June 20 is World Refugee Day designated by the UN General Assembly. This year is a critical juncture for the international refugee response as the second Global Refugee Forum approaches in December 2023 with the aim of announcing additional pledges, take stock on implementation and share learning from the 2019 Global Compact on Refugees. The latest information from mid-2022 estimates that over 100 million people are forced to flee war, violence, and insecurity worldwide. In most displacement contexts, women and girls make up around 50 percent or more of any refugee, internally displaced, or stateless population. They face unique challenges, including greater risks of gender-based violence and human trafficking, direct and indirect negligence by humanitarian responses, and barriers to access health, education, and psychosocial services in host communities due to discrimination. Moreover, the manifestations of these challenges vary greatly among women and girls displaced in different circumstances and with different age, social identities, and needs for protection. Adolescent refugee girls, for instance, face special needs and challenges for learning, social protection, sexual and reproductive health education, which are exacerbated when traveling alone.
Nonetheless, what the world should hear even more often are refugee women’s stories of resilience. In some of the most challenging contexts of displacement, resettlement, and post-conflict reconstruction, refugee women have served as unsubstitutable agents for peace, inclusive development, and hope. They have become advocates of women’s economic empowerment, journalists who expose injustice and abuse, and designers of powerful messaging that garner support for other refugees. In particular, adolescent refugees are redefining resilience by building social connectivity with host communities. More resources, political commitment, and inclusive policies are needed to capitalize on the agency power of refugee women and girls and to unlock their potential.
The Program on Refugees, Forced Displacement, and Humanitarian Responses (PRFDHR) at the MacMillan Center is an intellectual hub that facilitates research, teaching, and policy advocacy to catalyze innovative thinking and people-centered actions on forced displacement issues that are based on holistic understandings of the full refugee experience. In the past few years, PRFDHR has shed light on women’s unique and diverse experiences as refugees, displaced persons, and immigrants. We have invited scholars and activists to present interdisciplinary, evidenced-based work on indirect discrimination of women in migration laws, the gender lens in violence and displacement’s impact on mental health, as well as psychosocial support provided to mothers and children affected by violence, armed conflict and displacement in diverse regions, and provided an opportunity to hear independent voices of refugee women and girls in media narratives.
On this year’s World Refugee Day, PRFDHR invites you to celebrate and bear witness to refugee women’s strength, resilience, and invaluable contributions to their host communities. We encourage you to follow the calling of UNHCR, UN Women, and civil society organizations that support refugees in your local communities.
Written by Joy Yue, a Master’s in Public Policy student at the Jackson School of Global Affairs at Yale.