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  • Women’s Refugee Commission Marks World Refugee Day, Highlights the Plight of Displaced Adolescent Girls

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    NEW YORK, NY, June 20, 2012—The Women’s Refugee Commission, with the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Permanent Missions of Sweden and Liberia to the United Nations, will host a reception to mark World Refugee Day on Wednesday, June 20.  Speakers include H.E. Mr. Mårten Grunditz, Permanent Representative of Sweden to the United Nations, H.E. Madam Marjon Kamara, Permanent Representative of Liberia to the United Nations, Udo Janz, Director, UNHCR, New York, and Joan Timoney, Director of Advocacy and External Relations, Women's Refugee Commission. Congolese sisters Sandra Uwiringiyi’mana and Adele Kibasumba will perform a song they wrote to portray the experience of refugees, “Nzamuye Amashimwe” (“I Raise My Thanks”).

    The reception will be held in the Visitors’ Lobby of the UN General Assembly building. Attendees—including members of the UN community and humanitarian assistance agencies—will view a new photography exhibit “In Search of Solidarity: The State of the World's Refugees 2012," coordinated by UNHCR.

    Each year on June 20th the international community pauses to reflect on the situation of the 43 million displaced and refugee people worldwide. A changing environment, food insecurity and conflict have contributed to the high number of refugees, 80% of whom are women and children. 

    “Women and girls face an increased risk of sexual exploitation and abuse,” said Sarah Costa, executive director of the Women's Refugee Commission. “They also encounter enormous obstacles to accessing education, health care and safe ways to make a living.”

    In 2012, supported by the Oak Foundation, the Women’s Refugee Commission embarked on a program that focuses on protecting and empowering displaced adolescent girls. Working in Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania, the Women’s Refugee Commission is identifying strategies that can help girls to protect themselves, access healthcare, complete schooling, build leadership skills and be seen as a valued part of their families and communities.

    Early findings from our work have confirmed that girls are eager to stay in school, support each other to stay safe from violence and build better futures for themselves and their families.

    “While much of the refugee experience for girls is difficult and depressing, refugee girls are resilient and strong,” said Costa. “They strive to make the most of the opportunities they are offered. And when given the right opportunities, they can take charge of their lives. Our mission is to ensure they get the resources and support they need. As a result of our work, girls will learn how to live safer lives and, with support of adults, build brighter futures.”

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    The Women's Refugee Commission advocates for laws, policies and programs to improve the lives and protect the rights of refugee and internally displaced women, children and young people, including those seeking asylum—bringing about lasting, measurable change. Through research and fact-finding field missions, the Women's Refugee Commission identifies critical problems that affect displaced women, children and young people, including gaps in lifesaving reproductive health care, lack of dignified livelihoods for refugees and, in the U.S., the treatment of asylum-seekers. We document best practices and propose solutions, and develop innovative tools to improve the way humanitarian assistance is delivered in refugee settings. On Capitol Hill, at the United Nations and with humanitarian organizations, governments and donors, we push for improvements in refugee policy and practice until measurable long-term change is realized.