• Sexual & Reproductive Health

    Trump Reinstates Global Gag Rule

    In one of his first acts as President, Trump issued an executive order reinstating the Global Gag rule that bars U.S. assistance to foreign organizations that provide or promote access to abortions.

    Women’s Marches Flood Cities Worldwide on Trump’s First Day

    Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in cities across the U.S. and around the world on Saturday for massive protests a day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, a signal of discontent with America’s new leader that threatened to upstage his first days in office. The Women’s March on Washington, billed as a response to Trump’s surprise election victory, eclipsed Trump’s swearing-in as the most widely attended political event in the capital this weekend. It was mirrored by large rallies across the U.S. and in international capitals including Berlin, Paris and Ottawa.

    Reproductive Health Care in Crises Has Come a Long Way, Says Sandra Krause, But There’s More to Be Done

    There may be more women and girls at risk of maternal health complications in fragile and conflict-affected settings today, but attention to the issue is not new and the international community has made important strides over the last 20 years, says Sandra Krause, program director for reproductive health at Women’s Refugee Commission, in this week’s podcast.

    Women's Refugee Commission Leader to Speak in Sun Valley

    The executive director of the Women’s Refugee Commission will attend this year’s Family of Woman Film Festival. The 10th annual Family of Woman Film Festival is Feb. 27 through March 5 in Sun Valley. Sarah Costa will present the annual Bonni Curran Memorial Lecture for the Dignity and Health of Women at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 28 at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Ketchum. The public is invited to the free lecture, with a reception to follow.

    In 2014, the annual lecture was named in memory of Bonni Curran, a local philanthropist, deeply committed to working on behalf of women and children around the world.

    Displaced and Disrupted: Closing the Gaps in Maternal Health in Conflicts and Crises

    Where violent conflict displaces people and disrupts societies, maternal and child health suffers, and such instability is widespread today. According to the UN Refugee Agency, there are 65.3 million forcibly displaced people, 21.3 million refugees, and 10 million stateless people over the world. In addition, more than 65 million people who are not displaced are affected by conflict.

    The special need for quality maternal health services in fragile settings has been established by various protocols, including the International Conference on Population and Development Program of Action, adopted by 179 countries in 1994, and the concept of Minimum Initial Service Packages, advanced by the United Nations Population Fund and others.

    However, the conditions in fragile settings are changing, and too many mothers – especially adolescents – still lack access to quality care.

    NGOs Call for Better Protection for Female Refugees in Europe

    This year more than 170,000 people have risked their lives attempting to reach Europe from Turkey via Greece. Their journeys are perilous and they face uncertain futures when they reach Europe. But for women, the risks are amplified because of inadequate facilities at reception centers. Yet governments and humanitarian organizations are failing to meet their specific needs.

    “It is traumatic for women to stay in a variety of places and detention centers. It can be unsafe and they are unable to get access to protection and services,” Sarah Costa, executive director of the WRC, tells Equal Times.

    WRC, along with other women’s rights organizations, are pressuring the EU to change its approach. In June, the European Women’s Lobby (EWL) partnered with the WRC to launch #WomensVoices, a campaign to raise awareness of the situation facing the women and girls in Europe who are fleeing conflict. The aim is to influence decision-makers, through a series of recommendations, events, and members’ networking across Europe, to put violence against refugee women on the European political agenda.

    5 Ways Women's Issues Were Ignored in 2016

    2016, a year many predicted would end with a shattered glass ceiling and female president-elect, has not been great for women.

    The year, of course, undoubtedly had its high points: To name a few, 50+ companies have signed the White House Equal Pay Pledge, Samantha Bee emerged as a much-needed female voice in late-night television and President Barack Obama's administration finalized a rule prohibiting states from withholding federal funding from organizations that perform abortions. 

    But 2016 has also left many women feeling disenfranchised and vulnerable, and vital issues like equal pay, paid family leave, reproductive rights and equality for the LGBT community are even more at risk under the impending Donald Trump presidency.

    Though it's a tough list to narrow down, here are just five of the ways women's issues were ignored in 2016.

    Five Reasons Why Disability Matters in a Crisis

    As social and community structures break down during a crisis, protection threats build up. In these scenarios, people with disabilities are at a much higher risk of physical, emotional and sexual abuse, in part because they are often more isolated and have less access to protection services. Research from the Women’s Refugee Commission shows that women and girls with disabilities are particularly at risk of sexual and gender-based violence. However, they may not be able to access support for survivors due to difficulties in reaching services and communicating their needs, or for fear that their accounts will not be taken seriously.

    Here's What It's Really Like To Be A Refugee Mom — & Here's What You Can Do To Help

    Displacement due to conflict or natural disaster can often disrupt social systems and tear families apart, Jennifer Schlecht, Senior Program Officer of Reproductive Health Programs at the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC), told Romper.

    "When a mother chooses to carry her baby on a boat across the Mediterranean, to flee across dangerous terrain, or travel in a truck to cross the dessert, all to resettle in a camp or unfamiliar city, the desperation they must feel is undeniable," she said. "As a mother, there is not an ounce of me that can imagine the ache one must feel in your heart when making these risky choices."

    We Stand With Refugee Women and Girls

    At a time when violence has forced record numbers of people to flee their homes, the Women’s Refugee Commission urges the incoming Administration and Congress to maintain strong bipartisan support for life-saving humanitarian assistance and unwavering leadership on the protection of human rights, including the right to asylum.

    VIDEO: The Needs of Refugee Women and Children in the Global Humanitarian Crisis

    In this powerful talk, executive director Sarah Costa explains the work of the Women's Refugee Commission, and discusses the current crisis. The numbers are staggering: one in 122 people across the world have been forced to flee, and the majority are women and children. The average length of displacement is 20 years. What can be done to help?

    WRC Signs Joint Statement on Women and Girls Ahead of UNGA Refugee Summit

    The Women's Refugee Commission is among the 42 grassroots women-led civil society organisations, human rights and humanitarian agencies, that has signed a joint statement which outlines recommendations for commitments by states attending the upcoming Global Refugee and Migrant Summits, to ensure the protection and safety of refugee women and girls.

    Media Advisory: WRC at 71st UN General Assembly Events

    As world leaders gather at the United Nations for the first high-level summit on Refugess and migrants, the Women’s refugee commission asserts that all responses to refugees and migrants must protect the rights and improve the lives of women, children, and youth.

     

    WHAT: New York, NY - On Monday, September 19, 2016, the 71st UN General Assembly will convene Heads of State and leaders from government, civil society, and the private sector at the first high-level summit focused on addressing large movements of refugees and migrants. This landmark meeting aims to bring countries together behind a more humane and coordinated approach. 

    WHEN: Friday, September 16th through Tuesday, September 20th. WRC will support the following events listed below:

    The Quiet Crisis of Europe’s Pregnant Refugees

    "Researchers at the Women's Refugee Commission found that women often left hospitals less than 24 hours after giving birth, some having had a Caesarean section."

    Refugee Women Are Carrying More Than An Uncertain Future

    “If we don’t provide safety, we’re throwing women and girls into the hands of smugglers," said Sarah Costa, Executive Director

    How We Are Failing Women and Girls in Humanitarian Emergencies

    Safe abortion care is a blind spot in humanitarian responses and is severely lacking, says Sandra Krause of the Women's Refugee Commission. 

    In Today’s Refugees I Am Finding My Mother’s Memories

    "We heard cases of pregnant women about to deliver who declined medical attention so they could keep moving. In some instances, it was the husbands who pressured their wives against seeking medical help," says Jurate Kazikas, a board member of the Women's Refugee Commission. 

    Intersecting Sexual and Reproductive Health and Disability in Humanitarian Settings: Risks, Needs, and Capacities of Refugees with Disabilities in Kenya, Nepal, and Uganda

    Persons with disabilities have historically been deprived of their sexual and reproductive health (SRH) rights. Little is known, however, about the situation for women, men, and adolescents with disabilities in humanitarian settings. The Women’s Refugee Commission led a participatory research project with partners to explore the risks, needs, and barriers for refugees with disabilities to access SRH services, and the practical ways in which these challenges could be addressed.

    Findings showed that refugees with disabilities demonstrated varying degrees of awareness around SRH, especially regarding the reproductive anatomy, family planning, and sexually transmitted infections. Among barriers to accessing services, lack of respect by providers was reported as the most hurtful. Pregnant women with disabilities were often discriminated against by providers and scolded by caregivers for becoming pregnant and bearing children; marital status was a large factor that determined if a pregnancy was accepted. Risks of sexual violence prevailed across sites, especially for persons with intellectual impairments. The ability of women with disabilities to exercise their SRH rights was mixed. Refugees with disabilities showed a mixed understanding of their own rights in relationships and in the pursuit of opportunities.

    Findings speak to the need to realize the SRH rights of refugees with disabilities and build their longer-term SRH capacities.

    Read the full article in Sexuality & Disability.

    Working towards better health in humanitarian crises

    World Humanitarian Day (August 19) "should also be a day to remember the populations living in crises. A Global Evaluation launched last week by the Inter-Agency Working Group (IAWG) on Reproductive Health in Crises, found that only 43% of the funds requested for reproductive health to served displaced communities had been filled. (IAWG is a group of 18 international organisations including the Women's Refugee Commission.) 

    Women lack access to safe abortions in humanitarian crises

    Efforts to provide safe abortions in countries hit by conflict or disasters are being held back by a lack of information and funding.