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    June 2013

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    From May 28 to June 1, the Women’s Refugee Commission’s sexual and reproductive health team participated in the 2013 Women Deliver conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Women Deliver is an international advocacy organization dedicated to improving the health and well-being of girls and women. With 4,500 attendees, the 2013 conference was the largest global event of the decade to focus on the health and empowerment of girls and women. It included more than 120 sessions, high-level plenaries, skills-building workshops, and ministerial and parliamentarian forums.

    In addition to running a prominently featured information booth (see picture above), the WRC’s sexual and reproductive health team participated in a number of conference presentations, panels and discussions.

    Sandra Krause, director of the sexual and reproductive health program, participated in four panels:

    • Making Maternal and Newborn Health Safer in Humanitarian Crises,” which highlighted the needs of particular vulnerable groups and organizational experiences during recent emergencies.
    • “Lessons from the Field: Preventing Unintended Pregnancies in Humanitarian Crises,” detailing how access to lifesaving sexual and reproductive health services, including family planning, is essential in even the earliest stages of a humanitarian crisis. 
    • “Delivering MNCH [maternal, newborn, child health] Services in Fragile and Post-Conflict States,” about challenges faced and success achieved in the delivery of MNCH and reproductive health RH services in fragile states.
    • “Safe Access to Firewood and Alternatives Energies (SAFE) and Protection: Empowering Women Through Clean Cookstoves and Fuels.”

    Jennifer Schlecht, senior program officer, presented her recently published article “Early relationships and marriage in conflict and post-conflict settings: vulnerability of youth in Uganda,” which appeared in the peer-reviewed journal Reproductive Health Matters. She also gave a presentation at Tech for Tech in the Speakers’ Corner on Mama: Together for Safe Births in Crises.

    And Mihoko Tanabe, senior program officer, gave a presentation to launch our new two-minute film “Family Planning Saves Lives,” which highlights the importance of ensuring that family planning services are made available to crisis-affected women, men and adolescents.

    To watch the video, click here!

    Amendments protecting women and children pass in Senate Judiciary Committee

    It has been another successful month for comprehensive immigration reform, and the WRC’s Migrant Rights and Justice Program has been hard at work promoting protections for vulnerable women, children, and families. At the end of May, MRJ had a number of important advocacy victories when three critical amendments to protect families and unaccompanied children cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee.  All three were supported by the Administration, and two of three passed with bi partisan support. These amendments represent a significent step forward on issues that the Women’s Refugee Commission has been working to resolve for many years.  We highlight two of the amendments below:

    Humane Enforcement and Legal Protections (HELP) for Separated Children Act

    The HELP Separated Children Act was the only amendment to pass the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously, and had three Republican and several Democrat cosponsors. This legislation, which the Women’s Refugee Commission has championed since 2009 reduces the likelihood that children will be placed into foster care due to a parent’s immigration apprehension, protects the parental rights of detained parents and increases the likelihood of family reunification at the conclusion of a parent’s immigration case.

    WRC led the advocacy effort in support of the amendment, and our research findings proved essential in winning endorsements from labor, religious, child welfare and immigrant advocacy groups. Read more about HELP here.

    Protection of Family Values in Apprehension Programs

    This amendment, a companion to HELP Separated Children, passed the Senate Judiciary Committee 10 to 8.  The amendment, which would require that the Department of Homeland Security consider family unity and humanitarian considerations in deciding whether to prosecute or repatriate a border crosser, derived from Women’s Refugee Commission’s findings on our recent research visits to the US-Mexico border. This provision was highlighted in an editorial published in the New York Times on Sunday, May 12, 2013.

    Read more about the MRJ team’s work here.

    Seeing the child before the disability

    Emma Pearce, senior program officer, disability program, participated in a UNICEF panel discussion in New York City in early June, marking the international launch of the 2013 State of the World’s Children Report.

    Published annually, the State of the World’s Children Report explores a key issue affecting children globally, and makes recommendations on how governments and civil society organizations can shape programs and policies to better meet their needs.

    This year’s report focuses on children with disabilities and “examines the barriers – from inaccessible buildings to dismissive attitudes, from invisibility in official statistics to vicious discrimination – that deprive children with disabilities of their rights and keep them from participating fully in society.” Panelists included government officials, activists and NGO representatives from around the world, who touched on many of the obstacles outlined in the report, offering their own expertise and analysis.

    Speaking on the needs and rights of children with disabilities, Pearce stressed that  “children with disabilities need positive role models – they have to believe they can do anything.” She also emphasized the importance of carefully listening to children and youth with disabilities when designing and evaluating humanitarian programs, noting that “[we] need to talk to persons with disabilities to find out if services being provided actually work.”

    For more information on our work with disabilities, click here.

    World Refugee Day: Light a Candle, Light a Life

    To celebrate World Refugee Day, The Women’s Refugee Commission is partnering with Prosperity Candle, an inspiring Massachusetts-based candle company that empowers refugee women to escape poverty and truly thrive. During the month of June, 5% of online sales will be given to support the Women’s Refugee Commission.

    World Refugee Day, celebrated each year on June 20thwas established by the United Nations to ‘honor the courage, strength and determination of women, men and children who are forced to flee their homes under threat of persecution, conflict and violence.’

    Prosperity Candle trains former refugees living in western Massachusetts in the art of candle making, and helps them establish themselves as entrepreneurs. The organization believes that ‘investing in women as business leaders creates the foundation for a peaceful and prosperous society’.

    Learn more about Prosperity Candle and shop their beautiful collection of handmade candles!