    Protecting Women and Girls from the Impacts of Disasters

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    REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro, courtesy Trust.org-AlertNet

    Today the Women’s Refugee Commission joins other organizations in marking Disaster Risk Reduction Day, and the critical role that this work plays in reducing the health and protection risks of women and girls in crises. Natural disasters now account for 42.3 million of the world’s displaced people. The impact of such disasters has expanded over the past two decades, and they are now responsible for half of the globally displaced. As an organization that has spent more than 20 years advocating for an effective, gender-sensitive response to disasters, we understand the pivotal role that preparation can play in protecting and empowering the most vulnerable populations in the midst of crisis—women and girls.

    Notes from the Field: Simple Solution Saves Mothers’ Lives in Rural Tanzania

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    Congolese refugee, Suzanna, with her daughter Lea at Nyarugusu Camp, Tanzania.

    Six months ago, 30-year-old Suzanna came to the health facility at Nyarugusu Refugee Camp to deliver her child. She arrived during the early stages of her labor, but after giving birth to her daughter, she bled heavily. She then went into shock and fell unconscious. Fortunately, health staff at the camp facility had access to what’s called the non-pneumatic anti-shock garment and wrapped her in it. Soon after, her blood pressure returned to normal and she woke up; she was surprised, and thrilled to see her daughter. “Without the garment,” she told us later, “my life would have been lost.”

    There are many challenges in the settings where we work, but it is so encouraging when you see highly effective, simple solutions put into action. That was definitely the case when I visited the Kigoma region in Tanzania recently with our director of reproductive health, Sandra Krause. Hosted by Dr. Abdelhadi Eltahir and Jayne Lyons of Pathfinder International and Dr. Ernest Athumani of the Tanzania Red Cross Society, we were there to look at how they are introducing the non-pneumatic anti-shock garment to the region.