• Women in Nepal

    Women’s Refugee Commission’s Code of Conduct

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    Addressing Sexual Exploitation and Abuse

    In accordance with the mission and practice of Women's Refugee Commission (WRC) and principles of international law and codes of conduct, all WRC representatives, including international and national, regular full-time and part-time staff, board members, interns, contractors and volunteers, are responsible for promoting respect for fundamental human rights, social justice, human dignity and respect for the equal rights of women, children and men. Women's Refugee Commission representatives will respect the dignity and worth of every individual. They will treat all persons equally without distinction whatsoever of race, gender, religion, color, national or ethnic origin, language, marital status, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, disability, political conviction or any other distinguishing feature.

    The WRC representatives recognize that they have: (1) a duty of care to beneficiaries; (2) a responsibility to ensure that beneficiaries are treated with dignity and respect; and (3) an obligation to observe certain minimum standards of behavior.

    Displacement as a result of conflict or natural disaster may lead to an increase in poverty, dependency and powerlessness. Women and girls are especially vulnerable to sexual violence in crisis settings. The uncertainty in access to, and the unequal distribution of, resources such as food and material goods, including cooking pots, water containers and plastic sheeting, can put women and girls at a greater risk of sexual exploitation and abuse. This can fuel the need to exchange sex for money or food to survive.1

    What is Sexual Exploitation and Abuse?

    Sexual exploitation and abuse is a form of violence that relates to the use of actual or attempted threats, force or coercion in a sexual manner against a woman, girl, boy or man that results in physical, psychological or emotional harm. It is usually an attempt to show power over the vulnerable individual.

    • Sexual exploitation is taking advantage of an unequal power relationship to obtain sexual favors in return for protection or assistance from a person in a vulnerable situation.
    • Sexual abuse is actual or threatened sexual violence obtained by force or under coercion.2

    Sexual exploitation and abuse can take many forms3

    • Sexual exploitation involves a person demanding sex or sexual favors from someone in a vulnerable position in exchange for money, shelter, protection, firewood or fuel for cooking food or other goods or services. Perpetrators can include staff of the United Nations, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and community-based organizations (CBOs); consultants, interns, volunteers and contractors; and military personnel.
    • Sexual abuse is:
      • Threatening or forcing an individual to have sex. This includes rape.
      • The invasion of any part of the body of the victim with a sexual organ; or of the anal or genital opening of the victim with any object or any other part of the body; or against a person incapable of giving genuine consent.
      • Any unwelcome and unwanted sexual advance, unsolicited sexual attention, demand for sexual access or favors, sexual innuendo or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, display of pornographic material, inappropriate touching or gestures, and harassment by force or under unequal or coercive conditions.

    The Women's Refugee Commission rigorously enforces the United Nations (UN) Secretary General's Bulletin on the Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Beneficiaries as a standard for professional conduct among our staff.4 Therefore, as a representative of the WRC, I concur with the Inter-agency Standing Committee's (IASC's) six core principles of its code of conduct5 as listed below, and I will adhere to preventing sexual exploitation and abuse against beneficiaries and persons of concern.

    (1) Sexual exploitation and abuse by humanitarian workers constitutes gross misconduct and are therefore grounds for termination of employment.
    (2) Sexual activity with children (persons under the age of 18) is prohibited regardless of the age of majority or age of consent locally. Mistaken belief regarding the age of a child is not a defense.
    (3) Exchange of money, employment, goods or services for sex, including sexual favors or other forms of humiliating, degrading or exploitative behavior, is prohibited. This includes exchange of assistance that is due to beneficiaries.
    (4) Sexual relationships between humanitarian workers and beneficiaries are strongly discouraged since they are based on inherently unequal power dynamics. Such relationships undermine the credibility and integrity of humanitarian aid work.
    (5) Where a humanitarian worker develops concerns or suspicions regarding sexual abuse or exploitation by a fellow worker, whether in the same agency or not, he or she must report such concerns via established agency reporting mechanisms.
    (6) Humanitarian workers are obliged to create and maintain an environment which prevents sexual exploitation and abuse and promotes the implementation of their code of conduct.

    Managers at all levels have particular responsibilities to support and develop systems which maintain this environment.

    In addition, Women's Refugee Commission staff providing sub grants to community-based organizations (CBOs) and international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) will systematically share the Women's Refugee Commission cover letter and relevant (CBO) or (INGO) primer on preventing sexual exploitation and abuse with all sub-grant agreement documents with a request for sub-grantees to report on their measures to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse of beneficiaries and persons of concern in their donor reporting.

    If you have a complaint about the conduct of a WRC staff member or about the work of the organization, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call +1.212.551.3115 and leave a message that you wish to discuss an ethics issue. Someone will get in touch with you to follow up.

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    [1] Spiegel, Paul. “HIV/AIDS among Conflict-affected and Displaced Populations: Dispelling Myths and Taking Action.” Disasters. 2004.

    [2] UN, Secretary General’s Bulletin: Special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse (ST/SGB/2003/13).

    [3] IASC, Report of the Task Force on Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in Humanitarian Crises. June 2002.

    [4] UN, Secretary General’s Bulletin: Special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse (ST/SGB/2003/13).

    [5] IASC, Report of the Task Force on Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in Humanitarian Crises. June 2002.

     

     

    Women's Refugee Commission Humanitarian Organization Memberships & Operational Partners

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    The Women's Refugee Commission partners with many organizations to carry out its program of research, advocacy and policy change. Below is a list of our organizational memberships and operational partnerships.

    Organizational Memberships

    Accelerating Strategies for Practical Innovation and Research in Economic Strengthening (ASPIRES) - Member, Technical Advisory Committee

    Adolescent Girls Legal Defense Fund/Equality Now  - Advisory Board 

    Child Protection in Crisis Learning Network/Columbia University – Steering Committee member 

    Child Protection Working Group - member

    Children and Youth Economic Strengthening (CYES, hosted by The SEEP Network) - Member, Technical Advisory Group

    Coalition for Adolescent Girls - member                                                     

    Coalition to End Violence Against Women and Girls Globally - member 

    CORE group: Advancing Community Health Worldwide – member

    Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement  - Working Group/Advisory Board member     

    Detention Watch Network (DWN) – member 

    Steering Committee Frontline Health Worker's Coalition – member 

    Global Alliance on Clean Cookstoves – member

    Global Health Cluster - member

    Global Protection Cluster-Gender Based Violence Area of Responsibility - member 

    HAP International – member

    Immigrant Children’s Legal Network (ICLN) - member

    IMUMI, Instituto Para las Mujeres en Migracion

    InterAction  - member

    Inter-Agency Standing Committee Gender Reference Group – co-chair  

    Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies - Co-convener, Adolescent and Youth Task Team                               

    Inter-agency Task Force on Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse - member 

    Inter-agency Working Group (IAWG) for Reproductive Health in Crises – member

    International Association of the Study of Forced Migration – member    

    International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA) – member

    International Detention Coalition (IDC)– founding member and Governance Committee member 

    Maternal Health Task Force – member

    National Coalition for Immigrant Women’s Rights (NCIWR) – steering Committee member

    Neonatal Health in Humanitarian Settings Working Group – member 

    NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security – member            

    Opportunity Agenda – advisory board on select research on immigration, enforcement, and women 

    Reproductive Health Response in Crises (RHRC) Consortium – founding member

    Safe Access to Firewood and Alternative Energies (SAFE) Reference Group – founder/group facilitator

    U.S. Civil Society Working Group on Women, Peace and Security - member 

    We Belong Together – advisory board
     

    Operational Partners

    The Women's Refugee Commission partners with a variety of academic institutions, such as Johns Hopkins and the University of Michigan’s Survey Research Center on research; with UN agencies, such as UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP and UNFPA, to promote change in policy and practice; and with local and international NGOs, such as Save the Children, International Rescue Committee and International Medical Corps, to test and pilot field practices.

    WRC’s current contractual partnerships include:  

    Danish Refugee Council: Uganda – Pilot project on empowering displaced adolescent girls ages 14-16 years by improving their economic opportunities and social networks through skills building and mentorship. 

    International Medical Corps (IMC): Ethiopia – Research the unique sexual and reproductive health (SRH) needs and risks of very young adolescents; pilot project on protecting and empowering displaced adolescent girls ages 10-16 years by creating a safe space through which girls can access services, learn life skills and build social networks and increasing attention on girls’ needs among community leaders and service providers. 

    International Rescue Committee: Tanzania– pilot project on protecting and empowering displaced adolescent girls ages 10-16 years by building their social assets using a safe space model and strengthening community protection mechanisms to support the needs of adolescent girls.  

    Johns Hopkins University: Thai/Burma Border – Research on the unique sexual and reproductive health (SRH) needs and risks of very young adolescents

    Katipunan ng Maykapansanan sa Pilipinas (KAMPI): Philippines – Strengthening groups of persons with disabilities in conflict affected Mindanao to advocate for disability inclusion humanitarian action and development. 

    Nepal Disabled Women’s Association (NDWA): Nepal – Building the capacity of self-help groups of women with disabilities living in Bhutanese refugees camps in Nepal, and raising awareness about the sexual and reproductive health needs and capacities of this group of women. 

    Rehabilitation and Development Organization (RaDO): Ethiopia – Supporting Disability Associations in refugee camps in Jijiga to monitor and advocate for access and inclusion of persons with disabilities in programs such as education, health and livelihoods.

    Save the Children: DRC – pilot project on adolescent sexual and reproductive health Lebanon – Research on the unique sexual and reproductive health (SRH) needs and risks of very young adolescents (10-14 years)

    Our Impact

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    Led international efforts and made reproductive health a humanitarian priority

    • We were among the first to recognize that displaced women and girls in conflict- and disaster-affected areas had a dire need for reproductive health services. 

    Documented and created mechanisms to reduce the separation of families and threat to parental rights due to immigration detention and enforcement

    • We led non-governmental organization efforts to identify the costs to society and endangerment of children caused by the detention of parents without mechanisms to ensure that they could continue to communicate and make care arrangements for their children.  Following the publication of our report Torn Apart By Immigration Enforcement and advocacy efforts, the Department of Homeland Security issued a Parental Interest Directive that provides guidelines to limit the use of detention for primary caregivers, allows for communication with children, and provides mechanisms for arranging care, attending family court hearings and making travel arrangements for children.  As a result we saw significantly fewer cases of family separation and child endangerment due to immigration enforcement.

    Raised awareness of the needs of refugees and displaced persons with disabilities

    • We published the first-ever global research report on disabilities among refugees and those affected by conflict.
    • We worked with disability organizations to promote equal access and full participation of individuals with disabilities globally.

    Advocated and advanced the protection of women and children in conflict settings with the passage of two critical UN Security Council Resolutions

    Focused international attention on the need for safe access to cooking fuel

    • With our leadership, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee’s SAFE Task Force produced the first-ever global guidance documents on implementing safe access to firewood and alternative cooking fuels in humanitarian settings.

    Helped displaced women support themselves with high quality and safe livelihood programs

    • We published the first comprehensive manual to guide humanitarian practitioners as they design work programs for displaced and refugee women. 

    2010 Achievements

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    As 2010 comes to an end, we’d like to share with you just a few of the great strides the Women's Refugee Commission has made this year to ensure that refugee women, children and youth are safe, healthy and self-reliant.

    To make a tax-deductible donation to help us continue this life-saving work, click here.

    We have been working hard to ensure that emergency response workers make reproductive health care a priority when natural disaster and conflict strike. For example, after the Haiti earthquake in January we advocated for the wide-scale provision of life-saving reproductive health care for the 750,000 women of reproductive age displaced by the earthquake. These critical services provide birthing kits for safer childbirth, treatment for survivors of sexual violence and access to family planning.

    Our fuel and firewood initiative has teamed up with the World Food Programme (WFP) to make sure displaced women in seven countries have safe access to cooking fuel and clean cookstoves. Six million displaced people will be reached via the WFP’s “SAFE” initiative; as a result, women and girls will not risk being assaulted when they go looking for wood and children will not have to breathe smoke that causes life-threatening respiratory infections.

    Refugee women and young people are often exposed to abuse and exploitation when they try to earn a living, often in the underground economy. Our livelihoods team has been helping UN agencies, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and governments in countries that host refugees design women’s economic empowerment programs that are both effective and safe. The UN refugee agency’s (UNHCR) offices in Geneva, Egypt, Ethiopia and Uganda are now developing economic initiatives that protect refugee women and girls from violence by using our tools, trainings and economic empowerment strategies.

    Our detention and asylum program worked with members of Congress to introduce the HELP for Separated Children Act in both the House and the Senate. This legislation will protect immigrant families by ensuring that detained parents can participate in their child custody case so that children are not needlessly separated from their parents.

    Our disabilities program staff led an NGO coalition that urged UNHCR to include refugees with disabilities in policies and programs. The agency adopted our recommendations in October, ensuring that refugees with disabilities will be identified and provided with crucial services.

    Thank you for your support. Without you, we would not be able to accomplish such great victories on behalf of the world’s most vulnerable people. As we look ahead to 2011, your support is critical to our efforts to improve the lives of refugee women and youth. To make a tax-deductible donation, click here.

    Achievements in past years

    Frequently Asked Questions

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    The Women’s Refugee Commission is dedicated to improving the lives and protecting the rights of women, children and youth displaced by conflict and crisis. We are not a grant-making organization and we do not have field operations. If the following information does not answer your questions, please email us at the address provided below. 

    What does the Women's Refugee Commission do?

    Our mission is to improve the lives and protect the rights of women, children and youth displaced by conflict and crisis. We research their needs, identify solutions and advocate for programs and policies to strengthen their resilience and drive change in humanitarian practice.

    When is your Voices of Courage luncheon, and how can I attend? 

    The Voices of Courage luncheon is an annual celebration to recognize refugees who have made the extraordinary achievements to improve the lives of their fellow refugee women and children. The luncheon is generally held in New York City in late April or early May. Visit our luncheon webpage for details on this year's celebration.

    Can I work for the Women's Refugee Commission? How do I apply?

    Available job positions are listed on the employment page of our website, along with directions on how to apply. Please note that we cannot process applications that are not for a specific job or internship that is posted. Please also note that our offices are located in New York, NY, and Washington, D.C. We do not have offices in other countries, and are unable to send interns or volunteers to the field.

    Can I intern for the Women's Refugee Commission? How do I apply?

    Available internships are listed on the internship page of our website, along with directions on how to apply. Please note that we cannot process applications that are not for a specific job or internship that is posted. Please also note that our offices are located in New York, NY, and Washington, D.C. We do not have offices in other countries, and are unable to send interns or volunteers to the field.

    I have applied for a position with the Women's Refugee Commission. What is the status of my application?

    Because we receive many applications, we cannot reply to every submission. If you have applied for a job or internship with the Women's Refugee Commission, we will contact you if we are considering you for the position. No phone calls please.

    Can my organization apply for a grant or partnership with your organization?

    As a research and advocacy organization, the Women's Refugee Commission generally does not provide grants or arrange partnerships. The Foundation Center provides information that might be helpful.

    I am a refugee who needs to be resettled. Can you help me?

    As a research and advocacy organization, the Women's Refugee Commission is not involved in the resettlement process and does not supply direct services. For assistance, contact a UNHCR field office

    I am seeking asylum in the United States. Can you help me? 

    The Women's Refugee Commission is unable to assist with asylum requests. You can apply for asylum and withholding of removal with form I-589 form the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service or you may wish to find legal representation.

    I am a refugee in America looking for information. Where should I go? 

    You can find information and resources specifically for refugees and immigrants in the United States at the Refugee Center Online.

     

     

    Still have questions? Please contact us.

     

    Contact Us

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    Please read our Frequently Asked Questions page for answers to common questions. You can also contact the Women's Refugee Commission if you have questions or comments.

    New York, USA
    15 West 37th Street, 9th Floor
    New York, NY 10018
    Phone: (212) 551-3115
    Fax: (212) 551-3180
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    Washington, D.C., USA
    Women's Refugee Commission
    1012 14th Street, NW, Suite 1100
    Washington, DC 20005
    Phone: (202) 750-8591

    Press Inquiries
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    Phone: (212) 551-3115