Women in need of international protection
This background paper was prepared for the Caritas Internationalis conference on "The female face of migration", held in Saly, Senegal in December 2010. It addresses displacement,and the need to integrate women’s issues in all stages of programme planning, women-oriented policies, needs assessments and data collection, and more creative needs-based programmes for women.
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This background paper addresses displacement. Millions of people are currently forced to flee their homes as result of conflicts, systematic discrimination and other forms of persecution, or because of the threat of poverty. Not every displaced person is per se a refugee. Refugee protection in international law relies on the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of the Refugee (“Refugee Convention”) and its 1967 Protocol, and recognises the status of a person and the rights deriving from that status.
The broader term protection encompasses many aspects of a refugee’s life, from physical safety to legal rights. A key condition of effective protection is access to the assistance needed to survive within a refugee’s or displaced person’s context. Improving protection and assistance programmes for refugee and displaced women is an important first step in helping them resume their normal lives. Concrete steps towards increasing women’s participation in the decision-making process, health and nutrition programmes, psychological services, and educational and training programmes are needed. Finding durable solutions, such as voluntary repatriation, local integration, or resettlement to a third country for refugee women, is a major challenge for the international community.
UNHCR ’s Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women have not always translated into concrete actions to improve protection. Recommendations, such as mechanisms to integrate women’s issues in all stages of programme planning, women-oriented policies, needs assessments and data collection, and more creative needs-based programmes for women already offered a decade ago to close the gap between theory and reality, are still needed today. “The special needs and resources of refugee women are now well documented. The challenge for the future is to translate our improved understanding of their situation into concrete, effective programmes.”