At the close of this year’s 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence, Francisca Vigaud-Walsh writes that women’s bodies are often a battleground in conflict zones, and humanitarian aid areas must be a place for healing their wounds. Programs such as the U.S. initiative "Safe From the Start" are essential tools in the addressing the impacts of violence against woman and girls in conflicts.
Following a recent mission to the Northern Triangle region of Central American, Refugees International finds that current conditions require that the United States government not deport Temporary Protective Status beneficiaries from Honduras and El Salvador. Rather, the U.S. should provide alternatives for Honduran and Salvadoran women, men and children to remain in the United States legally.
Many are heralding this as an historic moment for the South American nation, host to more than seven million of its own displaced citizens, making it the second-largest internal displacement crisis in the world after Syria. If and when the Colombian people vote “yes” on peace, Colombia’s humanitarian stakeholders should not let their enthusiasm obscure the continued challenges the country will face – challenges that could imperil the peace agreement’s viability at any time.
I met Amara earlier this week in the office of a local grassroots organization in Borno state’s capital, Maiduguri. Amara, a pretty, cherub-faced girl, was accompanied by her mother with whom she had been reunited just six weeks prior, after a one year-long separation. Their separation was not voluntary. Over a year ago, Amara had been abducted by Boko Haram when they attacked her village of Baga.
Since 2009, Boko Haram insurgents have been terrorizing civilians in northeastern Nigeria. The group gained international notoriety when they abducted hundreds of girls from a school in Chibok, in Borno State, and over the years has abducted thousands of men, women, boys, and girls to use as soldiers and sex slaves. An estimated two million Nigerians have been displaced as a result of Boko Haram’s campaign of terror.
I am in Maiduguri, the capital of Nigeria’s northeastern Borno State, and the home to approximately 1.6 million people who have been displaced by the terrorist group Boko Haram. For the past few days, I have been meeting with some of those displaced, and hearing their stories of the attacks that forced them to flee.
One day on the shores of Lake Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Micheline went to jail. The arrest probably did not come as a surprise to her. Working as a sex worker, run-ins with the police may have been a common occurrence for Micheline. But when she reached the prison on that particular day, things took an ugly turn.
When I was in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) last October, every meeting that I held with Congolese government officials sounded surprisingly similar. They were all engaged in a battle to change the long-held image of the country as “the rape capital of the world.” Government officials explained to me that now that the threat of the M23 rebel group was behind them, the country is at relative peace and women can start to experience the dividends of that peace. Conflict-related sexual violence is no longer a problem in the DRC, or so they claimed. Not only is that statement incorrect, but engaging in this type of PR campaign is the last thing that the DRC needs right now.