September 20, 2016
Written by Lakshmi Puri
This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.
On 19 September 2016, Heads of State and Government will address the issues surrounding large movements of refugees and migrants and endorse a set of commitments and a global agenda for the future when they formally adopt the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants.
Ensuring gender equality, the empowerment of all women and girls and the realization of their human rights, must be a central driving force of the historic opportunity in addressing the largest movement of refugees and migrants since the Second World War.
Women make up approximately half of the 244 million international migrants and 21 million refugees worldwide. As both migrants and refugees, women have specific needs and vulnerabilities. They are often forced to move by root causes such as conflict, poverty and inequality, and face a series of challenges which include psychosocial stress and trauma, health complications, physical harm and risk of exploitation. They often become separated from their families, and refugee women and adolescent girls can find themselves unexpectedly as head of a household.
Displaced and migrant women and girls are commonly subject to multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination. On top of gender-based discrimination, they may be targeted on additional grounds such as race, disability or belonging to a minority group. This discrimination limits women’s access to basic services and to decision-making processes, affecting their interactions within their households or communities, in the labor market, as well as their mobility – within and outside their countries of origin. Their voice and participation is frequently constrained and the risk of sexual and gender-based violence, an ever-present reality for all women worldwide, significantly increases.