It is estimated that the current world refugee and migrant population amounts to nearly 260 million people, with women and girls representing nearly half of this number. UNFPA, in collaboration with the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), talked to more than 1500 young refugees and migrants in major transit cities like Beirut, Cairo, Nairobi and Tunis, to gather insight on the why they decided to leave their homes, what they hoped to achieve, what their lives look like on the move, and what kind of access they have to sexual and reproductive health services.
According to the article, ‘what becomes clear above all is that there’s no single story to tell about young people on the move. But for refugee and migrant women and girls, gender inequality is a common thread throughout these otherwise diverse realities, intersecting with the other vulnerabilities they face’.
The results show that gender inequality is widespread, making the already dangerous journey worse for young women and girls. Escaping violence is one of the reasons they decide to leave home, but almost half of the women and girls on the move experience abuse and violations of their rights. In most cases, lack of access to protection services, disrupted social networks, relying on smugglers, traveling alone with no access to sexual and reproductive health services makes women and girls on the move vulnerable, and in many instances put their lives in danger. Access to sexual and reproductive health services is especially important, but since it is largely missing, women and girls remain unprotected from infections, unwanted pregnancies, complications during pregnancy and childbirth, which, when otherwise non-deadly if treated in a timely manner, can become fatal. Their needs are, however, unaddressed. International agreements rarely mention sexual and reproductive health and rights, and if they do, implementation remains a significant challenge.
A portion of UNFPA’s work evolved around those issues: providing sexual and reproductive healthcare for women and girls, and better documentation of cases of migration to improve the systematic evidence on migration. A new data centre on forced displacement, which will open in 2019, and is led by UNHCR and the World Bank, represents one example of the continuous collaboration between UNFPA and DRCX on data collection. ‘Numbers do matter – they represent the people who matter, and the more mobile a person, the more likely they are to be uncounted’, said UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Natalia Kanem.
‘Making sure women and girls on the move are counted is indispensable to protecting their rights. And listening to their voices is a critical starting point. They speak of terrible traumas, more responsibility than a person should bear – but also great resourcefulness, hope, and lives transformed’, concludes the article.