Thursday, March 8, 2012

International Women's Day 2012 - Part TWO

International Women's Day is a day to celebrate the achievements of women the world over and acknowledge how far we have come. For Australia for UNHCR, however, it is also a day to recognise particular needs of displaced women and how they contribute to refugee communities. Australia for UNHCR supports International Women's Day and, as such, is working to highlight the difficulties faced by these women, along with their strength and resilience.

In countries all over the globe, in places such Afghanistan, Nepal and also Aminata’s home country of Sierre Leone (see part ONE), UNHCR has developed a series of special programs to ensure women have equal access to protection, basic goods and services as they attempt to rebuild their lives. Special attention is given to forcibly displaced women who may face risks because of their specific circumstances. This includes pregnant and lactating women, older women, women with disabilities and female heads of households.

Each year, UNHCR takes part in a global campaign run between International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on November 25 and International Human Rights Day on December 10. It symbolically links violence against women and human rights. This campaign is an opportunity for UNHCR to highlight their commitment to improving the rights of women all over the world, emphasizing that this form of violence is a violation of human rights.

In 2010, I joined the march in Nakivale refugee settlement in Uganda marking the first day of the campaign. Nakivale is home to over 50,000 refugees many of whom have suffered appalling violence in their homeland of the Congo.

Together with the men, women and children of Nakivale, I walked the 7 km through the settlement. It was an amazing day of solidarity and celebration with many hundreds of refugees, aid workers and locals walking through the settlement calling for the end of violence against women. The day was capped by an exuberant concert with rappers from Congo, drummers from Burundi and Rwandan singers entertaining the crowd - to view our photo gallery of the march, click here.

Australia for UNHCR/T.Mukoya/2010
For me, however, the most poignant image was of a young Rwandan refugee, his arms amputated to the forearms by the infamous Interhamwer, marching alongside a woman from Congo whose hand clasped his raised stump. When I asked him why he was marching he replied that it was important that men, women and children come together to support the right for women to be safe.

Today on International Women's Day I am asking you to celebrate the lives of women like Aminata and the many men, women and children who despite their own adversity find the strength to stand up for the rights and dignity of women everywhere.

Today we are asking you to "Donate your Status" on your facebook page to show your support for refugee women. Do this, by visiting our website and sharing our page with your friends. To find out more about UNHCR’s work, please visit our website:

Best wishes,
Naomi Steer


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