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  • Ethics and accountability in researching sexual violence against men and boys

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    Researching sexual violence against men and boys in humanitarian settings requires navigating multiple ethics- and accountability-related tensions.

    In January 2018, the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) launched the Sexual Violence Project, a three-year initiative focusing on sexual violence against displaced
    men and boys, including gay, bisexual, transgender and others with diverse sexual orientation and gender identity and/or expression (GBT+). The project includes,
    among other activities, undertaking applied exploratory research among refugees n Bangladesh, Italy and Kenya. Given the sensitivity of the research topic, the
    vulnerability of the research participants and the potential for harm, addressing safety and ethical issues is paramount.

    Humanitarian Response: Evolution or Revolution?

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    How do we change the response to humanitarian emergencies from one where we keep people alive to one that restores dignity, gives people hope, and opens door to long-term opportunities? Dale Buscher, Vice President, Programs, writes about new approaches in this article in Overture.

    Engaging Organizations of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Responses

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    This project report captures 10 years of work by the Women’s Refugee Commission on the inclusion of disability in humanitarian responses. The report covers early research on refugees with disabilities and subsequent work on disability inclusion, including the target areas of gender-based violence, child protection, and sexual and reproductive health. Later presented work focuses on engaging organizations of persons with disabilities (DPOs) in humanitarian responses—both as expert resources to inform humanitarian actors as well as sources of information, services, and social support for refugees with disabilities living in their host communities. The report concludes with recent work on soliciting input from DPO networks on the Guidelines on the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action, which are currently under development.

    tags: Disabilities

    Sea-change in reproductive health in emergencies: how systemic improvements to address the MISP were achieved

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    By Sandra Krause, Sarah K. Chynoweth, and Mihoko Tanabe

    Reproductive Health Matters, Volume 25, 2017 - Issue 51: Humanitarian crises: advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights

    The Minimum Initial Services Package (MISP) for reproductive health has been the minimum standard for reproductive health service provision in humanitarian emergencies since 1995. Assessments of acute humanitarian settings in 2004 and 2005 revealed few MISP services in place and low knowledge of the MISP among humanitarian responders. Just 10 years later, assessments of humanitarian settings in 2013 and 2015 found largely consistent availability of MISP services and high awareness of the MISP as a standard among responders. We describe the multi-pronged strategy undertaken by the Women’s Refugee Commission and other Inter-agency Working Group on Reproductive Health in Crises (IAWG) member agencies to effect systemic improvements in the availability of the MISP at the onset of humanitarian responses. We find that investments in fact-finding missions, awareness-raising, capacity development, policy harmonisation, targeted funding, emergency risk management, and community resilience-building have been critical to facilitating a sea-change in reproductive health responses in acute, large-scale emergencies. Efforts were underpinned by collaborative, inter-agency partnerships in which organisations were committed to working together to achieve shared goals. The strategies, activities, and achievements contain valuable lessons for the health sector, including reproductive health, and other sectors seeking to better integrate emerging or marginalised issues into humanitarian action.

    Adolescent Girls with Disabilities in Humanitarian Settings: “I Am Not ‘Worthless’—I Am a Girl with a Lot to Share and Offer”

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    Emma Pearce, Kathryn Paik and Omar J. Robles
    Girlhood Studies

    Adolescent girls with disabilities face multiple intersecting and often mutually reinforcing forms of discrimination and oppression, which are exacerbated in situations of crisis. In crisis situations, family and community structures break down, while traditional and social norms disintegrate, all of which affect adolescent girls with disabilities in unique and devastating ways. Drawing on the Women’s Refugee Commission’s work, including personal narratives collected from girls with disabilities, in this report we review how age, gender, disability and crisis influence identity and power. This report outlines principles for including girls with disabilities in adolescent girls’ programming, promoting safe access to humanitarian assistance, and mitigating the risk of violence, abuse, and exploitation.

    Read the full article in Girlhood Studies.

    Intersecting Sexual and Reproductive Health and Disability in Humanitarian Settings: Risks, Needs, and Capacities of Refugees with Disabilities in Kenya, Nepal, and Uganda

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    Persons with disabilities have historically been deprived of their sexual and reproductive health (SRH) rights. Little is known, however, about the situation for women, men, and adolescents with disabilities in humanitarian settings. The Women’s Refugee Commission led a participatory research project with partners to explore the risks, needs, and barriers for refugees with disabilities to access SRH services, and the practical ways in which these challenges could be addressed.

    Findings showed that refugees with disabilities demonstrated varying degrees of awareness around SRH, especially regarding the reproductive anatomy, family planning, and sexually transmitted infections. Among barriers to accessing services, lack of respect by providers was reported as the most hurtful. Pregnant women with disabilities were often discriminated against by providers and scolded by caregivers for becoming pregnant and bearing children; marital status was a large factor that determined if a pregnancy was accepted. Risks of sexual violence prevailed across sites, especially for persons with intellectual impairments. The ability of women with disabilities to exercise their SRH rights was mixed. Refugees with disabilities showed a mixed understanding of their own rights in relationships and in the pursuit of opportunities.

    Findings speak to the need to realize the SRH rights of refugees with disabilities and build their longer-term SRH capacities.

    Read the full article in Sexuality & Disability.

    Gender in action: Successes and shortfalls in the Syrian refugee crisis

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    by Dale Buscher and Melissa Gurumurthy

    Among the humanitarian agencies responding to the Syrian refugee crisis in Jordan, real progress has been made towards a better understanding of the gendered needs of displaced people and the incorporation of gender-sensitive policies. Nevertheless, challenges remain to ensure that this translates into effective service provision – and that the community does not ignore the "change maker" potential of women and girls. Here, US-based NGO the Women's Refugee Commission (WRC) gives us its assessment of the situation in Jordan.
    tags: Syria

    Community-Based Distribution of Family Planning Services in Humanitarian Settings: Identified Need and Potential from Malakal, South Sudan

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    The Women’s Refugee Commission and American Refugee Committee implemented a pilot project on community-based distribution (CBD) of family planning services in Malakal, South Sudan, to examine whether CBD is applicable and feasible in a humanitarian setting and would enhance people’s access to and use of contraceptives.

    Read about the project in this article in St. Anthony's International Review.

    Preventing gender-based violence: getting it right

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    Gender-based violence (GBV) remains epidemic in situations of conflict, disaster and displacement. Despite the rhetoric, the new language around GBV, the UN Security Council Resolutions and the myriad of guidelines, women and girls, and to a lesser extent men and boys, continue to be raped, abused and violated in these contexts. Much is known about the facts of GBV and how to respond. It is known, for example, that incidents of GBV escalate, often dramatically, during conflict and displacement. It is also known that 50% of survivors are under the age of 16,[1] and that women and girls with disabilities are 4–10 times more likely to be targeted by GBV as those without disabilities.[2] Humanitarian practitioners know how to set up healthcare responses and, to some extent, legal and psychosocial responses. Far less, however, is known about GBV prevention. How is it operationalised? How is existing guidance on lighting and separate latrines implemented? How are emergency responders held accountable for following globally agreed standards? How can the heightened and varied risks women and girls, in particular, face during conflict and displacement be mitigated?

    Read the article by Dale Buscher, senior director for programs, in Humanitarian Exchange Magazine.

    Women: the invisible detainees

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    Michelle Brané and Lee Wang have an article in Forced Migration Review about why and how differences in treatment between men and women in detention matter.