Protecting the Rights of Refugee Women

by Caroline Tintinger

With humanitarian crises arising across our globe, ranging from political conflicts, environmental disasters, and health emergencies, more and more people have been forced to leave their homes. With a rise in forced migration and uncertainty for displaced people, women have been disproportionately affected by the consequences. Despite this gender inequality, often this imbalance is not often or adequately addressed by governments or international agencies. This results in further consequences for refugee women, adding to the issue and widening the inequality gap.

Scope of the Problem

  • “200.5 million people were affected by natural disasters or displaced by conflict and violence in 2014” (UN Women).
  • “50% of refugees are women and girls” (UN Women).
  • “Only 4% of projects in the United Nations’ inter-agencies appeals were targeted at women and girls in 2014” (UN Women).
  • “Just 1% of all funding to fragile states — most impacted by disasters — went to women’s groups or women’s ministries in 2015” (UN Women).

When a crisis strikes, disparities between the treatment and the rights of refugee men and women increase such as health, gender-based violence, livelihoods, and education. Refugee women are more likely to die from illnesses than their male counterparts. These women rarely have adequate access to health care services, making them prone to illness or more likely to face complications with maternal health. This makes both mothers and children vulnerable. Additionally, refugee women experience higher rates of violence when migrating and after reaching their destination nation. One in 5 female refugees or displaced women are victims of sexual assault or violence, the UN reports. Furthermore, refugee women are more likely to be unemployed, lose their jobs, or forced into sexual acts for payment by their employers. Another issue that faces refugee women is a lack of education. In conflict-affected nations, girls are 2.5 times more likely than their counterparts in nations not experiencing conflict to not attend school, according to the UN. These elements are due to a myriad of influences and circumstances, including cultural norms, gender stereotypes and roles, traditions, or a lack of resources.


It is up to us to solve this global issue that affects millions of girls and women who face monumental challenges in order to survive. This crisis can be mitigated or eliminated by empowering women across the world. Governments need to provide adequate health services to all girls and women and develop and implement international agreements and goals to combat sexual violence. Every nation needs to uphold their agreements to protect refugee women to ensure their safety, empowerment, and their pursuit of a better life.


Infographic: Closing the gender gap in humanitarian action. (n.d.). 404 — Not Found.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. (n.d.). What is a refugee? UNHCR.



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