The World Economic Forum predicts the gender gap won’t close until 2186. Fortunately, this fate is not set and RMF is working to empower women and girls to #BeBoldForChange.
In light of International Women’s Day, we asked some of our boldest female staff members about their vision for the women of their country.
N’Deane Helajzen is RMF’s Program Director, Serbia, and also supports the coordination of our global programs. She is a medical anthropologist whose employment over the past 15 years has involved the provision of technical advice across 20 countries in post-conflict and fragile states, across Southeast Asia, the Pacific, Africa, and Eastern Europe, targeting legislative and regulatory reforms, with a focus on social development, provision of health care in under resourced areas, sexual and gender based violence, women’s empowerment, and gender equality.
Her team works tirelessly to provide comprehensive protection and medical services to at-risk refugees in Serbia. Their main goal is to provide first aid and basic primary health care, but they also have the skills to identify and refer extremely vulnerable individuals—women, children, victims of sexual or gender based violence, victims of human trafficking, or victims of other forms of exploitation—for appropriate assistance and follow-up by relevant institutions.
The women and girls we work with are fleeing conflict in their homeland where they have faced systemic rights violations, including bombardment of civilian areas, killing and disappearance of family members, sexual and gender based violence (SGBV), obstructed access to food, water, and electricity, reduced education, and destruction of their homes and livelihoods.
Many have been repeatedly displaced and some have suffered violence, exploitation, and abuse while seeking asylum.
Refugee and migrant women and girls face specific challenges and protection risks including family separation, psychosocial stress and trauma, health complications particularly for pregnant women, physical harm and injury and risks of exploitation and gender based violence.
Because of women’s gender role in society, particularly from the refugee producing countries, women serve as the main caretakers for children and elderly family members, further increasing their need for protection and support.
RMF Serbia’s work focuses on supporting women refugees and migrants’ access to health and protection services during their time in transit through the western Balkans route. In order to better address the scale and severity of the Syrian refugee crisis, I would like to see women refugees be given something to hope for and for resettlement countries like Australia and the United States to increase the number of individuals and families they are welcoming.
There are a number of barriers which exist for women to access services and information and better attention needs to be paid to the gendered dimensions of the refugee crisis. National capacity needs to be raised to effectively respond to the specific needs, priorities and protection risks facing refugee and migrant women and girls. More attention needs to be paid to gender based violence and the establishment of referral mechanisms, safe houses, women-only spaces within reception and transit centers, the provision of more information that women can easily access, and the collection and use of sex-disaggregated data for planning purposes.