Crises are lasting longer, solutions need long-term strategies to empower women and girl refugees
Right now, nearly 66 million people around the world are displaced from their homes due to conflict, persecution and natural disasters.
We need to break away from traditional response strategies that are no longer adequate to support the reality facing refugees today. The average length of displacement is now 17 years or more, which means that those affected will spend a significant portion of their lives as refugees. This must shift our understanding of requirements and solutions from those of peoples on the move, to those of non-movement.
We must therefore look beyond immediate assistance and offer viable long-term solutions that protect women’s and girls’ rights, provide opportunities for growth, engagement and gainful employment, and maintain their dignity throughout the displacement cycle. Women and girls must be able to be self-reliant and to build a future of their own choosing. This benefits the individual women themselves, as well as their families, communities and host countries.
The women and girls who make up approximately half of those currently displaced experience both discrimination and violence. With the breakdown of protection mechanisms and the destruction of essential services and economic structures, their already marginalised position deteriorates further when they lack access to and control of resources, and when there are no further viable coping strategies.
Many refugee response strategies still neglect the capacity of women and girls to contribute to the delivery of critical information, services and long-term solutions themselves, their families and their wider communities, despite wide recognition that crises impact women and men differently.
UN Women works with refugee populations across the globe to provide solutions. For example, in Bangladesh, UN Women has formed a Rohingya women’s group that now actively takes part in official camp management meetings and ensures the needs of women and girls are given due consideration. In Jordan, Syrian refugee women participate in cash for work initiatives that provide an opportunity for more permanent employment or starting up microbusinesses in camp settings. And in Cameroon, UN Women provides refugee women and girls with resources and skills training to develop small-scale income-generating activities.
Currently underway is a global compact on refugees to ensure that all refugee response programmes worldwide deliver on the comprehensive commitments on the rights and needs of women and girls made in the 2016 New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants.
On World Refugee Day, UN Women calls on the global community to ensure that the global compact on refugees provides the services, protection and resources that all refugees need, addressing the rights of all. Only by recognizing and promoting the contribution that women and girls can make to the refugee response, including through their leadership and equal participation, will we see delivery of more effective and durable solutions for all.