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Contextual reality of women refugees
Asylum seekers do flock to urban centres in Kenya when fleeing persecution or conflict in neighbouring countries. New York based Human Rights Watch (HRW) News from Africa 2003 and the Human Rights Watch, an international human rights watchdog, have observed that these refugees live a precarious existence, and frequently subjected to the abuse of their most basic rights.

The past few decades has seen Kenya become home to refugees who have fled from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Eritrea, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Somalia, and Sudan for years now. Many of these refugees live in Kenya’s urban areas, and it is estimated that over 60 000 refugees are found in Nairobi alone. It is true that some are in other Kenyan towns close to the border or where NGOs and organizations helping refugees are easily accessible.

Reports from a New York based Human rights organization shows that Refugees often face armed attacks or are subject to inter-ethnic tensions or discrimination, not to mention inadequate humanitarian assistance, medical care and educational opportunities in host countries.among the asylum seekers are women, girls and children. I am particularly going to share on the contextual reality of women refugees.

It is very heartbreaking for a woman to leave her home because of insecurity only to land in another hostile environment. There are untold stories of all forms of violence in refugee camps or host communities. In all these happenings, women refugees around the globe, like Kenyan women refugees experiences are horrendous. Being vulnerable, the women face threats from men from their communities at home living within the camps where they are temporarily sheltered, the men working with the organizations that enroll, and give food and non-food material support to refugees, and the security officers who are to protect these women. More often than not, women have been threatened to be beaten up, killed, raped, denied access to basic needs and have their valid documents taken from them, but avenues to share these are all closed up. And out of fear, the women are forced to part with money, give in to sexual harassment, or forced to move away from camps to more insecure places in urban areas. The New York based Human Rights Watch (HRW) …….report sadly says “In addition, refugees who have experienced violence and insecurity are unable to access UNHCR to report on their abuse, and when they do, UNHCR often does not adequately track complaints or intervene with local police. Even local human rights groups experience problems reaching UNHCR when they try to draw the agency's attention to these problems”, concludes the report. I find it necessary to speak on behalf of the women asylum seekers on the need to inform all world leaders to make relevant policies to ensure peace, so that the world can continually remain a better and safer place for women, and conducive for those running away from conflict areas, or war torn countries.

Proposals to world leaders for short and long term interventions

o Identify refugees who are at risk when they first register at the office, in direct contravention of its own policies on refugee women and children.
o Promote safe living arrangements for refugee children and their families, and where necessary, organize special accommodation for individuals at particular risk, such as unaccompanied young women, families headed by women, or abused children.
o offer protection, in situations where refugees lack host nation’s national identity cards hence face harassment and extortion of money
o offer medical care and trauma care and counseling to women and girls facing violence in camps and host communities
o address hostility among refugees to protect the vulnerable categories of people among them women, girl children and youth
o Integrate gender in humanitarian interventions so that workers on the ground are sensitized on violation of women and girl rights in refugee camps in the light of the rights of Refugees.
o Address all the violations following the laws of the land and international laws that protect the rights of refugees.
o Ensure accessibility of organizations that are mandated to take care of the rights and grievances of refugees in camps or a given state. These will expedite interventions aimed at addressing injustices in camps.
o Ensure reproductive health rights and services to all women and girls who have experienced any form of sexual violence in camps or urban areas in host states
o Ensure there are representatives or people with interests in promoting the humane treatment of women refugees in organizations mandated to take care of the interests of refugees, in host communities and refugee camps. These representatives will make it possible to channel communications of refugee grievances, and ensure access of services and rights
o Facilitation of formation of healthy groups that take care of the vulnerable people in refugee camps
o Sensitize host communities on co-existence and humane treatment of refugees
o Empowerment of all refugees to rebuilt their lives in host communities and back home whenever conflict ceases.

I want to call upon all governments, all women of good will, NGOs and human rights organizations in all war torn areas, conflict areas, host communities and refugee camps that we stand in solidarity with women facing any form of violence and that we influence all involved to be particularly sensitive to the cries of women. I am calling upon the organizations involved in the interventions at the camps to follow to the later the UN declarations in ensuring that refugees basic human rights are not violated.

Let us all, in our own unique ways say
No!!! to any form of violence
Against women and girls seeking asylum!

This story was written for World Pulse’s Ending Violence Against Women Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring an end to gender-based violence. The EVAW Campaign elicits powerful content from women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as vocal grassroots leaders, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
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Below are just a few of the stories women tell as experienced when displaced by war in homeland! Jesuit Refuge Service in Ethiopia has case stories that i share with you;

A young Somali mother waits for assistance at the JRS office in Addis Ababa. (Peter Balleis SJ/JRS)
Life was very tough because, while in Somalia, I lost two of my sons and was separated from my husband and another son who disappeared.
Addis Ababa, 17 September 2010 – My name is Fatuma and I am one of the thousands of refugees who had to flee Somalia due to the deadly security and humanitarian situation. Especially women and children are driven to neighbouring countries. I am one of them and I face a lot of challenges.

I am forty years old and I am from a village in Somalia called Badinelo. In early 2008 I fled to Ethiopia with my four daughters and seven sons.

I sought asylum at Jijiga camp, in eastern Ethiopia, and stayed there for four months. Life was very tough because, while in Somalia, I lost two of my sons and was separated from my husband and another son who disappeared.

When I came to Ethiopia I had little hope. One of my daughters had a heart attack. I also have a son with a mental problem and found it hard to cope with all these challenges at the beginning.
Addis Ababa, 24 October 2008 – Elizabeth*, a 24-year-old Congolese refugee, arrived in Ethiopia in 2004 after crossing the bushes and forests of Uganda and Kenya. She was forced to leave her homeland because of the civil war. Her father was killed by gunmen and she does not know exactly where her mother is.

Elizabeth has two sons. She doesn’t know the father of her first born because she conceived him after she was raped by soldiers during the civil war. It was after this experience that she decided to leave her homeland.

Now she is a single mother and has immense difficulties in managing life in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. But she has started learning English and her elder son, a child with special needs, attends a JRS-run day care centre.

A month ago she gave birth to her second son. During her pregnancy, the father abandoned her, leaving her all alone with a young child who suffered mental illness and epilepsy. She had turned to JRS for help explaining the challenges she was facing along with her pregnancy. “At that moment, I thought of aborting my baby”, she says, “but thanks to the maternity advice and counseling given by JRS, I managed to change my mind and give birth.”

Addis Ababa, 14 January 2009 – Nimo* is a 46-year-old Somali refugee woman who has lived with her disability for 15 years. She came to the JRS office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, carried on a stretcher by her own family members.

The morning she arrived was a busy day with Somali, Congolese and other refugees waiting for JRS to support them as usual. As soon as the family reached the office, they put her on the ground, and stared around with faces full of frustration, helplessness and despair.

We noticed that this was a case that needed special attention. All of her body parts were stretched horizontally as if she was prepared for a coffin. Her body posture seemed unnatural and bizarre.

Despite the immobility, which was common, she had retained the same position with no evidence of movement for hours, and as a consequence, she had developed pressure areas and bedsores in some parts of her body.

EK Chemorion

I am in awe of this information, feeling helpless to do anything. These people are the real heroes (or as Arunima would say she-roes) of the world. I just have to pray and listen and hope that God gives me some answers how I can help. You are doing a huge thing by writing so deeply and colorfully about these horrors. I beg you to continue telling these stories on a larger scale even so awareness becomes part of the entry to the possibility of change.

Ubuntu (I am who I am because of who we are together)


Wendy Stebbins
I AM ONE IN A MILLION Non-Profit Organization focused on helping street orphans and vulnerable children in Livingstone, Zambia Africa.

ddegarm's picture

Ending Violence Against Women

My heart aches reading these horrific stories of the plight of women refugees. You must keep telling your story E.K. It is often the only way in which women in the West will hear about your plight. Yes the UN and others produce many reports about the status of women around the world pay. They also report on the status of women facing genocide, violence, and fleeing conflict. The problem with these reports is that they don't really put a face on those numbers. Without that face it provide excuses for non-involvement. Every time I read about the need of protection, services, and human, social, economic and political rights I try to use your courage in reporting as a way to make it real to my university students. It very often inspires them to action as it does me. You are courageous and a she-ro by risking so much to get the word out. Bless you and keep moving forward. I will tell the human side of these tragedies to help make change as best we can.

“Women have a special capacity to lead us to a more peaceful world with compassion, affection and kindness. And there is no more important time for that than this moment.” - Dalai Lama

The soft side of me wants to embrace the victims of armed conflict and sexual abuse in Kenya and other countries. However, the iron side of me prods me to shout "ARISE, WOMEN! CARRY ON and GIVE HOPE TO THE WEAK AND HOPELESS. You are much stronger than you can imagine! You can withstand all odds and endure the hardest pains.Live for yourselves! Live for your children! Live to tell the truth!"

Since I am not as insightful and articulate as E.K. Chemorion, I will just stand by her proposed interventions to protect the rights and welfare of people in refugee camps. My prayer is for the UN, NGOs and governments which have accepted refugees to adopt her recommendations. I find no reason why they can't be implemented because they are clear, sensible, practical, and doable. Thank you very much, E.K.!

Ma. Lydia G. Callano
Iloilo, Philippines
+63 33 3158137 or 5138830

lydiagcallano's picture


I am grateful for people who are insightful and articulate like you, E.K. I pray that your proposed interventions will reach and be adopted by the UN, NGOs and governments which have accepted refugees. Your recommendations are clear, sensible, practical and doable. Thank you so much!

As for the victims of armed conflict and refugees, my heart goes out to you all. I may be unable to embrace and comfort you but you can be sure of my prayers. Shalom! (Peace be with you!)

Ma. Lydia G. Callano
Iloilo, Philippines
+63 33 3158137 or 5138830

Beverly Rose's picture

when will it stop?

Dearest E.K.,

First of all, thank you for having the courage to speak of these artrocities. You words are powerful and your ability to tell your story is tremendous. As an advocate for victims of domestic and sexual violence, I work with women and children who have experienced violence. Yet the women and children you speak of experience another level of horror by being refugees. They are perhaps the most vulnerable of all, being displaced and at the mercy of a variety of agencies, governments, NGOs, military and others.

The quote above by the Dalai Lama rings so true. It is women such as yourself, and others finding their voices through World Pulse and other supportive communites, that the world becomes aware of such insidious violence. I read an article which said that trauma and oppression cannot take root when we interrupt the isolation that surrounds it. You are interrupting that isolation.... we must all interrupt that isolation by spreading awareness and taking action.

Your proposed remedies are sensible and do-able. We must not let this fall on deaf ears. We cannot stop until every woman, child, and man is safe. Be well and safe. With prayers for peace and safety for all, Beverly

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