International Women's Day: UNHCR welcomes progress in gender equality and empowerment of refugeee women

UNHCR chief also notes action taken to address sexual and gender-based violence, including development and implementation of country-specific SGBV strategies in 15 states.

  • Karenni refugees from Myanmar in Ban Mae Nai Soi camp, Thailand.
    Karenni refugees from Myanmar in Ban Mae Nai Soi camp, Thailand. © UNHCR/R.Arnold
  • A young displaced Congolese woman cooks dinner in a camp in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Displacement has become a way of life for many in the region, and displaced women are at great risk of abuse, including rape.
    A young displaced Congolese woman cooks dinner in a camp in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Displacement has become a way of life for many in the region, and displaced women are at great risk of abuse, including rape. © UNHCR/M.Sibiloni
  • After fleeing massacres in her village in northern Colombia, Doris founded The League of Displaced Women to denounce human rights abuses and support women's rights.  Doris, who now lives in Bogota, has received death threats ever since starting the group. Her family has suffered too – her younger son was killed in 2009 when he returned to their village to check on the family house. Doris continues the struggle in the hope that her grandchildren will live in a peaceful Colombia.
    After fleeing massacres in her village in northern Colombia, Doris founded The League of Displaced Women to denounce human rights abuses and support women's rights. Doris, who now lives in Bogota, has received death threats ever since starting the group. Her family has suffered too – her younger son was killed in 2009 when he returned to their village to check on the family house. Doris continues the struggle in the hope that her grandchildren will live in a peaceful Colombia. © UNHCR/B.Heger
  • Rukayah, 12, loves her new classroom in Peshawar, capital of north-west Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which has hosted hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees over three decades. UNHCR is providing badly needed financial support for the improvement of schools in refugee-hosting regions, which will provide education for girls and boys.
    Rukayah, 12, loves her new classroom in Peshawar, capital of north-west Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which has hosted hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees over three decades. UNHCR is providing badly needed financial support for the improvement of schools in refugee-hosting regions, which will provide education for girls and boys.  © UNHCR/D.A.Khan
  • Fourteen-year-old Malian refugee Aminata takes care of her two-month old daughter Aichatou. She walked from northern Mali to Damba refugee camp in Burkina Faso with her daughter and mother. Aminata's husband is a migrant labourer in Côte d'Ivoire.
    Fourteen-year-old Malian refugee Aminata takes care of her two-month old daughter Aichatou. She walked from northern Mali to Damba refugee camp in Burkina Faso with her daughter and mother. Aminata's husband is a migrant labourer in Côte d'Ivoire.  © UNHCR/H.Caux
  • Colourfully dressed refugees from Sudan's Darfur region collect and chop firewood at a distribution point in eastern Chad's Treguine camp. Their situation has become a protracted one.
    Colourfully dressed refugees from Sudan's Darfur region collect and chop firewood at a distribution point in eastern Chad's Treguine camp. Their situation has become a protracted one.  © UNHCR/F.Noy
  • This young girl lives in a village inhabited only by displaced women and their children near the Colombian city of Cartagena. Forcibly displaced women face many challenges and threats.
    This young girl lives in a village inhabited only by displaced women and their children near the Colombian city of Cartagena. Forcibly displaced women face many challenges and threats.  © UNHCR/B.Heger
  • A young Syrian refugee holds her baby brother in front of their tent in Domiz refugee camp, northern Iraq.
    A young Syrian refugee holds her baby brother in front of their tent in Domiz refugee camp, northern Iraq.  © UNHCR/B.Sokol
  • Sudanese refugee Dawa Musa, aged 80, at a transit centre in Maban County, South Sudan. Dawa's son carried her during the 15 day trek from their home village in Sudan's Blue Nile state to a camp in South Sudan.
    Sudanese refugee Dawa Musa, aged 80, at a transit centre in Maban County, South Sudan. Dawa's son carried her during the 15 day trek from their home village in Sudan's Blue Nile state to a camp in South Sudan.  © UNHCR/B.Sokol
  • Somali refugee, Dahira, 11, carries her severely malnourished baby brother, Mahad, on her back in Dagahaley, one of the camps in Dadaab, north-east Kenya. The family made their way to Dadaab, the world's largest refugee camp complex, to escape drought and war in Somalia's Bay region. Mahad was admitted to a camp hospital on the day this picture was taken.
    Somali refugee, Dahira, 11, carries her severely malnourished baby brother, Mahad, on her back in Dagahaley, one of the camps in Dadaab, north-east Kenya. The family made their way to Dadaab, the world's largest refugee camp complex, to escape drought and war in Somalia's Bay region. Mahad was admitted to a camp hospital on the day this picture was taken.  © UNHCR/B.Bannon
  • A young Sudanese refugee student on her way back to her family's simple shelter after attending classes at a madrassa (Islamic school) in Djabal camp, eastern Chad. She carries an alluha, a small wooden board on which she writes her lessons.
    A young Sudanese refugee student on her way back to her family's simple shelter after attending classes at a madrassa (Islamic school) in Djabal camp, eastern Chad. She carries an alluha, a small wooden board on which she writes her lessons.  © UNHCR/F.Noy
  • These indigenous Tule women in Colombia's Choco region prepare cotton to be used in making traditional clothes and material. They have only recently been able to return to their land, but damage to the environment and the presence of armed groups makes their future uncertain. The land and their connection to it is very important in Tule culture.
    These indigenous Tule women in Colombia's Choco region prepare cotton to be used in making traditional clothes and material. They have only recently been able to return to their land, but damage to the environment and the presence of armed groups makes their future uncertain. The land and their connection to it is very important in Tule culture.  © UNHCR/B.Heger
  • An elderly Karenni refugee from Myanmar at Ban Mai Naisoi Temporary Shelter in Thailand.
    An elderly Karenni refugee from Myanmar at Ban Mai Naisoi Temporary Shelter in Thailand.  © UNHCR/R.Arnold
  • A young refugee girl carries water in Chad's Nya-Pendé province.
    A young refugee girl carries water in Chad's Nya-Pendé province. © UNHCR/A.Duclos
  • This girl, who has been displaced within Syria, happily holds a school bag she has been given in Hassakeh. About half of the 1 million Syrians who have fled their country over the past two years are children, including 236,000 girls.
    This girl, who has been displaced within Syria, happily holds a school bag she has been given in Hassakeh. About half of the 1 million Syrians who have fled their country over the past two years are children, including 236,000 girls.  © UNHCR/B.Diab
  • An internally displaced mother plays with her two young children in an empty classroom in Mugunga III camp in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. As soon as her family is allocated a plot of land, her husband will build a shelter.
    An internally displaced mother plays with her two young children in an empty classroom in Mugunga III camp in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. As soon as her family is allocated a plot of land, her husband will build a shelter.  © UNHCR/F.Noy

A young displaced Congolese woman cooks dinner in a camp in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Displacement has become a way of life for many in the region, and displaced women are at great risk of abuse, including rape.  © UNHCR/M.Sibiloni

GENEVA, March 8 (UNHCR) - UNHCR chief António Guterres on Friday welcomed advances made by the refugee agency and its staff in pursuit of gender equality and the empowerment of women but stressed that more needed to be done.

"Let us not forget that most people of our concern live far from a world in which women, girls, men and boys are treated equally and without discrimination," Guterres said in his annual message on International Women's Day. "Our efforts must continue in order to make progress in this regard, one step at a time," he added.

Noting the theme of this year's commemoration, "A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women," the High Commissioner recalled that he had pledged at a ministerial meeting in Geneva in 2011 to strengthen UNHCR's commitment to address sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).

"All of us together have been working hard to realize this promise. Country-specific SGBV strategies are currently being developed and implemented in 15 countries. Operations around the world have been carrying out new or expanded projects on SGBV prevention and response, sanitary materials and female genital mutilation," he said.

He added that UNHCR was also developing internal capacity, improving data collection and analysis and strengthening its monitoring and evaluation of SGBV programmes. "We are enhancing the way UNHCR and its partners prevent and respond to SGBV in ongoing emergencies, by establishing coordination mechanisms and reinforcing capacity in the field. With the widespread use of sexual violence as a weapon of war in conflicts all around the globe, these efforts are absolutely crucial to the realization of our protection mandate."

Guterres stressed that the promotion of gender equality was an integral component of UNHCR's age, gender and diversity approach, "and should inform everything we do. In particular, we must strengthen our commitment to ensuring that women and girls are active participants in decision-making, and promote their empowerment through their communities."

He said UNHCR's Division of International Protection had been collecting good practices from operations around the world on promoting gender equality and women's empowerment, to build momentum within the refugee agency and inspire others.

The High Commissioner concluded that the "full realization of gender equality is a distant yet possible goal, and one towards which we must remain strongly committed. This is true also for our continued struggle to progress towards attaining gender parity among UNHCR staff."

Meanwhile, UNHCR staff and offices around the world were on Friday marking and celebrating International Women's Day, one of the most important dates in the year for the organization.