Aid Agencies Not Focused on Needs of Displaced Women
Wednesday, January 11, 2012 12:15 PM

Elisabeth Rasmusson, secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), has asserted that aid agencies are not adequately meeting the economic and personal needs of women displaced by natural disasters and armed conflict. For example, Pashtun women in northern Pakistan cannot be seen by men who are not family members. Therefore, when Pakistan suffered from destructive floods in July of 2010, these women only had limited access to food, clean water, and sanitation in places where agencies did not have sufficient female personnel in place.
The NRC calculates that women and children make up about three quarters of the approximately 43 million people displaced by conflict. Sexual violence is an increasingly common weapon of war, and Rasmusson said that perpetrators often “…go free, so there is little risk in abusing, raping, kidnapping or killing women." Rasmusson also noted that creating well-lit buildings, having toilets within shelters, and giving civilians, rather than military personnel control of the camps would be good measures to protect women. However, funding for the security of women is down as donors are more willing to give money to provide tangibles like food, shelter, and healthcare.
The increased militarization of security has also negatively impacted women in areas ravaged by war. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, U.N. peacekeepers fought alongside the Congolese Army, “which is one of the main perpetrators of sexual violence against women.” The U.N. troops, who were supposed to protect women’s rights, visibly worked with those who committed acts of violence against women. Finally, Rasmusson argued that women should be active participants in post-conflict negotiations so that they can accurately give voice to their needs.