Refugee Girls: The Invisible Faces of War

This document from the Womens Refugee Commission shows that because of their powerlessness, adolescent girls in refugee situations are more vulnerable to forced marriage, sexual slavery and forms of gender-based violence. They are also the least likely to be offered education and reproductive health care, putting them at greater risk for HIV/AIDS, unwanted pregnancy and unsafe abortions.

Girls are rarely featured in the coverage of armed conflict. Given their invisibility, one might assume that girls are somehow spared involvement in war. Yet, girls commonly targeted in armed conflict, in many ways their lives are more profoundly affected by it than other groups, while their needs are frequently overlooked or ignored.

Over  140 million girls live in fragile states affected by armed conflict. Of the 42 million people who have had to flee their homes because of war, 80 percent are women, children and young people. At least 10 million are estimated to be girls and young women. When war breaks out, people may flee their homes in search of safety.

They face harrowing journeys, sometimes taking weeks or months to reach the relative safety of a refugee camp in another country or a camp for internally displaced persons in their own country. They may seek refuge in an urban area, often in slums on the outskirts of a city.As they flee from war, girls face many dangers, including rape, landmines, gunfire and hunger. They may be recruited into armed forces or captured by traffickers, or they may fall ill. As they try to navigate through the chaos and confusion around them, family members may be left behind. Men and boys may stay and fight, or remain to protect the family’s land and possessions. Once refugees have reached a place of relative safety, they may stay there for years: the average length of time refugees are displaced is now 17 years — a lifetime for those displaced as young children or born during displacement.


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