Statement by UN Under Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous, World Refugee Day 20 June 2023
Around the world, conflict, violence, crises and fragility have forced more than 108 million people to flee their homes; among whom are 35.3 million refugees. Common to them all are the hopes of finding safety, security and prosperity and the fears of further harm and loss. For women and girls, these fears are all too often realized. UNHCR estimates that one in five refugee and internally displaced women have faced sexual violence with its resulting profound impact on both individuals and the fabric of their communities. Women on the move face family separation, psychosocial stress and trauma, health complications – particularly for pregnant women – physical harm and injury, as well as the risks of exploitation and gender-based violence.
The gender inequality and discrimination that refugee women and girls face is not only linked to their forced displacement; it is also a systemic cause of conflict and vulnerability, and the use of rape as a weapon of war.
On this Day we recall the tremendous toll on women’s rights and wellbeing of decades of violence, displacement and protracted conflicts. We are committed to continuing to build strong partnerships with women human rights defenders, mediators, peacebuilders, leaders of refugee-led associations and local women’s civil society organizations to assist refugee women and girls and returnees. We are determined to ensure that women’s and girls’ rights and priorities are at the centre of humanitarian responses and that discriminatory social norms and harmful practices are transformed and are bolstering our ability to lead these efforts across humanitarian country teams. We look ahead to a day when all survivors of sexual violence, internally displaced, refugee women and girls and returnees have access to justice, and full recognition of their human rights. And, even more importantly, to a day when no woman or girl is vulnerable to violence or displacement.