Refugee Women: Unpacking Gender-Based Violence — Event Report

Bárbara Romero, Co-founder, Global Independent Refugee Women Leaders (GIRWL)

Translated Versions:

The conference Refugee Women: Unpacking Gender-based Violence 2020 opened an online space — led by the Global Independent Refugee Women Leaders (GIRWL) and co-hosted by the World Refugee & Migration Council — where refugee women, through their intersectionality, could share their voices on how violence against women impacted their lives and the lives of thousands of refugee, migrant and displaced women around the globe.

Why did we hold this conference?

For GIRWL co-founders Najeeba Wazefadost, Anila Noor, Shaza Al Rihawi, Andrea Ayala and Bárbara Romero, this conference was fundamental for several reasons. It was developed to mark the closing of the 16 Days of Activism and to emphasize that the core work of GIRWL is focused on the human rights of migrant, refugee and forcibly displaced women and girls with an intersectional perspective. Secondly, there was a clear need to create a space for refugee women where they would be the main speakers and have the floor for themselves as the experts of their own journeys. This conference responded to that deserved protagonism. It also responded to the fact that gender-based violence has become in 2020 the pandemic within the pandemic and has impacted the lives of all women, young and elderly, indigenous, from rural or urban contexts, lesbian, bisexual, trans, intersex and queer; with and without disabilities. Finally, gender-based violence has also created another layer of impact on migrant, refugee and displaced women, which needed to be spoken about.

The conference was divided into three panels, each of them with three participants. Each panel was focused on the different forms of gender-based violence that refugee, migrant and forcibly displaced women face on their migration journeys, in camps, or refugee centers, and even in their day-to-day lives as recognized refugee women.

Recommendations from the Conference

  • Open up more channels of communication and new strategies to guarantee refugee women to use their own voices when sharing their needs, experiences and challenges.
  • Design, support and fund more bottom-up strategies developed by refugee women and girls, so they can represent themselves
  • Revise how the policies of refugee centres and camps is being develop, and work to orientate them with more agency for impacted individuals to guarantee their wellbeing, safety and respect, from a holistic perspective.
  • Create more spaces like this conference that embrace the diversity and intersectionalities of refugee women.
  • The programs that support survivors of gender-based violence need to be properly funded. There is also the need to allocate resources to initiatives led by the survivors themselves, to support other survivors, and to develop economic initiatives to ensure  refugee survivors the possibility to get back in control over their own lives. 
  • Develop more sensitive protocols, policies and laws regarding attention to refugee, migrant and displaced women and girls who are survivors of gender-based violence, and assure that there is accurate implementation and follow up.
  • Develop programs to guarantee that the police officers, medical and school staff, and those responsible for organizations, centres and camps are better prepared to receive, refer and attend to cases of refugee, migrant and displaced women and girl survivors of gender-based violence.

Read more about Global Independent Refugee Women Leaders (GIRWL)