Intense fighting has forced more than 64,000 Congolese to flee the country in recent months.
Gender equality remains a distant goal for many women and girls around the world, particularly those who are forcibly displaced or stateless. Multiple forms of discrimination hamper their enjoyment of basic rights: sexual and gender-based violence persists in brutal forms, girls and women struggle to access education and livelihoods opportunities, and women's voices are often powerless to influence decisions that affect their lives. Displaced women often end up alone, or as single parents, battling to make ends meet. Girls who become separated or lose their families during conflict are especially vulnerable to abuse.
On International Women's Day, UNHCR reaffirms its commitment to fight for women's empowerment and gender equality. In all regions of the world we are working to support refugee women's participation and leadership in camp committees and community structures, so they can assume greater control over their lives. We have also intensified our efforts to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence, with a focus on emergencies, including by improving access to justice for survivors. Significantly, we are increasingly working with men and boys, in addition to women and girls, to bring an end to dangerous cycles of violence and promote gender equality.
These photographs pay tribute to forcibly displaced women and girls around the world. They include images of women and girls from some of today's major displacement crises, including Syria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali and Sudan.
After three years of relative peace, waves of combat erupted again in Democratic Republic of the Congo's North Kivu province in April 2012, causing major population displacement. Fighting in North Kivu's Rutshuru territory between government forces and rebel fighters from the M23 movement caused tens of thousands of Congolese civilians to seek shelter across the border in Uganda, mainly in the Kisoro district. Many joined UNHCR-organized convoys to the settlement of Rwamwanja, which was opened last April to deal with the influx. By the end of 2012, the settlement was hosting more than 30,000 refugees. Each refugee family is given a plot of land on which to construct a home and plant crops and encouraged to become self-sufficient. UNHCR wants to urgently improve infrastructure at the settlement and has appealed for supplementary funding.
This photo set follows one family at Rwamwanja, led by 52-year-old Harerimana. The family lived in the Rutshuru town of Bitwo but fled when it came under attack last June. Harerimana became separated from his family and spent five days on the road on his own before finding his relatives in the forest. After two weeks, they crossed into Uganda and reached Nyakabande Transit Centre. They then registered to be moved to Rwamwanja, where the extended family now lives on two plots of land.
Rwanda's Kiziba Camp was opened in December 1996, after the start of civil war in neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The facility was constructed to help cope with the influx of tens of thousands of Congolese refugees at that time. Some of the refugees have since returned to their homes in eastern DRC, but about 16,000 remain at the remote hilltop camp located in the Western province of Rwanda. Fresh violence last year in DRC's North Kivu province did not affect the camp because new arrivals were accommodated in the reopened Kigeme Camp in Rwanda's Southern province. Most of the refugees in Kiziba have said they do not want to return, but the prospects of local integration is limited by factors such as a lack of land and limited access to employment. In the meantime, people try to lead as normal a life as possible, learning new skills and running small businesses to help them become self-sufficient. For the youth, access to sports and education is very important to ensure that they do not become sidetracked by negative influences as well as to keep up their spirits and hopes for the future.