A Call to Better Protect Women and Girls: Visibility, Dignity and Livelihoods
UNHCR is preparing to celebrate its 60th anniversary this year. It is only fitting for an organization that aims to assist the most vulnerable in its work to call for action to better protect women and girls. I have copied below a portion of its effort to move forward the role of women in the world today
UNHCR, Women and Girls: More than Just a Commitment
Since 1985, when UNHCR’s Executive Committee first adopted Conclusion 39 on Refugee Women and International Protection, UNHCR has made the protection of women and girls of concern a core activity and an organizational priority.
In order to guide the organization, UNHCR issued a Policy on Refugee Women in 1990 and Guidelines to accompany it in 1991. Throughout the 1990s, UNHCR supported programmes that enabled women and girls to play pivotal roles in post-conflict reconstruction under the rubric of a series of "Women's Initiatives" in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Rwanda and Kosovo. These activities were aimed at integrating women into socio-economic reconstruction and livelihood processes. They also laid the ground for UNHCR’s engagement with, and promotion of, women and girls’ participation in local governance structures and community-conflict resolution in post-conflict contexts. Further, these initiatives demonstrated the integral role that livelihood schemes play in women’s and girls’ empowerment. Building on this,
UNHCR launched the Women Leading for Livelihoods (WLL) programme in 2008 to encourage women business leaders to donate and invest in economic self-reliance activities for refugee and displaced women and girls. WLL has shown that access to livelihoods empowers women and allows them to have a stronger voice in their communities, including in peacebuilding activities.
In 2001, following consultations with more than 500 refugee women, the High Commissioner declared "Five Commitments to Refugee Women", which established focus areas for UNHCR's work with refugee women and girls. Under these Five Commitments, UNHCR committed to:
! encourage the active participation of women in all refugee committees in urban, rural and camp settings and in return areas (with the goal of 50% representation of women);
! register all refugee women and men individually (thereby ensuring that both men and women are provided with the necessary documentation so each refugee can enjoy security, freedom of movement and access to essential
! develop integrated strategies to combat Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) in each country;
! ensure that refugee women participate in the management and distribution of food and non-food items; and
! provide sanitary materials to all women and girls of concern.