Caritas is highlighting the plight of three million women in long-term refugee crises on World Refugee Day, 20 June.
Women refugees are particularly vulnerable to human rights abuses in cases where they’ve been forced to leave their homes for long-standing periods. Caritas says the international community can do better in protecting them from violence.
“The international community must show the political will to ensure protection as guaranteed in international treaties,” said Martina Liebsch, Director of Policy for Caritas Internationalis.
There are over 10 million refugees in the world today. About two-thirds are caught in crises of 5 years or longer. Women make up 49 percent of the refugee population. They are frequently fleeing conflicts in places such as Colombia, Sudan, Iraq and Afghanistan. They often live in insecure places such as makeshift camps without protection.
“Women can become victims of violence in these camps,” said Martina Liebsch. “They are more vulnerable to attacks as they frequently have to leave the camps for basic supplies for their families, such as firewood and water.”
Caritas says that providing better security in camps is essential, as well as making it easier for women to report acts of violence and have access to judicial procedures.
“Supporting livelihood programmes for women is a key factor,” said Martina Liebsch. “By giving a woman the ability to provide for herself and her family in a secure environment, they will not be forced to take risks by going outside camp.”
Caritas has helped 12,000 people in Darfur in Sudan by running community centers that provide activities such as bread-making, rope making, and income generation from a grinding mill.
Caritas says that practical experience in refugee camps in Benin, West Africa, shows that providing leadership roles for women improves their security. It gives them a say in how camps are run and having voice raises their profile. Peace building activities between the refugee and host community can also reduce tensions.
“The best way to provide security is to resolve crises itself so refugee can return home,” said Martina Liebsch. “Alternatives are supporting integration within the host community or resettling into another country. Achieving those means supporting skills training so people can create new lives for themselves.”