Posted by: Ana Monroy | January 11, 2013

16 Days of Activism 2012 in the field: Chad

Launching Ceremony in Tréguine Camp, Chad

As in many other UNHCR field offices around the world, November 26 was marked in Bredjing and Tréguine camps by the launching ceremonies of the 16 Days of Activism. Followed by the sound of drums that inspire many traditional dances, the ceremony in Tréguine camp took place in Place des Fêtes.

The opening remarks were pronounced by CNARR’s (National Commission for the Reception and the Reintegration of Refugees and Returnees) camp manager. Next, it was the camp president who spoke about the importance of the campaign which they celebrate enthusiastically every year. He closed his speech by stating that peace should be cultivated within each family of the camp.


CNARR’s Camp Manager


The President of Tréguine Camp leaders committee

HIA’s coordinator pronounced his speech based on the 16 Days of Activism theme and invited all participants to actively take part in the different programmes taking place in both camps as part of the campaign.

In his remarks, UNHCR representative stated that UNHCR and its partners take this opportunity to mark the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism annual fight against SGBV. While recalling the theme of the year From Peace in the home to Peace in the World, he highlighted that SGBV remains one of the major concerns of UNHCR’s High Commissionaire. The representative also reiterated the urgency and engagement of UNHCR in working in partnership with local and international actors in order to fight the level of worrying impunity that persists in the world. He concluded by thanking all those who devote their time tirelessly to improve the access to justice for victims of SGBV.


UNHCR Representative                           

 Closing speech

The sub-prefect of  Tréguine Camp during his closing speech of the ceremony


UNHCR and UNAIDS sensitize refugees and authorities on SGBV at Brazilian Amazon


Within the framework of the 16 Days of Activist against SGBV, UNHCR and UNAIDS conducted a round of sensitization activities on violence against women at the northern Brazilian state of Amazonas.

With the support of Cáritas Archdiocese of Manaus, around 50 refugee (women and men, the majority from Colombia) living at this largest Amazonian city, Manaus, participated in two workshops to talk about violence in different approaches. The participants also debated about sensitive issues, such as machismo, gender roles and power games on personal relationships and sexual relations.

Some of them reported SGBV cases and were informed about Brazilian legislation on this issue and their connected rights and duties. They also received didactic information material about SGBV, with relevant contacts of public services such as SGBV reference centers and police offices dedicated to women.

Besides this round of sensitization activities, Manaus also did very well in the new SGBV e-learning contest. The operation won the category of office with highest percentage of UNVs completing modules 1 and 2. In addition, Manaus is also TOP 1 among the TOP 5 offices with highest percentage of staff completing Modules 1 & 2. The operation showed its great commitment in making SGBV prevention and response a priority.

Refugees unite in Rio de Janeiro to address violence against women


At Cáritas Archdiocese’s reception center for refugees in the city, the Sierra Leonean Georgia, the Congolese Cesarine and the Colombian Sandra (*) attended a lecture given by the Metropolitan Civil Guard on violence against women on December 12. During the debate they remembered the violence they had suffered in their home countries before going to Brazil, where they sought refuge.

Georgia escaped Sierra Leone at the age of 15, as she refused to undergo genital mutilation, a very common practice in her community. Cesarine saw her husband and children being abducted by irregular armed groups operating in Congo and had to leave her country on her own to survive. Sandra revealed that her life in Colombia was marked by violence related to the internal conflict, which forced her and her family to seek refuge in Brazil.

The lecture was also attended by refugee men and was an initiative supported by UNHCR under the global campaign 16 Days of Activism Against SGBV. In the previous week, Cáritas Rio and the NGO Promundo talked with refugees on equal rights and on the law Maria da Penha, which criminalizes gender-based violence (including domestic violence) in Brazil.

The events brought together nearly 100 refugees of different nationalities. All of them received leaflets on the rights and obligations of refugees and asylum seekers in Brazil as well as information about the centers specialized in assisting women victims of SGBV.

(*) Names changed on request of the interviewees

We are pleased to share with you the final results of the SGBV e-Learning contest, which ended with the close of the 16 Days campaign. We’d also like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your time and enthusiasm in completing the course, and also for your persistence in the face of some technical difficulties you encountered!

Many operations have made incredible progress and we closed the competition with an amazing 144 offices participating in the contest, and 660 staff members completing at least the first two modules of the e-learning during the campaign!
We reached a wide cross-section of UNHCR staff — from Representatives to Programme Officers, from Water and Sanitation Experts to Protection Assistants — providing them the crucial knowledge and tools to plan and carry out effective and multi-sectoral SGBV programmes.


UNHCR Staff in Rabat, Morocco, completing the SGBV e-Learning as a team

Contest Winners:
According to Learn & Connect results, the winners in the five categories are:

1. First Representative to complete Modules 1 & 2: Claire Bourgeois, from Baghdad, Iraq

Claire (Copy)

“Addressing SGBV is a key priority for the Iraq operation. Over the past year, with the support of our IPs, we have been expanding our SGBV activities across Iraq, for example, establishing listening centres for IDP women and girls, offering counseling, legal support and vocational training. In the New Year we will be working on our long term SGBV strategy, which I hope will be an inclusive process, involving staff, partners and beneficiaries. Raising awareness amongst staff is essential for the success of our strategy, and the E-learning programme has been an excellent learning experience for all staff in the Iraq Operation” – Claire Bourgeois.

2. Offices with most staff completing Modules 1 and 2:

Baghdad, Iraq


Quetta, Pakistan


Islamabad, Pakistan

Peshawar, Pakistan


El Fasher, Sudan


Damak, Nepal


3. Offices with the highest percentage of staff completing Modules 1 & 2:

Manaus, Brazil


Kirkuk, Iraq


Nurnberg, Germany


Suleimaniyah, Iraq


Karachi, Pakistan


Habillah, Sudan


El Fasher, Sudan


4. Office with most UNVs completing Modules 1 & 2:

Beirut, Lebanon

5. Office with highest percentage of UNVs completing Modules 1 & 2:

Manaus, Brazil (100%)

The winners will also be announced through a display in the UNHCR Headquarters in Geneva and may also receive a nomination for the Gender Award!

Of those who have registered their gender in Learn and Connect, we can see a great balance among staff who took Modules 1 and 2 of the SGBV e-Learning:

56% Male
44% Female

Congratulations to all UNHCR staff for achieving such brilliant results! The contest was just an incentive for completing the new SGBV e-learning. But from now on we encourage staff and partners to finish the modules and keep undertaking the course, as it is crucial that we continue to make SGBV prevention and response a priority in our operations.

The campaign Amplify their voices was launched as part of the 16 Days of Activism Against SGBV and came out from the concept that when a woman is abused her self-esteem is lowered and so is her voice. For this reason, UNHCR decided to amplify their voices in all Latin America as sign of understanding and support.


The campaign comprises videos, radio spots, posters and T-shirts which will be spread out in the whole region. All the material is available in Spanish and Portuguese in the campaign’s website You can listen to real testimonies of women who have been victim of sexual violence in the armed conflict. The campaign invites people to listen and share testimonies on the different types of violence against women refugees and displaced.

To listen to two campaign testimonies subtitled in English please access:

(If the subtitles are not displayed automatically, press button “CC” in the YouTube player command bar and select “English”).


In the Americas, gender violence against women and girl refugees is alarming. In Colombia, approximately 16% of women in situations of displacement have been victims of sexual violence. In Ecuador, a country with the largest number of refugees in Latin America, 8 out of 10 women refugees are victims of violence

In this context, in partnership with government and civil society, UNHCR pays priority attention to women refugees and asylum seekers, trying to strengthen and reduce the risk of suffering from violence. In several countries in Latin America, UNHCR provides legal advice and services to accommodate victims of sexual violence, and promotes public policies and projects to give priority to women through the provision of microcredit.

Help us to amplify their voices! ACT, VISIT:

Posted by: Ana Monroy | November 6, 2012

16 Days Campaign and SGBV E-learning Course

As part of the 16 Days Campaign, this year UNHCR will launch the SGBV e-learning course for its staff and partners. This course is a great tool that will make us more effective in raising awareness on SGBV and in promoting strategies on how to combat it.

A global competition is being held to encourage the maximum number of staff in UNHCR field operations to complete the first two modules of the SGBV e-Learning course during the 16 Days Campaign.

The progress of each operation will be tracked between November 26 and December 7, and on December 11 we’ll announce the winners! Their prizes will include:

 –     Be featured on the blog                            

–     Be featured as part of a display in the UNHCR headquarters’ atrium in Geneva     

–     Be nominated for the Gender Award

With this activity UNHCR aims to increase staff capacities to prevent and respond to SGBV!  This includes all staff – protection, programme, all the way up to Representative!

To know more about the 16 Days of Activism Campaign around the world please access:


The campaign officially starts on 25 November (International Day to Eliminate Violence against Women). As this year it falls on a Sunday, UNHCR’s official launch will take place on Monday 26 November. The campaign will run until 10 December (International Human Rights Day), overlapping with World Aids Day and the International Day of Persons Living with Disabilities.

This year the global theme reprises last year’s:  “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World.”

Given that levels of reporting SGBV incidents by survivors is low, and impunity for perpetrators is high, this year UNHCR is focusing on access to justice for survivors of SGBV.

From now on this blog will be updated with the experiences, best practices, stories and photos from this year’s campaign in the field operations.  It will also keep you up to date on activities taking place in Headquarters in Geneva.

Posted by: Ana Monroy | January 10, 2012

16 Days of Activism: Activities in the Field

UNHCR field offices around the world undertook a number of activities for the 16 Days of Activism in partnership with persons of concern, host communities and other actors and agencies. Here are a few examples:

Police officers help create Peace Houses in Bujumbura

At the opening ceremony of the 16 Days in Bujumbura, Burundi, male UNHCR staffers, police officers and partner agency personnel  laid the foundation of the Peace House while their female colleagues provided the initial building blocks. Persons of concern then filled in the rest of the Peace House.

In Fugnido, Ethiopia, staff and persons of concern gathered for a panel discussion about the local implications of this year’s theme, “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World,” to launch the 16 Days.  Many other activities were also planned, including a school debate amongst primary school students on girls’ education, cultural dances performed by refugee children, role-playing exercises about sexual and gender-based violence, a community sport competition and construction of a Peace Tukul, the traditional homes of the refugee community.

UNHCR staff in Fugnido facilitate a community discussion

A school debate in Fugnido about the household responsibilities of men and women









In Amman and Al Mafraq, Jordan, UNHCR together with UNICEF and the Ministry of Education organized in public and private schools an awareness campaign about children’s rights, SGBV and other forms of violence.  This campaign utilized a puppet show as a way of sharing information. Both refugee and local children attended these events, which sought also to foster tolerance and acceptance of difference.

UNHCR also organized a community outreach campaign for adults on SGBV within local and refugee populations with its partner Jordan River Foundation (JRF). The community educators had previously participated in a Training of Trainers organized by JRF.

T-shirts distributed during school events. It reads: I am a child and I have rights. Let's start from home.

At all three offices in Kyrgyzstan, a series of awareness-raising and informational meetings, trainings and discussions were organized with persons of concern and other partners. In Bishkek, a conference of UNHCR and other UN agencies and stakeholders was organized to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. As well, UNHCR with partners organized meetings for male and female refugees and asylum-seekers to raise awareness about sexual and gender-based violence and response mechanisms.

In Jalalabad and Osh, UNHCR, Help Aid International (HAI) and local Social Protection Departments (SPD) organized information sessions about violence against women and available assistantce programs. Also in Osh, UNHCR organized information sessions on HIV for families with HIV+ children for World AIDS Day, and UNHCR and HAI organized an information session for 50 elderly and disabled persons, 20 of whom were provided with wheelchairs by the local SPD, for International Persons with Disabilities Day.

Information session with Uzbek refugee women at a reception center

Information session with refugee men in Kyrgyzstan

In the Republic of Congo, many events and activities were organized. In Betou, UNHCR staff and partner agency personnel attended presentations and workshops and created a Peace House. In Impfondo, persons of concern and the host community gathered for singing, dancing and poetry recitations at the opening ceremony for the 16 Days, as well as a presentation of their Peace House.

Congolese group dance in Impfondo

Staff in Betou with their Peace House








In Yemen, UNHCR and its implementing partners organized a number of events and activities around this year’s theme, “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World,” on domestic violence, child abuse, FGM, early marriage and HIV/AIDS. Refugee children created peace houses reflecting their ideas of peace in the home and refugee girls competed in a basketball match. Theater plays were presented on domestic violence, family planning, FGM, education and early marriage as awareness and outreach strategies. Awareness sessions and workshops on FGM and HIV/AIDS were held for refugees and partner agency staff, and International Persons with Disabilities Day celebrations were organized for children and adults. UNHCR also organized a roundtable discussion on domestic violence with police, judges and civil society organizations. You can find a slideshow of these events here.

Refugee girls compete in a basketball match

Refugee children decorating a Peace House in Yemen

Posted by: Ana Monroy | January 9, 2012

16 Days of Activism: Peace Houses Around the World

This past month, UNHCR offices around the world celebrated the 21st anniversary of the 16 Days of Activism against Sexual and Gender-based Violence. Beginning 25 November, International Day to Eliminate Violence against Women, and ending 10 December, International Human Rights Day, UNHCR field staff and persons of concern organized and participated in a variety of events and activities intended to raise awareness and address sexual and gender-based violence, which disproportionately affects women and girls. UNHCR decided to mark this year’s 16 Days theme, “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World,” by creating peace quilt homes made up of individually-designed squares of words and images reflecting ways of achieving peace in the home.  Here are a few examples of Peace Houses from Headquarters in Geneva and our offices in Burundi, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Republic of Congo and Togo:

Peace Houses in Bujumbura, Burundi

Peace Tukul (traditional house) in Fugnido, Ethiopia

Peace House in Amman, Jordan

Peace House in Kyrgyzstan

Peace House in Betou, Republic of Congo

Peace House in Impfondo, Republic of Congo

Peace House in UNHCR Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland

Peace House in Lome, Togo

Posted by: Ana Monroy | December 9, 2011

16 Days of Activism 2011: Report from UNHCR Sub Office Jijiga

By Community Services, UNHCR Sub Office Jijiga              

Celebrations for the International Day to Eliminate Violence against Women, 25th November, kicked off the 16 Days of Activism campaign against sexual and gender-based violence in Shedder, Aw’bare and Kebribeyah Refugee Camps in Eastern Ethiopia. Speeches, music, traditional dances and dramas on GBV entertained the large assembled crowds. In deference to the 2011 theme of ‘Peace in the Home to Peace in the World’,   UNHCR with IRC and the refugee community constructed Peace Tukels in each of the camps. The Peace Tukels, as with the traditional Somali pastoralist habitats found in the camps, are covered with a patchwork cloth. Messages from the community promoting positive change and ending violence against women were collected and adorned the patchwork coverings.

Men and Women at the Peace Tukel in Shedder Refugee Camp uniting to end violence against women.

After the campaign comes to a close on 10th December for Human Rights Day, the Peace Tukels will be given over to the community for use for activities and meetings relating to gender equality and peace initiatives. The anti-Early Marriage Team in Shedder has already requested to host their meetings there on Tuesday evenings.

Aw’bare Refugee Camp Peace Tukel







Events during the 16 Days of Activism are organized to target the whole community from pre-schoolers to the traditional and religious leaders. Poster and poetry competitions, football and volleyball games, quizzes and panel discussions challenging societal acceptance of FGM, Early Marriage and other harmful traditional practices will take place throughout the campaign. The Male Involvement groups are active, performing dramas and leading marches in the camps speaking out against rape and espousing the importance of keeping girls in school.

Peace messages

On the eve of World AIDS Day, 1st December, a candlelight walk will take place throughout the camps at 7 pm. The theme for 2011 is Getting to Zero; Zero New HIV Infections, Zero AIDS Related Deaths, and Zero Discrimination.  Together for a better world for all: Including persons with disabilities in development is the theme of this year’s International Day of Person’s with Disabilities on 3rd December.  Fun activities such as wheelchair races will be combined with stronger messages to tackle issues of stigmatization in the community and accessibility.  Human Rights Day will conclude the campaign on 10th December.

Interior of Kebribyah Peace Tukel

Exterior of Kebribyah Peace Tukel

Posted by: astridstort | April 19, 2011

No refugee should be a refugee forever

This time we took the  Regional Dialogues on Women and Girls all the way down to Zambia in southern Africa where we stayed from 11-16 April. The last two days of the Dialogues were attended by Erika Feller, UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection and one of four most senior officals in UNHCR.

Most refugees in Zambia live in two huge refugee settlements in the North Western province  called Meheba and Mayukwayuka, while others are in urban areas or even self settled. By the end of the year, the refugee status of refugees from Rwanda and Angola will end and many of this group– apart from some with special concerns–will return home.

“Cessation is an important step for refugees and UNHCR” said Erika Feller, “No refugee should be a refugee forever. ”

We (the facilitators from the University of New South wales and UNHCR)  spent the week with seventy women and ten men from Angola, Rwanda, the Democratic republic of Congo, Somalia, Burundi and Ethiopia who had come from all over to gather in Lusaka.

Erika Feller, UNHCRs top official attends the dialogues, a model which she believes should be duplicated worldwide (UNHCR@A.v.GenderenStort)

During our talks all women spoke about the huge concern they have about violence and rapes and about the impunity faced by perpetrators of crimes, We kept on hearing stories about children being raped, and some even as young as four years old. Teachers in the schools, the women said, were often very young and good grades would be offered in exchange for sex.  Protection for the girls cannot be guaranteed, and as a result women are very scared to send their children to school or leave them at home alone, unattended. Anyone could just come in.

Medical care and staff are also limited, medication not enough and clinics so far removed that deaths occur as a result. “There are so many forced teenage pregnancies but there is not enough medical care. Girls die on the way to the clinic, simply because their hips are not wide enough” one refugee said.

Refugees also spoke about the lack of schools, and the overcrowded classrooms which make receiving good education nearly impossible.“Some schools have ninety pupils in one class. Scholarships are rare. Girls drop out early and are forced into early marriages.”

Many also highlighted the lack of freedom of movement for the refugees and the difficulties they face with too expensive work permits.Sometimes only the father of the family has a work permit to run a shop and when he falls sick, his wife cannot take over. Single mothers can hardly make ends meet, having to care for their families, earn an income and survive in a difficult refugee surrounding. The lack of enough sanitary material or soap to wash material needed during the menstruation period, can confine a woman to the house for a week every month which can seriously impact the family she is expected to support.

Erika Feller was very happy with the dialogue process but also commented that it was very disturbing to see that in 2011 so many women still face daily problems of violence and abuse and have to fight to fend them for themselves. She stressed that everyone has the responsibility to (help) empower the refugee women and to provide them with skills which can make them more independent.

It seems so difficult to address all the problems refugees face. The UNHCR office in Zambia is doing a fantastic job, but is seriously hampered by the fact that it does not have enough staff and funds to address all the issues raised by the refugees. This is where it is very important that the government, UNHCR, donors and the refugee community work very closely together. Even without a lot of money, communities can be empowered to fight against violence and injustice around them and refugees can be taught by their own teachers and cured by their own doctors. Nothing comes for free, but a lot can be done with little as long as there is help and goodwill of all. (for more check also UNHCR website at

Refugee women in Zambia expressed their concern about violence and rape in particular against young girls who need to be better protected (UNHCR@AvGenderenStort)

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