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Harmony centre leads 16 Days of Activism campaign in Ghana camp

News Stories, 7 December 2006

© UNHCR/N.Jehu-Hoyah
Making World Aids Day red ribbons at the Harmony Community Centre.

BUDUBURAM, Ghana, December 7 (UNHCR) It's been a busy couple of weeks for the Harmony Community Centre, a haven for people with special needs in Ghana's sprawling Buduburam refugee settlement.

The centre has been heavily involved in events to support the international campaign, 16 Days of Activism to Eliminate Violence Against Women, and also held supported activities and distributed red ribbons to mark World Aids Day last Friday.

Harmony staff used drama and song to raise awareness about sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), a scourge that many of their audience were familiar with.

"I feel bad about SGBV because if you don't have legs to run, they [male abusers] can catch you. When you get pregnant, they don't want to marry you and can beat you to keep quiet," said Lorpu Flomo, a 33-year-old-Liberian refugee who has walked with a limp since she had a fall as a child.

Fatouma, a 22-year-old crippled by polio, is a victim. "At 13, I was raped by four men because I couldn't run away," she said, adding: "My daughter is the result." But she said she still counts herself lucky, "because I didn't catch AIDS.... AIDS doesn't know that you are different."

The young Liberian said she feels bad whenever she hears tales about violence against women. "I think the people [carrying out attacks on women] are mentally ill. In my condition someone can take advantage of me and I feel bad. That's why it is important to talk against it," she said.

Meanwhile, Liberian Refugees United Against HIV/AIDS organised a special parade on World Aids Day, inviting refugees, UNHCR staff and representatives of non-governmental organisations who help out in Buduburam, which is located about 35 kilometres from the Ghanaian capital, Accra, and hosts some 38,000 mostly Liberian refugees.

The 16 Days of Activism, which end on December 10, have been supported by UNHCR in events and programmes held around the world.

By Needa Jehu-Hoyah in Buduburam, Ghana




UNHCR country pages

How UNHCR Helps Women

By ensuring participation in decision-making and strengthening their self-reliance.

UNHCR's Dialogues with Refugee Women

Progress report on implementation of recommendations.


Women and girls can be especially vulnerable to abuse in mass displacement situations.


Advocacy is a key element in UNHCR activities to protect people of concern.

HIV and Reproductive Health

Treatment for HIV and access to comprehensive reproductive health services.

Women in Exile

In any displaced population, approximately 50 percent of the uprooted people are women and girls. Stripped of the protection of their homes, their government and sometimes their family structure, females are particularly vulnerable. They face the rigours of long journeys into exile, official harassment or indifference and frequent sexual abuse, even after reaching an apparent place of safety. Women must cope with these threats while being nurse, teacher, breadwinner and physical protector of their families. In the last few years, UNHCR has developed a series of special programmes to ensure women have equal access to protection, basic goods and services as they attempt to rebuild their lives.

On International Women's Day UNHCR highlights, through images from around the world, the difficulties faced by displaced women, along with their strength and resilience.

Women in Exile

Refugee Women

Women and girls make up about 50 percent of the world's refugee population, and they are clearly the most vulnerable. At the same time, it is the women who carry out the crucial tasks in refugee camps – caring for their children, participating in self-development projects, and keeping their uprooted families together.

To honour them and to draw attention to their plight, the High Commissioner for Refugees decided to dedicate World Refugee Day on June 20, 2002, to women refugees.

The photographs in this gallery show some of the many roles uprooted women play around the world. They vividly portray a wide range of emotions, from the determination of Macedonian mothers taking their children home from Kosovo and the hope of Sierra Leonean girls in a Guinean camp, to the tears of joy from two reunited sisters. Most importantly, they bring to life the tremendous human dignity and courage of women refugees even in the most difficult of circumstances.

Refugee Women

Statelessness and Women

Statelessness can arise when citizenship laws do not treat men and women equally. Statelessness bars people from rights that most people take for granted such as getting a job, buying a house, travelling, opening a bank account, getting an education, accessing health care. It can even lead to detention.

In some countries, nationality laws do not allow mothers to confer nationality to their children on an equal basis as fathers and this creates the risk that these children will be left stateless. In others, women cannot acquire, change or retain their nationality on an equal basis as men. More than 40 countries still discriminate against women with respect to these elements.

Fortunately, there is a growing trend for states to remedy gender discrimination in their nationality laws, as a result of developments in international human rights law and helped by vigorous advocacy from women's rights groups. The women and children depicted here have faced problems over nationality.

Statelessness and Women

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