Failing Displaced Women and Girls

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A Burundian woman carries firewood in Nyarugusu camp in Tanzania. Photo by Luca Sola

A Burundian woman carries firewood in Nyarugusu camp in Tanzania. Photo by Luca Sola

“Women and girls are always disproportionately affected in times of conflict, so the prevention of and response to GBV should be central to any humanitarian response.” – Refugees International
Yet it rarely is.

The current political crisis in Burundi is pushing people out of their homes, across the border into camps in Tanzania. A report released by Refugees International reveals a sad example of how this knowledge of the necessity of prevention goes unheeded. According to the report, as of Fall 2015, hundreds of women and girls who survived the dangerous journey to find safety as a refugee, were then subjected to sexual violence inside Nyarugusu camp in Tanzania. The numbers have certainly continued to grow.

The fact is that refugee camps are often set up with little regard for women’s safety. In Nyarugusu camp in Tanzania, as elsewhere, women must gather firewood in order to cook food. Women staying in Nyarugusu had to venture, alone sometimes, outside of the camp’s perimeter, where they can be and were followed and attacked. Latrines were not lighted and they did not lock from inside, making them traps at night. And the mass shelters where new arrivals were often placed to stay for several nights before they received tents had no privacy nor protection. These and other issues are outlined in the report.

Apparently some changes have been made recently in the camp to help prevent some violence against women. But the real shame is that international agencies responsible for these camps know what measures they ought to take from the beginning to help prevent sexual violence; there have been studies on this and standards issued (like this one). But institutional knowledge doesn’t always result in action.

  #tomorrowneedsher #womenshealth Because Tomorrow Needs Her focuses on some of the impediments to women’s health, exposing injustices that disproportionately affect women and girls around the world.