Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
January 26, 2004
Refugee Women, FY 2003
The majority of refugees and displaced persons in the world today are women and children. From Afghanistan to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (D.R.C.), from Burma to Liberia, women have fled and continue to flee war and repression, often leaving behind fathers, husbands, sons, and brothers who are fighting; who are in jails; or who have perished. Refugee women are often single-handedly responsible for the survival of their children even when their own survival is at stake. Every day provides challenges: finding cooking fuel, carrying water -- often for miles -- obtaining sufficient food at distribution sites, and obtaining access to primary health care for themselves and their families. Refugee women are also exposed to violence at every stage in their flight. Sexual violence and exploitation are two of the most terrible dangers confronting refugee women and girls today.
The United States recognizes the dire and distinct needs of refugee women, but also the unique resources they bring to their families and communities. Through the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM), the U.S. Government has been a leader in supporting programs on their behalf. The policy goals that help to shape PRM’s emphasis on refugee women include several broad areas of concern such as protection, standards of care, education for girls, and the promotion of the participation of refugee women in camp management and food distribution. In addition, PRM has developed policies that address violence against women, sexual exploitation, trafficking in persons, empowerment and control in decision-making, and fostering gender awareness in political life.
Protection and Assistance
PRM has urged the broadest possible implementation of UNHCR’s Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women in international organizations, their implementing partners, and U.S.Government-funded agencies. PRM funded and participated in an assessment by the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children to evaluate UNHCR’s programs for the protection and care of refugee women http://www.womenscommission.org/pdf/unhcr.pdf. On May 8, 2003, UNHCR provided its response to that assessment and actions planned. These actions include the development of indicators to measure progress on the implementation of the High Commissioner’s five commitments to refugee women, including specific indicators to measure gender-based violence (GBV) prevention, and response, involvement of men in prevention and protection activities, significant training of UNHCR and partner staff on GBV, and a formal commitment of staff time to gender issues.
2003 was marked by considerable activity on issues affecting refugee women, including:
FY 2003 – PRM Programs and Funding
PRM’s objectives are to ensure that refugee women participate equitably in decision-making in all areas of refugee life and that protection and gender-sensitive approaches are applied at every stage of program development and implementation.
To achieve this, PRM works through a number of international and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). While almost all of the efforts funded by PRM benefit refugee women, since they and refugee children make up the vast majority of refugees, targeted assistance is still needed. Some examples include:
PRM also provided over $4 million for Special Initiatives for refugee women. Contributions included:
PRM continues to be active in promoting reproductive health care for refugees and displaced persons. PRM participates in the Inter-Agency Working Group (IAWG) on Refugee Reproductive Health, which has established guidelines and policies to meet the reproductive health needs of refugees. PRM works with USAID and other U.S. Government agencies to help people worldwide achieve healthy families of the size they desire by promoting voluntary, fully informed decision-making and methods that respect human rights and do not involve abortion. The Bureau is committed to promoting the rights of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, timing, and spacing of their children, as well as the prevention and spread of STIs, including HIV/AIDS; the reduction of infant and maternal mortality; the promotion of universal education and the narrowing of educational gaps between boys and girls; and the increased participation of males in reproductive health and child rearing.
In the coming year, PRM plans to focus its efforts on promoting the involvement of women and girls in camp management and food distribution activities, on continuing to lead efforts to prevent GBV and sexual exploitation, and on pushing for an increased focus on protection, especially through UNHCR including through filling UNHCR protection positions and following closely the development of the overhaul of the Senior Coordinator positions for Refugee Women and Refugee Children.
As has been stated in numerous discussions, the international community must fulfill its obligations to share responsibility for the protection of refugee women and children. Immediate and directed responses by the international community are key toward better protection of these groups. PRM intends to continue its strong commitment to refugee women and children.
For more information, please contact Nicole Gaertner at (202) 663-1481 or at email@example.com.