This year’s International Women’s Day comes on the heels of a powerful global movement for women’s rights, equality and justice.
Its theme – “Time is Now” – comes at the right moment. And it also echoes UNHCR’s firm commitment to uphold the rights of women and girls, and to ensure that our work to secure protection and solutions for displaced and stateless people takes full account of age, gender and diversity.
Our aim is to build on the rich experience, capacities and aspirations of women and girls, and to help them realise their full potential – through better access to education, decent work, and legal and health services.
We at UNHCR do very concrete work to advance these goals. In Lebanon, women represent over 50 percent of our outreach volunteers. In the Central African Republic, three centres are now helping displaced women to improve their literacy skills, address sexual and gender-based violence, and earn a living for themselves and their families. And in Malaysia, sustained investments in leadership, communication, and gender equality training, have boosted the number of refugee women taking part in community decision-making by 43%.
There, and in the rest of our operations across the world, UNHCR is taking action.
We believe that we have a profound responsibility to make sure that the distinct voices of women and girls are heard and reflected at every step, and in all aspects of our work.
We have taken our long-standing commitments on Age, Gender and Diversity, and deepened and updated them in a new policy, to reflect the lessons we have learned and to make sure that we are fully accountable to women, girls and all those whom we serve. We will invest in better monitoring, so that we can mark our progress in pursuing gender equality in our operations – and towards reaching planet 50/50 by 2030.
International Women’s Day is also the right moment to redouble our commitment to stamping out sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment. These are inexcusable. We at UNHCR, have been at the forefront of this fight and will continue to be. There is no place in our organization for those who do not share and respect our core values. I urge victims to speak out and stand for their rights. And I appeal to anyone who has witnessed sexual misconduct in the context of UNHCR operations to come forward and report it. We will continue to step up our support for victims and will strive to improve even further the ways in which we prevent, report and deal with cases of sexual misconduct.
Societies that benefit from the full potential of women and men alike, and where the rights of displaced women and girls are fully upheld, are not just a distant aspiration.
It is up to all of us to make them a reality, now.