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  • Delayed Justice for Guatemalan Mother Encarnación Bail Romero

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    In 2007, Encarnación Bail Romero, a young woman from Guatemala, was arrested and detained during an immigration raid at the Missouri poultry processing plant where she worked. The fact that Encarnación was a mother with a baby at home did not matter. She was detained without the opportunity to make care arrangements for her son, Carlos—a U.S. citizen—who was just six months old. While in detention, Encarnación was not allowed to participate in her custody case and consequently, her parental rightswere terminated. Carlos was adopted by a couple soon after.

    This week, the Missouri Supreme Court decided to send Encarnación Bail Romero’s case back to the lower court for yet another hearing. When I heard this, I couldn’t help but welcome the news with mixed feelings. The fact that the court acknowledged that proper procedures were not followed is a relief; however, the court’s failure to reunite a mother and son and delay justice is a travesty. Encarnación’s son has been with his adoptive parents for over two years now, and has come to know them as his only parents. The more time that is spent in this limbo with a mother separated from her child the more harm is done.

    What Does Kanye West Have to Do with Refugee Women?

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    You may have heard that a video for Kanye West’s song “Monster” off his mega-hit album “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” has been leaked prior to release. This video, which features rappers Jay-Z and Rick Ross in addition to Kanye West, shows incredibly disturbing and violent images of women.

    Violence against women and girls is a global problem. It’s an issue the Women's Refugee Commission has been addressing for many years. During conflict and displacement, incidents of gender-based violence, including rape, exploitation and abuse, often soar.

    This video demonstrates that even within the U.S. there is continued violence against women and girls. Although the video may be seen as creative expression by the artists, it continues to promote violence against women. This kind of "entertainment" is harmful and prevents change.

    It’s vital that men as well as women speak out about violence against women. Kanye West and Jay-Z are highly influential males, particularly with youth. It’s a tragedy that they’re using their voices to glorify violence against women rather than engaging men to help achieve gender equality.

    Read more about the our work on gender issues here.

    Photo Blog: Working to Help Young People in Liberia Get Jobs

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    After 14 years of civil conflict, Liberia is now at peace. However, much of the population is unemployed and lives in poverty. Many vocational training programs exist to help develop livelihood opportunities for Liberians. In 2010, we partnered with a team of graduate students from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) to identify ways to strengthen these programs for displaced youth in Liberia. The team developed tools to complement our existing materials that help vocational trainers link their programs with local market opportunities. View our photo essay and learn more.

    To learn more about what our Livelihoods Program is doing to ensure refugee women have safe access to the skills, assets and strategies they need to become self-reliant click here.

    Wake Up Call: Women Trapped by Domestic Violence, Prevented from Receiving Pre-Natal Care in Cote d'Ivoire

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    "'What is the problem? The goats and the sheep give birth without any assistance, why not my wife?'"

    This is a quote from a man in one village on Ivory Coast who refused his pregnant wife permission to get a pre-natal check-up. In this village, women don't have the right to decide to have a prenatal check-up- they must get permission from their husbands.

    In this week's featured Wake Up Call video, Monika Bakayoko-Topolska, from our affiliate organziation the International Rescue Committe, shares her story. Shocked by how low a woman's postion was in her community, she channeled her outrage toward raising awareness among the village, whose women she knew had the strength to create change.

    Helping Refugees Prepare for Life Outside of a Refugee Camp

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    Stop and think: What were you doing 17 years ago? You may have had a computer, but probably used it just for word processing, maybe email. When you needed to find information, you had to look in a book, even go to the library. No Google. No BlackBerries or smartphones. Or perhaps you were in school, and had never had an opportunity to work.

    Women helping women in Haiti

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    This post was originally posted by our affliliate organization, The International Rescue Committee.

    Madeleine Rene educates women on their rights and ways to prevent violence.Photo: Susana Ferreira/IRC

    A guest post from Madeleine Rene, who volunteers for the International Rescue Committee in Haiti, educating women on their rights and ways to prevent violence:

    I’m a native of Petit Goave, Haiti. I am 30 years old. When I was 12, I witnessed the rape of my older sister, which caused her death. As I grew up I felt the need to fight against rape which was very common where I lived.  When I was 18, my partner beat me but I knew nothing about my rights. It was only when I joined (the Haitian Women’s organization) KOFAVIV that I overcame this problem. I would no longer accept my situation and I told myself that even if I die my children would live in a better environment.

    Michelle Brané selected as one of “21 leaders for the 21st century”

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    Michelle Brané

    We’re proud to share with you that Michelle Brané, director of our detention and asylum program, has been selected as one of “21 leaders for the 21st century” by Women’s e-News. Michelle is being honored for her cutting-edge work on protecting women and children asylum seekers and immigrants.

    “This is a great honor,” says Michelle. “I’m particularly pleased that it will shine a spotlight on the terrible plight of women and children who are caught up in our immigration system, and whose rights are often ignored or abused.”

    A Precarious Life for Somali Refugees in Nairobi

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    This blog post was written by Anne Richard for our affilliate organization, The International Rescue Committee.

    Photo by The IRC

    In mid-November, I visited the Eastleigh neighborhood of Nairobi, Kenya. I went to meet refugees from Somalia who are being helped by the International Rescue Committee.

    The refugees had fled a chaotic situation in their homeland. Somalia has suffered from years of civil war, lethal rivalries among ethnic clans, a barely functioning government in the capital, Mogadishu, and a weak economy. Other countries fear that Somalia is a haven for both anti-Western terrorists and pirates operating off the coast. So it is not surprising that some families flee to safety in neighboring Kenya. Many Somalis live in large, sprawling refugee camps – but some leave the camps in search of a better life.

    Photo Blog: Our Fuel and Firewood Team Visits Refugee Camps in Kenya

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    “When you leave in the morning, you never know if you’ll come back safe.”

    The Women’s Refugee Commission traveled to Kenya’s Kakuma and Dadaab camps this summer to talk with refugee women about what kind of challenges they face when cooking food rations for their families. View our photo essay to learn more about the obstacles they face and the importance of having access to safe cooking fuel.

    Read more about the Women’s Refugee Commission Fuel and Firewood Initiative and what we’re doing to ensure refugee women have safe access to cooking fuel.

    Photos by Women's Refugee Commission, Mariangela Bizzarri and Gerald Martone/IRC

    Thailand: Midwives saving lives

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    This blog post was written by Peter Biro for our affilliate organization, The International Rescue Committee.

    Photo by Peter Biro/The IRC

    I recently spent a day with Tanaw, one of 15 IRC-trained midwives in Tham Hin, a patchwork of bamboo huts housing nearly 8,000 Burmese refugees on the Thailand-Myanmar border. As I arrived in the camp's thatched maternity ward, dozens of pregnant women were waiting in line to be weighed, examined and given supplemental food. Most women and children's faces were decorated with thanaka, a pale yellow paste derived from tree bark, and the ward's air was permeated by the spicy smell of betel nut, widely chewed in Myanmar.