UNHCR teams work to protect vulnerable displaced women in Pakistan

Making a Difference, 27 August 2013

© UNHCR/D.A.Khan
Displaced women from Pakistan's restive tribal areas register complaints at a UNHCR "Grievance Desk" in Jalozai IDP camp.

JALOZAI, Pakistan, 27 August (UNHCR) At the age of 20, when most young women dream of an ideal future, Sajida's life took an irreparable turn for the worse. A bomb in Jalozai camp killed her 20-year-old husband, leaving her a widow with a three-month-old son.

"I don't know what the future holds for me, but I am worried about my child's future; how will I feed him and clothe him.," Sajida said, quietly sobbing behind her veil. The death of Sher Rahman, one of 15 people killed in the March attack, left Sajida's fate in the hands of her elderly grandfather-in-law and her brothers-in-law.

Fortunately, Sajida was identified by the UN refugee agency as one of the internally displaced people (IDPs) those forced from their homes by the unrest in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) who are in need of special protection. It is one of UNHCR's key responsibilities.

Although UNHCR is known mainly for its decades of work with Afghan refugees in camps in Pakistan, Jalozai is the largest of three official camps for IDPs. It hosts around 57,000 of the 80,400 IDPs in camps the vast majority of 710,000 IDPs from FATA live with friends, relatives or rent elsewhere.

In the camps, UNHCR, together with other humanitarian agencies, is supporting government officials who have primary responsibility for administration and security. Under the UN inter-agency cluster approach, UNHCR is the lead agency for protection, shelter and camp management. That includes assisting vulnerable children and women like Sajida; women and children constitute 77 percent of all IDPs.

UNHCR, with the help of partner agencies, has taken steps to ensure Sajida has unhindered access to assistance. That involves something as basic as ensuring she receives food rations, which used to be collected by her husband. The grandfather of her husband has been authorized to collect her rations, saving her from standing in long queues.

"I'm glad that UNHCR has agreed to let my grandfather be my guardian, this way, at least one of my worries about the food collection is gone," Sajida said in Jalozai, which is 25 km southeast of Peshawar.

To identify women and children at risk like Sajida, UNHCR and its partners regularly conduct focus group discussions with IDPs about their concerns. Other protection interventions include registering new IDPs and providing legal assistance through four legal clinics run by its partners. UNHCR actively assists government authorities to ensure IDPs' basic human rights are respected.

UNHCR also maintains four "Grievance Desks" in Jalozai camp to register the IDPs' protection concerns and ensure the timely solution of grievances. In view of cultural sensitivities, separate desks serve men and women, providing essential information on issues such as food distribution, the process of returning home and return packages.

A mobile protection team assists IDPs with problems related to civil documentation, rents, registration procedures or other legal matters. It provides legal assistance at food distribution points on problems such as school enrolment, examinations and attestation of documents in district courts and makes referrals to other service providers.

UNHCR also offers psychosocial support for vulnerable women such as single mothers, as well as victims of sexual and domestic violence. UNHCR maintains five Women's Community Centres and eight Men's Community Centers that are run by its partners.

"UNHCR underlines the importance of dedicating special attention to camp environments, particularly for the most vulnerable segments of the population such as women, girls and boys," said Neill Wright, UNHCR Representative in Islamabad. "UNHCR will continue to maintain an active presence in Jalozai camp and cooperate with governmental institutions and other humanitarian agencies to reinforce the protective environment inside the camp."

Although Sajida's experiences reflect the cost of war on women and children, she is fortunate to have a huge extended family. Many other women in the camp have only their own resilience -- and the help of UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations -- to fall back on.

By Duniya Aslam Khan and Shandana Saad In Jalozai Camp, Nowshehra

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

Internally Displaced People

The internally displaced seek safety in other parts of their country, where they need help.

How UNHCR Helps Women

By ensuring participation in decision-making and strengthening their self-reliance.

UNHCR's Dialogues with Refugee Women

Progress report on implementation of recommendations.

Women

Women and girls can be especially vulnerable to abuse in mass displacement situations.

Related Internet Links

UNHCR is not responsible for the content and availability of external internet sites

Women in Exile

In any displaced population, approximately 50 percent of the uprooted people are women and girls. Stripped of the protection of their homes, their government and sometimes their family structure, females are particularly vulnerable. They face the rigours of long journeys into exile, official harassment or indifference and frequent sexual abuse, even after reaching an apparent place of safety. Women must cope with these threats while being nurse, teacher, breadwinner and physical protector of their families. In the last few years, UNHCR has developed a series of special programmes to ensure women have equal access to protection, basic goods and services as they attempt to rebuild their lives.

On International Women's Day UNHCR highlights, through images from around the world, the difficulties faced by displaced women, along with their strength and resilience.

Women in Exile

Refugee Women

Women and girls make up about 50 percent of the world's refugee population, and they are clearly the most vulnerable. At the same time, it is the women who carry out the crucial tasks in refugee camps – caring for their children, participating in self-development projects, and keeping their uprooted families together.

To honour them and to draw attention to their plight, the High Commissioner for Refugees decided to dedicate World Refugee Day on June 20, 2002, to women refugees.

The photographs in this gallery show some of the many roles uprooted women play around the world. They vividly portray a wide range of emotions, from the determination of Macedonian mothers taking their children home from Kosovo and the hope of Sierra Leonean girls in a Guinean camp, to the tears of joy from two reunited sisters. Most importantly, they bring to life the tremendous human dignity and courage of women refugees even in the most difficult of circumstances.

Refugee Women

Statelessness and Women

Statelessness can arise when citizenship laws do not treat men and women equally. Statelessness bars people from rights that most people take for granted such as getting a job, buying a house, travelling, opening a bank account, getting an education, accessing health care. It can even lead to detention.

In some countries, nationality laws do not allow mothers to confer nationality to their children on an equal basis as fathers and this creates the risk that these children will be left stateless. In others, women cannot acquire, change or retain their nationality on an equal basis as men. More than 40 countries still discriminate against women with respect to these elements.

Fortunately, there is a growing trend for states to remedy gender discrimination in their nationality laws, as a result of developments in international human rights law and helped by vigorous advocacy from women's rights groups. The women and children depicted here have faced problems over nationality.

Statelessness and Women

Lebanon: A Tradition Yields New OpportunitiesPlay video

Lebanon: A Tradition Yields New Opportunities

UNHCR and partners are training scores of Syrian and Lebanese women in traditional fabric printing – helping to sustain centuries-old techniques and provide livelihoods for refugees and host communities.
Lebanon: Fadia's StoryPlay video

Lebanon: Fadia's Story

A former nurse, Fadia found life as a refugee in Lebanon to be especially difficult without employment. She counts herself lucky to be living in a shelter paid for by aid agencies, but food and other necessities are harder to come by. Fadia's is one of 145,000 Syrian families in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and Iraq headed by women. Poverty, isolation and fear of exploitation are just some of the hardships they face.
The Fight for Survival – Syrian Women AlonePlay video

The Fight for Survival – Syrian Women Alone

Lina has not heard from her husband since he was detained in Syria two years ago. Now a refugee in Lebanon, she lives in a tented settlement with her seven children.