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April 2013

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        Voices of Courage Awards Luncheon
        May 2, 2013 | New York City
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Migrant Rights and Justice Program: On the Frontlines of the Fight for Immigration Reform

With a new Immigration Bill now before the Senate Judiciary Committee, our Migrant Rights and Justice (MRJ) program has been working overtime to make sure that immigration reforms meet the needs of women and children and preserve access and due process rights for those seeking protection in the United States.  In addition to our participation in several coalitions and our independent advocacy, we are coordinating a policy table on women’s issues.  This is the first time women’s groups have formally coordinated around comprehensive immigration reform.  The Senate Gang of 8 released the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (S.744) on April 17th.  WRC provided extensive education and technical drafting expertise on issues relating to immigrant women, parental rights, detention, unaccompanied children and the border, that the Gang of 8 relied on in drafting the bill.

In the true spirit of compromise, the bill contains some things to love and some things to hate. Overall, the Migrant Rights and Justice Team and WRC feel that many of the provisions we fought for have made it into this base bill, including improvements in access to asylum, parental rights and family unity provisions, provision of attorneys for children and the mentally incompetent, oversight of detention facilities, and expansion in alternatives to detnetion. The challenge now will be to ensure that they stay in and that some additional protections are included where we can get them.


Assessing the Needs of Syrian Refugees with Disabilities in Lebanon

Emma Pearce, the Women’s Refugee Commission’s disability program officer, recently returned from Lebanon, where she provided program advice and support to humanitarian groups serving Syrian refugees. During field visits with Handicap International and the UN refugee agency’s community services team, Emma met many people with impairments resulting from the conflict in Syria.

Emma met Alia,* a 13-year-old Syrian girl living in a tent settlement. Alia is blind. She was learning braille in Syria, but when she and her family fled, she lost all of her braille books and her machine for writing, one of her key means of communication. She told Emma that despite her restricted mobility, she is learning her way around the settlement, but worries about falling over, and sometimes bumps into people and objects.

International humanitarian agencies are coordinating with each other and with Lebanese health services to provide medical care and rehabilitation for people with war injuries, who are arriving in large numbers. Emma also met with persons with developmental delays, hearing and vision impairments and their families. Many are living in collective shelters that they share with other families, renting rooms in buildings still under construction or in tented settlements.

Persons with disabilities face significant challenges accessing vital humanitarian assistance programs. The Women’s Refugee Commission is giving priority attention to advancing the rights of persons with disabilities and promoting their full inclusion in relief and recovery programs in Lebanon and elsewhere. Read more about Emma’s trip here.


Job Training Programs for Refugee Youth: Identifying Best Practices

In late March, senior program officer, livelihoods and child protection Josh Chaffin traveled to Oslo to train staff of the Norwegian Refugee Council on conducting market assessments for youth vocational training programs. The workshop led 22 NRC education staff from around the world in simulated surveys to determine the best training options to improve the livelihoods of young women and men living in camps and urban settings. This month, Josh presented a new report Economic Empowerment of Urban Refugee Youth: Guiding Principles to InterAction, the largest alliance of U.S.-based international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that focus on disaster relief and sustainable development programs, in Washington, D.C.


Celebrating International Women’s Day with the WRC

For International Women’s Day on March 8, the WRC and International Rescue Committee came together for an inspiring celebratory Women’s Day breakfast. Sarah Costa, executive director of the WRC, Sandra Krause, director of the WRC’s reproductive health program, and Heidi Lehman, director of the IRC’s women’s protection and empowerment unit, spoke with passion about what International Women’s Day means to them, and highlighted the work that remains to be done to advance women’s rights throughout the world. Staff from both organizations shared stories, poems and tributes to women who had inspired them or touched their lives. The WRC communications team put together an interactive poster project (pictured above) where participants wrote why they celebrate women. The result was a colorful display of quotes, phrases and stories.


2013 Voices of Courage Luncheon: Disabled. Displaced. Determined

It’s not too late to buy tickets for our annual Voices of Courage Awards Luncheon on May 2. Join us as we honor two refugee women who are developing or leading programs that benefit refugee and displaced persons with disabilities, and the Government of Australia for its international leadership supporting initiatives that develop the capacity of persons with disabilities to lead full lives and make meaningful contributions to their communities.

We will also have a special tribute to Catherine O’Neill, founding chair of the Women's Refugee Commission. Millions of refugee women and children around the world have Catherine to thank for improvements in programming and policy that have come about due to the work of the organization she founded.