CCF President and CEO, Anne L. Goddard, launched the panel discussion of UNHCR’s “Handbook for the Protection of Women and Girls,” on August 12, 2008 at InterAction in Washington, DC. The Handbook describes some of the protection challenges faced by women and girls and offers strategies UNHCR and their NGO partners can use to tackle such challenges.
Goddard, who is also a member of InterAction’s Board of Directors, explained how NGOs, including CCF, work directly with women and children everyday as they meet their basic needs and ensure their own protection in sometimes dangerous and volatile environments.
Displaced women and children may be separated from their families, amongst strangers, and unable to earn income or grow their own food, making them vulnerable to exploitation. Even gathering firewood for cooking poses danger for women and girls when they are displaced, noted Goddard.
“But, such dire circumstances also provide opportunities," said Goddard. "By prioritizing women and children’s protection needs, programs can have lasting, positive impacts on children’s and women’s lives — even change societal norms and practices as well as improve legal protection.”
She shared an example of CCF’s work in camps in Chad, in coordination with UNHCR, UNICEF, and CARE, where Islamic leaders from the camps and surrounding communities were brought together to discuss gender and Islam and the rights of women. While dealing with issues of early marriage, female genital cutting, domestic violence, and other protection issues were sometimes challenging, they allowed people to express their assumptions and concerns to think about the rights of women and girls in a new light.
“This approach not only provided an opportunity to work on the immediate protection concerns for women and children, but also allowed a discussion that will influence attitudes and norms long into the future,” said Goddard.
Panel members included: Thomas Albrecht, Deputy Regional Representative of UNCHR, Sam Witten, Acting Assistant Secretary, US Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (BPRM) and Dale Buscher, Director of Protection, Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children. Panel members agreed that the Handbook is an important contribution to the international development community’s thinking and approach to protection issues.
The launch was hosted by InterAction, in cooperation with Refugee Council USA, the Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, and UNHCR.