Amplifying Women’s Voices from the Global Displacement Crisis


Watch the recording of this event here:


Forced displacement, whether caused by conflict or natural disaster, pushes families and individuals – often the most vulnerable – to seek protection and assistance in temporary settlements. Although women and girls form the majority of displaced populations, all too often their needs and capacities are overlooked by humanitarian actors providing assistance. At the same time, displacement increases women and girls’ vulnerabilities. When community protections break down, women and girls face increased care responsibilities in the home, a lack of access to education, food, and safe shelter, and heightened risk of exploitation, abuse and violence, including gender-based violence.

But far from being helpless victims, women and girls have much to contribute in preparing for, and responding to, displacement crises. Women must be included in decision-making about the forms of assistance and protection they need. Their roles in strengthening the protection systems in their communities must be acknowledged and fostered. Humanitarian action can also present opportunities for new and more progressive gender roles and relationships to emerge.

The international community is already taking important steps to address the displacement crisis and engage women’s voices: the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in May 2016 and the Grand Bargain confirmed that humanitarian responses are only relevant, timely, effective, and efficient when they include the voices of affected people, including women and girls. The New York Declaration on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants also highlighted that women’s participation is a necessary component to global responses to refugees and safe, orderly and regular migration, respectively.

Beyond global policy efforts, the reality in the field demonstrated that tremendous efforts are still needed to ensure that women’s and girls’ voices are heard in times of crisis. In 2016, with the support of the United States Department of State's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC), in coordination with the Global Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) Cluster, researched how and the extent to which women and adolescent girls participate in decisions made in displacement sites. The project included designing small projects to promote meaningful participation in five locations[1]. The baseline research suggests that urgent action must be taken to improve and promote women’s participation to increase the effectiveness of humanitarian aid and mitigate risks of gender-based violence. Actors beyond those traditionally engaged in humanitarian response, including the development sector, have a role to play in amplifying women’s voices and promoting their participation in decision-making.

Brief description of the event

IOM and WRC are organizing an event with co-hosts US Mission to the UN and Philippines Mission to the UN which will include a moderated panel debate to highlight the vital importance of women’s voices in the global displacement crisis. Speakers will share their perspectives on the importance of women’s participation at all levels of international humanitarian policy and practice. They will reflect on their personal experiences and challenges, and offer practical recommendations to ensure that solutions to the global displacement crisis are meaningful for women and consider their perspectives. Q&A will follow the panel.


This event will provide an opportunity for Member States, UN agencies, academia and civil society representatives to:

  • Consider the ways that the global displacement crisis particularly affects women and girls;
  • Highlight the importance of women’s participation to affect change in international policy and programming;
  • Understand the challenges as well as the opportunities to empower displaced women and girls to make decisions and speak for themselves;
  • Discuss the international policy opportunities that seek to tackle global displacement, including the Global Compacts on Refugees and Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and the entry points for including women’s voices.

Opening remarks

  • H.E. Ms. Stefanie Amadeo, Deputy Representative to ECOSOC, United States Mission to the United Nations
  • H.E. Ms. Irene Susan Barreiro Natividad, Deputy Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations 
  • Mr Ashraf El Nour, Director, IOM Office to the United Nations

Moderator: Marcia F Biggs, Correspondent and Producer PBS NewsHour, focusing on the Middle East


  • Displaced Community Representative
  • Sarah Costa, Executive Director, Women’s Refugee Commission
  • Lindsay Stark, Associate Professor, Program on Forced Migration and Health, Columbia University
  • Dan Seymour, Deputy Director of Programmes, UN Women

Discussion Questions

  • From your perspective, what are successful practices to promote women’s leadership?
  • From your experience, could you share a recommendation on how to increase women’s role in actions to protect women and girls in humanitarian crises?
  • The international community has made commitments around gender equality and women’s rights, where do you see the greatest progress in this regard? Which areas are lacking?
  • What are the best ways ensure that grass-roots women’s voices are heard and reflected in international policy?

For more information please contact Anna Reichenberg at

  1. Ecuador, Iraq, Nigeria, the Philippines, South Sudan
Event Date: 
Tuesday, May 16, 2017 - 10:30 to 12:30
Conference Room 11, UNHQ