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Protecting forcibly displaced women and girls during the COVID-19 pandemic: Examples of UNHCR gender responsive and Gender-Based Violence (GBV) prevention, risk mitigation and response interventions

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The COVID-19 pandemic has significant gendered impacts that affect people differently depending on their age, gender, disability and other intersectional and diverse characteristics.

Women and girls are at heightened risk of being exposed to the virus due to the following intrinsic aspects:

1) The high proportion of women and girls among frontline health workers and through burdensome unpaid caregiving responsibilities, including caring for sick family members.

2) Refugee and internally displaced women are more likely to hold precarious jobs in the informal sector and face disruptions in livelihoods and income generating activities because of the pandemic.

3) Forcibly displaced adolescent girls are facing increased risks of disrupted education and school drop-out as well as an extra caregiving burden.

The outbreak and subsequent movement restrictions have exacerbated existing risks of GBV, in particular intimate partner violence, as well as risks of sexual exploitation while also hampering access to life-saving GBV services. Furthermore, limited access to information and decision-making spaces related to the COVID-19 response place women and girls at risk.

Despite these challenges, forcibly displaced women and girls are showing extreme resilience and are playing an important role in responding to the pandemic. Across the globe, UNHCR operations are innovating to enhance support to refugee, returnee and internally displaced women and girls, while promoting their leadership throughout the response.