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  • Cho Lay Mar: A Voice of Courage in Myanmar

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    Cho Lay Mar is a tireless advocate for internally displaced minority women in her native Myanmar (also known as Burma). Although decades of internal conflict have ended, and the country now has a democratically elected government, displaced women have very hard lives, Cho Lay Mar says.

    Cho Lay Mar’s father was Pakistani, and she grew up aware of her “mixed blood.” She strongly believes people are the same. “I am always concerned with how we can live harmoniously,” she says. After she graduated, Cho Lay Mar became a teacher in a government school, where she imparted the idea of peaceful co-existence to her ethnically diverse students.

    Mina Jaf, a Voice of Courage for Refugees in Europe

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    Mina Jaf was a refugee from the day she was born – in the midst of a chemical gas attack on her village in Iraqi Kurdistan in 1988. She fled with her family over the mountains to Iran and over the next 11 years, they went back and forth between the two countries, often spending no more than one night in the same place.

    Pretending to be asleep, the young Mina listened to refugees from Bosnia, Somalia, and Rwanda tell their horrific stories of rape and domestic violence. She understood that they risked stigmatization and shame if their experiences became common knowledge.

    Mina grew up determined to fight for the rights of all refugee women.

    The WRC at the Commission on the Status of Women

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    From Syria to South Sudan, from Central America to Central Africa, women and girls are forced to flee war and conflict and to live in a protracted displacement. Though they are typically impoverished and traumatized, these women and girls are models of resilience. They survive despite all obstacles.

    With 60 million refugees throughout the world today, and a growing percentage of them choosing to live in cities, the international community can no longer keep displaced women and girls separate from efforts to promote development through women’s empowerment. In fact, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals depends on their inclusion.

    When humanitarian crises occur, women and girls’ inequality exacerbates their vulnerability. But, when we treat displacement as an opportunity rather than a problem, refugee women and girls can transform their lives and their communities. The Women’s Refugee Commission is pleased to participate in the 2016 Commission on the Status of Women to promote refugee women’s empowerment and its link to sustainable development.

    The World’s Unheard Experts on Refugee Youth

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    I just spent four days sequestered in a grassy compound in the suburbs of Quito, Ecuador with 24 Colombian refugee youth leaders and a handful of local youth, laughing at their skits, crying with their stories and blown away by their drive and ambition.

    Millions of young people around the world live in displacement. Being refugees, they’re rarely seen as individuals on the cusp of adulthood, with hopes and dreams. Their potential often goes un-tapped and they’re rarely asked about the future they’d like to create. They’re even less likely to be offered support to get there. Despite their numbers and their potential, youth are often left out of humanitarian activities and programs intended to serve refugees.

    tags: Children, Youth

    Refugees Fleeing Mortal Danger in Central America Face Daily Fear of Deportation in US

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    This is not a question of strict border security. These are kids and women who are essentially turning themselves in. They’re not sneaking over a fence, rather, they’re presenting themselves to the border and asking for protection, said Michelle Brané, director of the Migrant Rights and Justice program at the Women's Refugee Commission.

    Influx of Refugees and Limited Firewood Leads to Spike in Gender-based Violence

    Forest around Nyarugusu refugee camp
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    Violence against women and girls collecting firewood is spiking in and around the refugee camp in Tanzania where more than 100,000 Burundian refugees have sought safety in recent months.

    Refugees with Disabilities At Highest Risk of Gender-based Violence

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    Driven by stigma or the urge to protect, families tend to hide those with disabilities. Discrimination and isolation intensifiy the pervasive risk of gender-based violence. By focusing on physical and social inclusion, humanitarians can mitigate this isolation.

    Protection from Gender-based Violence for Refugees

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    Gender-based violence does not start with the conflict, though it increases in incidence and, often, in savagery. This year, the Women's Refugee Commission helped launch the Call to Action on Protection from GBV in Emergencies, a multi-stakeholder initiative that rightfully puts GBV on par with necessities like water and shelter.

    Women from Central America on the Run from Violence

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    Women fleeing Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador have been subjected to a constant threat of violence, including threats, assault, murder and rape and their governments are unable to protect them. The violence these women flee is as horrific as any in the world.

    Self-Sufficiency Would Help Syrians Most

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    If distance from bombs is all refugees have, they will eventually look for more opportunity, even if it means making a perilous journey. The question should not be which countries can afford to provide these refugees with their basic needs but, rather, how the world can provide opportunity to people forced to flee their homes and lives through no fault of their own.