• January 2012

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    Research. Rethink. Resolve.

    January 2012

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    • The 2012 Voices of Courage Awards Luncheon will be held on May 4 at Cipriani in New York City. The theme for the event is "Investing in Displaced Adolescent Girls." Stay tuned for more information and details in the coming months.

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    Dear *|FNAME|*,

    As we begin a new year full of hope and promise, I am inspired by the tremendous response to our year-end appeal on behalf of displaced women, children and young people around the world who urgently need our help.

    Thanks to the generous support of so many of you, we reached our goal of $150,000! Your donations play a critical role in creating a world where refugee women and children are safe, healthy and self-reliant.

    With your support, in the year ahead we will continue to identify the gaps in humanitarian policy and practice—in crucial, often neglected areas—and develop innovative, effective solutions. Our programs will further improve refugees’ livelihood options, reproductive health and access to clean cooking fuel. At the same time, we will focus on some of the world's most vulnerable people, like displaced adolescent girls, refugees with disabilities and immigrants held in U.S. detention centers.

    Thank you for all that you do and for standing with the Women’s Refugee Commission. Together we can effect lasting change.

    With warm wishes for the year ahead,
    Sarah Costa's Signature
    Sarah Costa
    Executive Director

    P.S. I am thrilled to announce that last week the Women’s Refugee Commission was named by Philanthropedia/Guidestar as one of the top 14 nonprofits working to address violence against women. Our ranking as number eight is based on the recommendations of 77 experts in our field.

    In the Spotlight: Gender-based Violence and Livelihoods

    Women displaced by conflict or natural disaster are usually forced to adopt new strategies to provide for themselves and their families. Without safe economic opportunities, women sometimes resort to harmful practices, such as engaging in commercial sex or forcing their daughters into early marriage. Others place themselves at risk when selling goods on unsafe streets or working informally. In an untenable position, displaced women often face a trade-off between their protection and their livelihood. Yet, the international community knows little about how to effectively integrate gender-based violence (GBV) prevention methods into economic programs.

    To fill this knowledge gap, the Women’s Refugee Commission has just released Preventing Gender-based Violence, Building Livelihoods: Guidance and Tools for Improved Programming, which provides critical information to help practitioners and policymakers design safe economic programs for displaced women.

    This guidance builds on our 2009 report, Peril or Protection: The Link between Livelihoods and Gender-based Violence, which explored the ways in which women’s economic empowerment and safety intersect. In 2010 and 2011, we trained approximately 200 practitioners in six countries on designing economic interventions that prevent or lessen GBV. We collected lessons learned from the workshop participants, conducted site visits to refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia and completed desk research—resulting in this new guidance.

    Refugee and Asylee Youth Struggling to Make It in NYC

    “A man is expected to be as fast as a machine here. You cannot move that fast if you don't have an adequate level of English.”

    A young man from the Ivory Coast describes the challenges he and other refugee youth face in New York City. Each year, the city receives refugee and asylum-seeking youth from more than 35 countries. Our report Making Our Way: Resettled Refugee and Asylee Youth in New York City looks at the education, skills training and employment opportunities these young men and women had in the countries they lived in before coming to the U.S. as well as what is open to them when they arrive here. The research was undertaken to better understand what strategies and types of programs can improve the young people's capacity to have productive livelihoods and become self-reliant. Read the report to hear their stories and learn more.

    Congress Steps Up Support for Humanitarian Programs

    We are happy to report that last month Congress approved legislation that provides increased funding for lifesaving international humanitarian programs. We are very grateful that our leaders recognized the importance of strong humanitarian funding even during a time of budget constraints. These resources are urgently needed to help the millions of people whose lives have been devastated by famine in the Horn of Africa and ongoing conflicts in places like Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burma. Special thanks to all of the Women’s Refugee Commission’s friends and supporters who took part in our Take Actions and wrote to their representatives over the past year. Our collective efforts paid off!

    First National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security Issued

    The Women’s Refugee Commission applauds the release of the first-ever U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security and the accompanying Executive Order signed by President Obama that directs governmental agencies to implement it. We have been advocating for a robust plan that helps ensure women, including refugee women, are engaged as equal partners in peace and reconstruction initiatives. We look forward to working with the key U.S. agencies to ensure the plans are effectively carried out.

    Our Work on Refugees with Disabilities Recognized

    Our work to improve the services for and protection of refugees with disabilities has been cited as one of 27 “good practice examples” in the Zero Project Report 2012, an international study on the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, published by the Essl Foundation in Austria.

    Mobilization around Fuel and Firewood Issues

    The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves released a report Igniting Change: A Strategy for Universal Adoption of Clean Cookstoves and Fuels, a plan to reduce the two million deaths caused annually by toxic smoke from burning solid fuels in rudimentary cookstoves or open fires. The report features the input of cookstove experts from around the world and includes several of the WRC’s recommendations.

    Issue of Sexual Abuse in Immigrant Detention Centers Garners Attention

    The widespread sexual abuse of immigrants held in detention centers across the United States was featured in several news stories recently. Michelle Brané, Director of our Detention and Asylum Program, was interviewed for and included in an NPR story “Immigration Detainees Seek Prison-Rape Protection,” featured on a Univision segment and quoted in a New America Media article, “Sex Abuse in Immigrant Detention at Center of Political Storm.” Emily Butera, Senior Program Officer, Detention and Asylum, was quoted in the Crime Report article “Can ICE Police Itself?