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International Women's Day 2024: Celebrating the Courage and Endurance of Refugee Women Amidst Conflict, Migration, and Political Uncertainty

Resilience Action International International Women's Day 2024 event
Resilience Action International reproductive health staff at the International Women's Day celebration event in March. Monica(left), Pascaline, and Lymia

March’s theme of International Women’s Day (IWD) 2024, “Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress,” resonates globally, honoring women of all backgrounds and ages.


This recognition stems from the enduring struggles women faced before their rights were acknowledged as human rights and included as part of the supreme laws of the land.


The honor comes about from the long suffering women endured before their rights being recognized as human rights and established as part of the supreme laws of the land.


Globally, laws enabling women to own bank accounts began to emerge in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but full access and control over finances might have taken longer.


In some parts of the world, restrictions on women's financial autonomy persisted well into the 20th century and even beyond.


The recognition of gender-based violence against women as a violation of human rights gained significant traction in the latter half of the 20th century.


In Kenya, women have had the legal right to own bank accounts for several decades. The Banking Act of 1968 did not discriminate based on gender, allowing both men and women to open and operate bank accounts.


In Kenya, the recognition of gender-based violence against women as a violation of human rights has been steadily growing over the years. The 2010 Constitution of Kenya explicitly addresses gender equality and prohibits discrimination based on gender.


Additionally, the country has ratified international human rights conventions that recognize gender-based violence as a violation of human rights, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).


Women being viewed as property is still being eradicated across cultures in Kenya steadily since the 2010 Constitution of Kenya, which explicitly recognizes the equality of men and women and prohibits discrimination based on gender.


Kenyan law protects refugees and migrants within its borders. Recent changes to The Refugee Act of 2021 have improved things, giving more power, fairness, and support to survivors of war who are now refugees in cities or camps.


To celebrate these legal improvements and join the global effort for women’s rights, Resilience Action International teamed up with other non-profits at the Kakuma Refugee Camp for International Women’s Day (IWD).


The event, hosted by global partners, invited everyone to enjoy the celebration with diverse cultures.

Resilience Action International International Women's Day 2024 event
Cultural dances at the IWD event in Kakuma

International Women’s Day reminds us of the strength and determination shown by survivors of war and political conflict. These brave individuals seek peace, safety, and harmony.


Among those most affected by war are mothers and children who have had to leave their husbands and brothers behind to protect themselves. Every day, we should appreciate women worldwide, especially those who courageously flee from war, violence, and exploitation.


Women and girls fleeing war and political conflict bear a disproportionate burden of the impact. While men are often expected to fight, women find themselves forced to flee.


In Kakuma, the majority of refugee seekers—over 80%—are women and children. These women face a myriad of challenges during times of conflict, including food insecurity, displacement, a high risk of human trafficking, sexual violence, and disrupted access to reproductive health care.


The disproportionate effects of war and conflict on women's access to reproductive health services have resulted in long-term physical repercussions and a lifetime of trauma for those forced to live with the horrors of war. Vivid memories of physical and sexual violence and death haunt them.


Refugee women who were fortunate enough to find safety in foreign nations often recount the hardships they face in accessing maternity and reproductive care facilities.


These challenges include understaffed hospitals and clinics, disruptions in medical supplies, unavailability of health workers, lack of electricity, water, and sanitation services, and destroyed facilities.


As a consequence, hindered access to reproductive health services for women in conflict and war has resulted in the suffering of victims from sexually transmitted diseases, infant mortality, stigmatization, unwanted pregnancies, declined mental health, and emotional/physical detachment from family and offspring(s).


Human trafficking has been a problem for a long time. Most of the victims—about 71%—are women and girls who suffer from sexual exploitation.


Resilience Action International International Women's Day 2024 event
Resilience Action International Volunteers at the IWD event

Additionally, almost 20% of trafficking victims are children. In certain regions like Sub-Saharan Africa and Central America, children make up an even larger percentage—up to 62% and 64%, respectively.


Refugee women and children are at greater risk of human trafficking and gender-based violence than other population groups. Traffickers take advantage of their vulnerability by making deceptive promises of safety and protection, ultimately trapping them in exploitative situations.


In regions affected by war or political instability, exploitation is often connected to tribal biases, religious or political divisions, structural inequalities, gender discrimination, poverty, and shortcomings in child protection systems.


Exploitation takes different forms some of them include forced labor, forced marriages, forced child bearing, slavery, and sex trafficking.


Another common effect that weighs heavy on women is family separation. When fleeing war families may get separated during the chaos and end up in different refugee camps in different locations.


Historical evidence indicates that the separation of children from their primary caregivers, typically mothers, results in long-lasting trauma termed “enduring harm”.


International Women’s Day serves as an important reminder of the resilience and strength displayed by women across the globe, especially those who have endured the ravages of war, violence, and exploitation.


From the long and arduous journey towards recognizing women's rights as human rights to the ongoing efforts to eradicate gender-based violence and ensure financial autonomy, progress has been made, but challenges persist.


Resilience Action International International Women's Day 2024 event
Some of Resilience Action International young refugee women collaborative partners from local women-led and youth-led grassroots community organizations

In Kenya, strides towards gender equality and women's empowerment are evident, with legal reforms, constitutional protections, and international commitments paving the way for change.


However, amidst these challenges, there is resilience and hope. Refugee-led organizations like Resilience Action International and countless others are working tirelessly to support and empower women, offering economic empowerment, resources, and advocacy.


The journey towards equality is ongoing, with continued efforts needed to dismantle systemic barriers and cultural norms that perpetuate discrimination and violence against women.


International Women’s Day emphasizes on the importance of collective action and solidarity in supporting women and girls affected by conflict and displacement.


Investing in women’s rights, providing access to essential services, and addressing the root causes of gender-based violence and exploitation can accelerate progress towards a more just and equitable world for all.

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