• May 2012

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    May 2012 Newsletter

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    Voices of Courage Awards for Empowering Displaced Girls

    More than 450 people came to show their support for the Women’s Refugee Commission at our 2012 Voices of Courage Awards Luncheon. This year’s theme was protecting and empowering displaced adolescent girls. Our refugee honorees, Olga Cantarero and Rim Tekie Solomon, inspired the audience with stories of their own survival and great courage in the face of terrifying circumstances—and their subsequent work helping girls in their own communities. Corporate pioneer and former board chair of the Women’s Refugee Commission Dina Dublon was honored for her leadership and dedication to women’s and girls’ issues globally.

    Voices of Courage 2012 Honorees
    Honorees Olga Cantarero, Dina Dublon and Rim Tekie Solomon
    Photo by: Don Pollard for Women's Refugee Commission

    We are thrilled to report that we raised more than $800,000, which will help us continue our work to improve the lives of displaced and asylum-seeking women, children and youth around the world. We thank everyone who came or contributed.

    See a selection of photos from the event.

    FACT-FINDING TRIP Focuses on refugee girls in ethiopia

    Many Somali refugee adolescent girls, especially those who are unaccompanied, young mothers or disabled, explained that they often don’t feel welcomed, protected or safe anywhere, particularly after dark.

    Empowering adolescent girls was on the agenda when Jennifer Schulte, Program Officer, Youth and Livelihoods, and Elizabeth Cafferty, Senior Advocacy Officer, visited the Sheder and Aw Barre refugee camps in the Somali area of Ethiopia. International and local organizations in the camps are working to protect and support adolescent girls by raising awareness, improving educational opportunities and organizing security watch groups in communities. When talking about the problems they faced, the girls voiced their own ideas and solutions—like nonformal education and child care for young single mothers so that they can go back to school and build better futures for themselves and their families. View a photo essay from their trip and read the first in a series of blogs.


    In the wake of devastating cyclone Washi in the Philippines, Reproductive Health Program Officer Jennifer Schlecht traveled to the island of Mindanao to help improve the preparedness of communities, specifically women and girls, for future emergencies. Jennifer conducted training sessions for nurses, midwives, health workers and social workers, as well as women and youth leaders. Her primary goal was to ensure the involvement of women and girls in the planning and to make sure humanitarian workers take reproductive health concerns into account when preparing for and responding to a disaster. The training focused on how communities can maximize their strengths in using the Minimum Initial Service Package (MISP) for Reproductive Health in Crisis Situations. To continue and follow up on the training, Jennifer will return to the Philippines at the end of May.


    You may recall Michelle Brané’s heart-wrenching blog last year about Edmond Demiraj, an Albanian citizen living in the United States who agreed to testify against an Albanian mobster. But when the mobster fled back to Albania, Mr. Demiraj was promptly deported, also to Albania. There, he and members of his family suffered at the hands of the mobster; Mr. Demiraj was kidnapped, beaten and shot. Eventually Mr. Demiraj managed to return to the United States. But his ordeal was not over—a court decision ordered the deportation of his wife and teenage son. Now, thanks in part to our efforts, the government has granted asylum to the entire Demiraj family, a happy ending to an immigration nightmare that should never have happened.


    Will Schwalbe, son of Mary Anne Schwalbe, the founding director of the Women's Refugee Commission, published a moving Mother's Day editorial in The New York Times about his mother, which mentions Mary Anne’s work with the organization as an advocate for refugees.

    The New York Times published a letter by Senior Program Officer Emily Butera in response to the article “Deporting Parents Hurts Kids.”

    Forbes.com and the Huffington Post published blogs about the 2012 Voices of Courage Awards Luncheon.

    Israel’s Yedioth Ahronot, the most widely-read newspaper in the country, published a feature on Voices of Courage honoree Rim Tekie Solomon in its weekend edition.

    Jennifer Podkul, Program Officer, Detention and Asylum Program, is quoted in this Huffington Post article, discussing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and its potential harm to undocumented women.

    "How One Georgia Town Gambled Its Future on Immigration Detention" in The Nation referenced our Etowah report.

    Sandra Krause, Director, Reproductive Health Program, was interviewed about her work at the Women's Refugee Commission by the Human Resources for Health Center. Read the interview posted on the HRH Global Resource Center website.

    Katharina Obser, Program Specialist, Detention and Asylum Program, is quoted in this New America Media article, "ICE Slow to Embrace Alternatives to Immigrant Detention."