Jump to content

Human Rights for Refugee Women and Girls

refugeegender2015 December 10th marks both Human Rights day and the end of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence Campaign. In this update we look at the intersection of these issues in relation to displaced people and refugee crises.

What are the rights of the millions of people displaced as a result of crises, specifically, women and girls, who are not only vulnerable to increased risks of gender-based violence, but are central to galvanising resilience and hope in extremely difficult contexts? This update provides a collection of resources addressing these issues – we also build on the special issue update we created at the start of the 16 Days. Throughout the campaign, we shared a range of new resources on gender-based violence, education and militarism through this Storify.

The United Nations has recognised Syria as the biggest humanitarian crisis today. Over 12 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian aid, while the crisis has displaced 7.6 million people and caused 3.9 million to flee to neighbouring countries. In emergencies, such as in conflict, the risk of violence is heightened for women and girls, who face increased sexual, physical and psychological abuse. This publication by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) provides an overview of the worsening humanitarian crises, highlighting key facts and figures on Syrian women and girls. Sexual and gender-based violence is also seen among Syrian refugees who have fled to other countries, among them, Lebanon and Jordan. Yet, such issues are also prevalent among displaced women in other conflict contexts, such as in Colombia, Sierra Leone, and those living in the Gaza strip.

Amidst such hardships, there are also stories of hope and resilience. This collection of stories and images provide a powerful account of how Syrian women and girls are breaking the silence and overcoming the challenges of their situation. Similarly, this short film tells the story of a young Syrian woman who is a passionate advocate for the education of girls and young women in Jordan’s refugee camps.

Further, steps are being taken to scale up efforts to promote the safety and well-being of women and girls in emergencies. For example, UNFPA provides a set of minimum standards for the prevention and response to gender based violence in emergencies, while Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) considers the synergies and contradictions related to gender and women in several multilateral treaties in this paper.

This year’s Human Rights Day sees the launch of a year-long campaign to mark the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Along with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, they set out the civil, political, cultural, economic and social rights that all human beings are entitled to. In this context, this blog post by Jenny Birchall from BRIDGE, Institute of Development Studies, draws attention to the rights of refugee children, including girls, and highlights the crucial need to invest in peace and human rights.

Photo Credit: Freedom House
Photo source

This update was created by Madhushala Senaratne and Elaine Mercer.

Women and girls in the Syria crisis: UNFPA response, facts and figures
United Nations Population Fund 2015
For the United Nations, Syria is the biggest humanitarian crisis today. Among the affected population in Syria and refugees in the region, four million women and girls of reproductive age need special attention. This includes nearly h...
Dimensions of gender-based violence against Syrian refugees in Lebanon
Anani G. / Forced Migration Review 2013
In times of conflict everyone is affected by violence; however, women and girls in particular are more at risk of facing different forms of violence including sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) due to the lack of social protectio...
Gender-based violence in conflict and displacement: qualitative findings from displaced women in Colombia
A.L. Wirtz / Conflict and health 2014
Gender-based violence (GBV) is prevalent among, though not specific to, conflict affected populations and related to multifarious levels of vulnerability of conflict and displacement. Colombia has been marked with decades of conflict,...
Breaking the silence: hope for a new life
United Nations Population Fund 2015
More than four years of war have ravaged Syrian families and communities, Syrian women and girls are living through the most damaging conflict in the region’s recent history. Female refugees are sometimes subjecte...
The Malala of Syria
J. Chen / United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees 2015
This short film (3 mins) tells the story of Muzon a young Syrian woman who is a passionate advocate for the education of girls and young women in Jordan’s refugee camps. Education has always played a big part in Muzon’s li...
‘They call me warrior’: the legacy of conflict and the struggle to end sexual and gender-based violence in Sierra Leone
E. Mills; Z. Nesbitt-Ahmed; J. Diggins; T.D. Mackieu / Institute of Development Studies UK 2015
Sierra Leone has been the focus of considerable public and policy attention because of the recent Ebola epidemic and, before that, the decade-long civil war, with multiple forms of violence permeating people’s lives. This...
Women, weapons, and war: a gendered critique of multilateral instruments
This paper considers synergies and contradictions related to gender and women in the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), the UN Programme of Action on trade in small arms and light weapons (UNPoA), a number of UN Security Council, UN Human Right...
Gender-based violence and child protection among Syrian refugees in Jordan, with a focus on early marriage
UN Women 2013
This assessment was conducted from December 2013 to March 2013 to obtain a more comprehensive understanding of the risks that Syrian refugee families – especially women and girls – face in Jordan, and to provide a deeper u...
Violence against women in the Gaza strip: After the Isreali Military Operation Protective Edge 2014
C. Muller; B. Barhoum / ActionAid International 2015
Following the Israeli military Operation Protective Edge in summer 2014, this reports presents the findings of a study initiated by ActionAid and Alianza por la Solidaridad (Alianza) on violence against women (VAW) in the Gaza Strip, ...
Minimum Standards for Prevention and Response to Gender-based Violence in Emergencies
United Nations Population Fund 2015
Gender based violence is a life-threatening, global health and human rights issue that violates international human rights law and principles of gender equality. In emergencies, such as conflict or natural disasters, the risk of viole...
Freedom from Violence for Refugee Women
Women's Refugee Commission 2015
This short film (1.30 mins) gives an emotive perspective on the hardships faced by refugee women and girls, where violence ag doesn't end when they stop running from the conflict. In displaced settings and refugee camps women and girl...



Gender KIG
This introductory guide examines the linkages between gender and climate change made in policy and action on climate change. It introduces the ongoing debates and key resources, especially with regard to i) climate change impacts and responses, ii) climate policy and finance and iii) women’s leadership and empowerment – a key element of bringing gender equality into the global response to climate change.