• Gender Inequality: Global Problem, Local Solutions

    Panelists Debra Walton, Yasmeen Hassan, Amb. Jeanne D'Arc Byaje and Zainab Hawa Bangura
    Pin It

    I was recently a panelist at a fascinating conference called "Advancing Women: Leadership in Our Lives." It was sponsored by Thomson Reuters and the Women's Refugee Commission, an organization which through a range of humanitarian efforts seeks to improve the lives and protect the rights of women, children, and youth displaced by conflict and crisis. I'm honored to sit on its board.

    My fellow panelists were an amazing group of women with a vast amount of experience dealing with women's issues around the world. Despite our different lives and backgrounds, we're all working toward the same goal: empowering women. A mother struggling to keep her family fed in Sierra Leone, a schoolgirl in Pakistan trying to learn to read in order to advance herself, and a working woman in New York all face gender discrimination of some sort that hampers their ability to control their destinies, and in the most dreadful of situations places their lives at risk.

    World Environment Day: Preventing Natural Disasters & Human Catastrophe

    Pin It

    Few things prove our interconnectedness more than the environment and climate change. Our actions, both individual and collective, ripple through the ecosystem that we live in. Those very changes come back to us— in ripples, yes, and also in waves and in floods. Intensified by climate change, natural disasters have human causes and tragic human effects. Natural disasters currently account for more than 40 million of the world's displaced people, and the impact appears to be increasing each year. But they don’t have to.

    Humanitarian Crisis at Our Border? Let’s Rethink Our Approach

    Artwork at the U.S./Mexico border at Nogales shows people fleeing violence in Central America.
    Pin It

    Lawmakers are mad, and they should be. Advocates are mad, and they should be, too. Right now, incredibly vulnerable people are being put in harm's way every day in this country. Thousands of children are fleeing their homes in Central America and risking their lives by traveling―without parents or other adult relatives―to seek safety in the United States. These children are getting younger and younger, and more girls are making the journey in search of safety. Families traveling with small children are presenting themselves at our ports of entry to ask for asylum. These people are fleeing horrific violence perpetrated by organized criminals and gangs in their home countries. Their governments do not have the resources they need to protect their own citizens.

    #Bringbackourgirls: Where do we go from here?

    Investing in adolescent girls, including educating them, has the power to lift girls out of poverty and positively impact families, communities and societies.
    Pin It

    For over a month now, there has been an international outcry about the plight of the more than 200 school girls abducted by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram from their secondary school in Chibok, a remote town in northeast Nigeria. These are girls who are treasured by their families and communities; girls with aspirations to become teachers, doctors and lawyers.
    Through social media activism, public rallies and demonstrations, the #bringbackourgirls campaign has garnered huge international support and attention as people around the world demand the girls' return. The injustice merits the outcry and advocacy. Yet this abduction is not the first time Boko Haram has attacked young girls for attending school: since 2009, it has abducted unknown number of girls, burned schools, killed teachers and threatened countless families who support their daughters' education.

    Read the full blog on Trust.org (this link no longer exists)

    UN refugee agency takes a big step to make women’s and girls’ lives SAFEr

    Pin It

    One third of the world's population—and a far greater percentage of its refugees and internally displaced persons —depend on fuel that is dangerous to collect and deadly to use. The new Safe Access to Fuel and Energy (SAFE) Strategy, which the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) formally launched last week in Geneva, will save many lives that would be needlessly lost or broken. The strategy seeks to ensure that refugees and other vulnerable people can meet their energy needs in a safe and sustainable way.

    Read the full blog on Trust.org (this link no longer exists).

    Translating policy into practice in displacement settings – Positive approaches and ongoing challenges to disability inclusion in refugee programs

    Pin It

    “I really, really appreciate this workshop … I had no one to meet and talk to – no chance like this.” Soe Meh* was quiet and attentive, making valuable contributions while keeping a watchful eye on her baby as she was passed among many admirers.  She presented her unique perspective to the participants attending the Women’s Refugee Commission/UNHCR workshop. As a young woman and mother with disabilities, she illuminated some of the challenges, skills and capacities that 6.7 million[1] displaced persons with disabilities have in accessing and contributing to humanitarian programs. 

    Displaced Women & Children Carry the Heaviest Burden: We Have a Duty to Support Them with the Right Protection & Services

    Pin It

    Originally printed on Huffington Post.

    Twenty-five years ago, a small group of women traveled from the United States to Hong Kong to bear witness to atrocities occurring in "closed camps" that were holding refugees who had fled Vietnam.

    Actress and director Liv Ullmann was a member of the group. She recalls "barbed wired cities, thousands upon thousands of terrified people.... men, women and children crammed on top of each other, stacked together on shelves often three levels high. Like spoons in a drawer."

    Shocked at the barbaric treatment of the refugees - 80% of whom were women and children - these dynamic women brought the situation to the world's attention and returned to the United States with a clear demand: that the humanitarian community listen to, and truly address the needs of, refugee women and children.

    tags: Vietnam

    As Congress Moves to Dismantle Immigration Reform, We Will Continue Our Fight to Defend Migrant Rights

    Pin It

    On March 13, President Obama announced that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would conduct a review of enforcement procedures to investigate how deportations can be carried out more humanely.

    This announcement followed a particularly unproductive week in Congress during which the House of Representatives not only failed to move forward with productive immigration reform, but rather focused on undoing any existing efforts to address the obvious shortfalls in our immigration system.

    The Women's Refugee Commission is highly disappointed in the actions of some members of Congress who are actively trying to dismantle positive executive polices that help keep the children of immigrants in deportation proceedings out of foster care and with their families, measures that help hold Immigration and Customs Enforcement accountable to the public through their public engagement office, and policies that allow the president to exercise discretion with respect to the prosecution of young people brought to the United States as children.

    Read the blog on Huffington Post.

    tags: Detention

    Syria’s survivors: Are we doing enough for displaced women and children?

    Pin It

    On International Women's Day, the Women's Refugee Commission reviews the humanitarian response and throws light on the harsh realities of refugee life

    As the crisis in Syria rages into its fourth year with no political solution in sight, the human consequences grow ever more serious – with Syrians set to overtake Afghans as the world's largest refugee population.

    International Women's Day (March 8) is a good opportunity to reflect on whether humanitarian organizations helping those fleeing the war-torn country are getting it right for the largest, and most vulnerable, group of refugees – women and children.

    Read the blog on Huffington Post.

    Home-based Enterprises: Livelihood Opportunities for Refugees in Jordan?

    Pin It

    The basement was cold and dank. The Iraqi refugee women huddled around the single kerosene heater – gloves on, scarves wrapped tightly around their necks. They began to speak. "We can do anything. We have to." "Our husbands sit at home depressed and do nothing," they said. Fierce. Tough. Reticent. We were in the grim, industrial city of Zarqa, some 30 miles north of Amman. It is a place where many Iraqi refugees relocate when they start to deplete their savings: the rents are cheaper than Amman; the city, shrouded in smog, is less desirable.

    I was here on behalf of the Near East Foundation (NEF), a partner organization, to assess home-based enterprises: Are they viable? If so, which sectors provide the most realistic and lucrative opportunities?