Voices Unveiled: A RBP Take on Refugee Women-Led Organizations Combatting Gender-Based Violence
Refugee women-led organizations (WLOs) are perpetually at the frontlines of addressing gender-based violence (GBV) inflicted on people who were forcibly displaced. These locally based organizations are intimately aware of the underlying drivers of GBV because they are situated in contexts in which forced displacement takes place. Leading up to the Global Refugee Forum in December 2023, What Works to Prevent Violence, with UK Aid Direct’s funding, released a policy brief titled Refugee Women-led Organizations on the Frontline of Addressing GBV: Key Actions for the Global Refugee Forum.
The brief recognizes that power asymmetries between refugee WLOs and international humanitarian institutions are compounded by funding barriers, socio-cultural intolerance and backlash, lack of formalization and registration, and top-down approaches to donor partnerships. In recognizing these barriers, the brief recommends several courses of action INGOs, host governments, UN agencies and other stakeholders may adopt to ensure refugee WLOs are empowered in performing life-saving work for victims of conflict-induced GBV. Moreover, the brief elaborates on how Refugee WLOs’ unique role grants them transformative advantages in centering the perspectives of affected populations in high-level decision-making fora because these organizations are often founded and led by refugee women who are survivors of conflict induced GBV.
Host governments of local refugee WLOs regularly require these organizations to address a wide range of issues pertaining to the humanitarian development peacebuilding nexus such as economic security, women’s political participation, and family reunification. This diverse set of assumed responsibilities displays that refugee WLOs’ have deep local knowledge on conflict dynamics, what compounds violence, and the systems and resources that can be leveraged to protect populations from GBV.Refugee WLOs are therefore well-positioned to leverage multidisciplinary actors to achieve a meaningful reduction of GBV for the communities they work with and for. As highlighted in the policy brief, it is critical for the international humanitarian community to reflect on and change traditional norms and ways of working with refugee WLOs that have created exclusive funding procedures and requirements and asymmetrical collaboration and partnership relations. An equally shared global platform for refugee WLOs to voice their concerns and experiences is needed to ensure that these organizations are well-equipped and empowered in their first-responder role in humanitarian contexts.