An exploration of gender-based violence in eastern Myanmar in the context of political transition: findings from a qualitative sexual and reproductive health assessment

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This article appeared in Sexual and Reproductive Health Matters.

By Mihoko Tanabe, Alison Greer, Jennifer Leigh, Payal Modi, William W. Davis, Pue Pue Mhote, Eh May Htoo, Conrad M. Otterness Jr, Parveen Parmar

In March 2011, the Myanmar Government transitioned to a nominally civilian parliamentary government, resulting in dramatic increases in international investments and tenuous peace in some regions. In March 2015, Community Partners International, the Women’s Refugee Commission, and four community-based organisations (CBOs) assessed community-based sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services in eastern Myanmar amidst the changing political contexts in Myanmar and Thailand. The team conducted 12 focus group discussions among women of reproductive age (18–49 years) with children under five and interviewed 12 health workers in Kayin State, Myanmar. In Mae Sot and Chiang Mai, Thailand, the team interviewed 20 representatives of CBOs serving the border regions. Findings are presented through the socioecological lens to explore gender-based violence (GBV) specifically, to examine continued and emerging issues in the context of the political transition. Cited GBV includes ongoing sexual violence/rape by the military and in the community, trafficking, intimate partner violence, and early marriage. Despite the political transition, women continue to be at risk for military sexual violence, are caught in the burgeoning economic push–pull drivers, and experience ongoing restrictive gender norms, with limited access to SRH services. There is much fluidity, along with many connections and interactions among the contributing variables at all levels of the socioecological model; based on a multisectoral response, continued support for innovative, community-based SRH services that include medical and psychosocial care are imperative for ethnic minority women to gain more agency to freely exercise their sexual and reproductive rights.

How to respond to migration

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By Tatiana Brofft, Ana Macouzet y Marcela Valdivia
July 2019

This article first appeared in Foreign Affairs Latino America (in Spanish)

The political rise of Donald Trump has rocked the relationship between the United States and Mexico. President Trump’s efforts to severely limit immigration to the U.S. is one of the main sources of tension. For over a year, his attempts to reach a safe third-country agreement has been the white elephant in the bilateral relation. The governments of both Enrique Peña Nieto and Andrés Manuel López Obrador kept secret the conversations on this topic, but alleged leaks to Politico and The Washington Post in May and July 2018 placed it on the public agenda. The news stories unleashed opposition from opinion leaders, as well as from human rights and migrant rights organizations.

In the face of recent U.S. threats to impose tariffs on Mexican imports, Mexico agreed that in 90 days it would reduce immigration by strengthening its immigration control. If it failed, Mexico committed to consider a safe third-country agreement, revealing that it had been coerced into what up to that point it had defined as unacceptable.

Cómo responder al fenómeno migratorio

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Por Tatiana Brofft, Ana Macouzet y Marcela Valdivia
Julio 2019

Leer en ingles.

El ascenso político de Donald Trump ha cimbrado la relación entre Estados Unidos y México. El objetivo del presidente Trump de limitar al máximo la inmigración a ese país es una de las principales fuentes de tensión. Por más de un año, su interés en alcanzar un acuerdo de tercer país seguro ha sido un elefante blanco en la relación bilateral. Tanto el gobierno de Enrique Peña Nieto como el de Andrés Manuel López Obrador manejaron las conversaciones en torno a este tema con secrecía, pero presuntas filtraciones a Político y The Washington Post en mayo y julio de 2018 lo colocaron en la agenda pública. Las notas periodísticas desataron la oposición de líderes de opinión, así como la de organizaciones de derechos humanos y protección a migrantes.

Ante las recientes amenazas estadounidenses de imponer aranceles a las importaciones mexicanas, México acordó que en 90 días disminuiría la migración mediante el reforzamiento del control migratorio. De no ser exitoso, México se comprometió a considerar un acuerdo de tercer país seguro, evidenciando que había sido acorralado hacia lo que hasta entonces había calificado como inaceptable.

Ver el artículo completo en Foreign Affairs Latino America.

Ethics and accountability in researching sexual violence against men and boys

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Researching sexual violence against men and boys in humanitarian settings requires navigating multiple ethics- and accountability-related tensions.

In January 2018, the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) launched the Sexual Violence Project, a three-year initiative focusing on sexual violence against displaced
men and boys, including gay, bisexual, transgender and others with diverse sexual orientation and gender identity and/or expression (GBT+). The project includes,
among other activities, undertaking applied exploratory research among refugees n Bangladesh, Italy and Kenya. Given the sensitivity of the research topic, the
vulnerability of the research participants and the potential for harm, addressing safety and ethical issues is paramount.

Humanitarian Response: Evolution or Revolution?

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How do we change the response to humanitarian emergencies from one where we keep people alive to one that restores dignity, gives people hope, and opens door to long-term opportunities? Dale Buscher, Vice President, Programs, writes about new approaches in this article in Overture.

Engaging Organizations of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Responses

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This project report captures 10 years of work by the Women’s Refugee Commission on the inclusion of disability in humanitarian responses. The report covers early research on refugees with disabilities and subsequent work on disability inclusion, including the target areas of gender-based violence, child protection, and sexual and reproductive health. Later presented work focuses on engaging organizations of persons with disabilities (DPOs) in humanitarian responses—both as expert resources to inform humanitarian actors as well as sources of information, services, and social support for refugees with disabilities living in their host communities. The report concludes with recent work on soliciting input from DPO networks on the Guidelines on the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action, which are currently under development.

tags: Disabilities

Sea-change in reproductive health in emergencies: how systemic improvements to address the MISP were achieved

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By Sandra Krause, Sarah K. Chynoweth, and Mihoko Tanabe

Reproductive Health Matters, Volume 25, 2017 - Issue 51: Humanitarian crises: advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights

The Minimum Initial Services Package (MISP) for reproductive health has been the minimum standard for reproductive health service provision in humanitarian emergencies since 1995. Assessments of acute humanitarian settings in 2004 and 2005 revealed few MISP services in place and low knowledge of the MISP among humanitarian responders. Just 10 years later, assessments of humanitarian settings in 2013 and 2015 found largely consistent availability of MISP services and high awareness of the MISP as a standard among responders. We describe the multi-pronged strategy undertaken by the Women’s Refugee Commission and other Inter-agency Working Group on Reproductive Health in Crises (IAWG) member agencies to effect systemic improvements in the availability of the MISP at the onset of humanitarian responses. We find that investments in fact-finding missions, awareness-raising, capacity development, policy harmonisation, targeted funding, emergency risk management, and community resilience-building have been critical to facilitating a sea-change in reproductive health responses in acute, large-scale emergencies. Efforts were underpinned by collaborative, inter-agency partnerships in which organisations were committed to working together to achieve shared goals. The strategies, activities, and achievements contain valuable lessons for the health sector, including reproductive health, and other sectors seeking to better integrate emerging or marginalised issues into humanitarian action.

Adolescent Girls with Disabilities in Humanitarian Settings: “I Am Not ‘Worthless’—I Am a Girl with a Lot to Share and Offer”

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Emma Pearce, Kathryn Paik and Omar J. Robles
Girlhood Studies

Adolescent girls with disabilities face multiple intersecting and often mutually reinforcing forms of discrimination and oppression, which are exacerbated in situations of crisis. In crisis situations, family and community structures break down, while traditional and social norms disintegrate, all of which affect adolescent girls with disabilities in unique and devastating ways. Drawing on the Women’s Refugee Commission’s work, including personal narratives collected from girls with disabilities, in this report we review how age, gender, disability and crisis influence identity and power. This report outlines principles for including girls with disabilities in adolescent girls’ programming, promoting safe access to humanitarian assistance, and mitigating the risk of violence, abuse, and exploitation.

Read the full article in Girlhood Studies.

Intersecting Sexual and Reproductive Health and Disability in Humanitarian Settings: Risks, Needs, and Capacities of Refugees with Disabilities in Kenya, Nepal, and Uganda

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Persons with disabilities have historically been deprived of their sexual and reproductive health (SRH) rights. Little is known, however, about the situation for women, men, and adolescents with disabilities in humanitarian settings. The Women’s Refugee Commission led a participatory research project with partners to explore the risks, needs, and barriers for refugees with disabilities to access SRH services, and the practical ways in which these challenges could be addressed.

Findings showed that refugees with disabilities demonstrated varying degrees of awareness around SRH, especially regarding the reproductive anatomy, family planning, and sexually transmitted infections. Among barriers to accessing services, lack of respect by providers was reported as the most hurtful. Pregnant women with disabilities were often discriminated against by providers and scolded by caregivers for becoming pregnant and bearing children; marital status was a large factor that determined if a pregnancy was accepted. Risks of sexual violence prevailed across sites, especially for persons with intellectual impairments. The ability of women with disabilities to exercise their SRH rights was mixed. Refugees with disabilities showed a mixed understanding of their own rights in relationships and in the pursuit of opportunities.

Findings speak to the need to realize the SRH rights of refugees with disabilities and build their longer-term SRH capacities.

Read the full article in Sexuality & Disability.

Gender in action: Successes and shortfalls in the Syrian refugee crisis

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by Dale Buscher and Melissa Gurumurthy

Among the humanitarian agencies responding to the Syrian refugee crisis in Jordan, real progress has been made towards a better understanding of the gendered needs of displaced people and the incorporation of gender-sensitive policies. Nevertheless, challenges remain to ensure that this translates into effective service provision – and that the community does not ignore the "change maker" potential of women and girls. Here, US-based NGO the Women's Refugee Commission (WRC) gives us its assessment of the situation in Jordan.
tags: Syria