Today is International Women’s Day: a day to celebrate the achievements of women, but also a day to reflect on the realities of women’s lives.

Hay, Brecon and Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees would like to bring to everyone’s attention a reality which tends to be ignored by the media and decision-makers: women and girls (and some men and boys) fleeing conflicts and war face various forms of violence in their journey towards a hosting country, as well as multiple discrimination due to widespread prejudices about women refugees and asylum-seekers.

Some of the challenges faced by women and girls in these situations are similar in nature to those faced by women and girls in all societies, albeit influenced by displacement. Other challenges are specific and unique to their displaced status.

Refugee and internally displaced women and girls are less likely than men and boys to have access to some of the most fundamental human rights. For instance, they more often lack documentation, the means to travel and/or knowledge about their rights.

While no-one is spared sexual exploitation and exploitation, women and girls are particularly affected because of their status in society and their sex. Many women flee their country because of a pervasive situation of male violence against women.

Their vulnerability to rape and sexual assaults continues during flight from their homes, at border crossings and in refugee camps. Forced to resort to smugglers and to use perilous routes to reach safety, women and adolescent girls may also be forced to offer sex to border guards and others in return for permission to pass, and are at greater risk of being trafficked into prostitution and other forced labour1.

Due to the prevalent patriarchal structures, they rarely report those cases of violence to the authorities. They therefore don’t get access to any support and justice. They might also face unwanted pregnancies but without access to health care and choice about abortion.

Women refugees and asylum seekers will have trouble finding toilets and sanitary products in the countries they travel through or the countries they arrive to in Europe. In transit zones, some authorities set up showers, but with no hot water, no separation between women and men, and no support for babies’ hygiene2.

Hay Brecon Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees supports the calls of women’s organisations3 and UN agencies4 for national authorities in the UK and Europe to:

  • Ensure the protection of women and girls, through the provision of adequate and safe reception facilities and referral to appropriate services, such as psychosocial support;
  • Include refugee and asylum-seeking women in proposing solutions that best address their needs;
  • And ensure funding for essential services tailored to the specific needs of refugee and asylum-seeking women5.

HBTSR is currently identifying opportunities to support refugee and asylum-seeking women’s organisations in Swansea. If you’d like to make a donation or support the work of these groups please contact Richenda Leonard: [email protected]

Happy International Women’s Day! Dydd merched rhyngwladol hapus!

Footnotes

1. http://unstats.un.org/unsd/genderstatmanual/Print.aspx?Page=Refugees-and-internally-displaced-persons
2. http://www.womenlobby.org/Asylum-is-not-gender-neutral-the-refugee-crisis-in-Europe-from-a-feminist
3. European Women’s Lobby: http://www.womenlobby.org and Women’s Refugee Commission: https://www.womensrefugeecommission.org
4. http://www.unhcr.org/569f99ae60.html
5. For example: http://www.welshrefugeecouncil.org/news/24112015-1534/womens-asylum-project and http://sbrec.org.uk/whats-new/armani-project/