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No delay for women and girls in emergencies

Emergencies, Gender, News/feature, Ireland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, 2013
Three women from Sierra Leone dressed in colourful clothes. Photo: 2004

In conflicts, natural disasters and other humanitarian emergencies the vulnerabilities of women and girls are increased.

Violence against women and girls occurs on a huge scale and in many forms everyday across the world. In emergency situations the risks of such violence are increased. Today a discussion chaired by Irish Aid amongst key humanitarian actors illustrated how addressing such violence in the immediate aftermath of a disaster saves lives.

In conflicts, natural disasters and other humanitarian emergencies the vulnerabilities of women and girls are increased in the context of already existing patterns of gender inequality, inadequate social and health services and weak governance systems. The result is increased sexual and physical abuse, trafficking, early and forced marriage, unwanted pregnancy, resource denial and forced prostitution.

Today Irish Aid, co-hosting with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO), brought together donors, UN agencies, humanitarian organisations and academics to raise awareness of the need to prevent sexual violence and provide appropriate assistance to survivors of such violence in the very first phase of an emergency response.

The IRC works in over 40 countries where natural and manmade disasters are tearing lives apart. Today they gave emotive accounts of the ongoing abuses being experienced by women and girls in the crises in Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. IRC’s deep understanding of these contexts over many years has shown them that the lives of women and girls are at stake.

Participants left today’s event with a renewed sense of purpose. This last official event of the Irish Presidency has built on the growing global recognition that gender based violence must be eliminated. Earlier in the week the UN Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2106 which reiterates that in armed conflict all actors, including not only the Security Council and parties to the violence, but all Member States and United Nations entities, must do more to implement previous mandates and combat impunity for these crimes.

Survivors of gender based violence show enormous courage. We must not leave them waiting for the support they need to help them rebuild their lives. 


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