Refugee Women and Girls:

Key to the Global Compact on Refugees

People Involved: Adjunct Associate Professor Eileen PittawayDr Linda Bartolomei, and Geraldine Doney

Research Areas: Refugee women and girls, International Law and Policy

Partners/Collaborators: The Australian National Committee on Refugee Women (ANCORW)Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN), Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS)Townsville Multicultural Support Group (TMSG), AMES and UNHCR Geneva

The project is using a collaborative action research approach to support the implementation and monitoring of commitments to refugee women and girls in the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR), in the Asia region. It will take place over 3.5 years from 2018 – 2021. The project was developed by Dr Linda Bartolomei and Associate Professor Eileen Pittaway from the Forced Migration Research Network, University of New South Wales (UNSW), and is funded by the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The project aims to improve international protection for refugee women and girls by increasing the capacity of services to work more effectively with them, including through the application of an age, gender and diversity approach to promote gender equality and support efforts to end sexual and gender-based violence. It will work in close partnership with refugee women, refugee organisations, service providers, academics, UNHCR and other stakeholders. It will strengthen the ability of women’s civil society organisations and other stakeholders to include and empower refugee women to be actively involved in program design, implementation, management and monitoring of the GCR.

The project will take place in Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar and Bangladesh, to address gender commitments in these different refugee situations. A separate but parallel and independently funded project in Australia will address GCR commitments to women and girls in a resettlement context.

Project Brochure (PDF)

Refugee Women and Girls logo

Background to the Global Compact on Refugees, and the Gender Audit of the GCR process

In September 2016, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) issued the New York Declaration Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants. The Declaration included a strong and clear set of commitments to refugee women and girls. It also outlined a Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF), detailing four key areas for attention, those being Reception and Admission, Immediate and On-going Needs, Support for Host Countries and Communities, and Durable Solutions. UNHCR was requested to develop a Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) based on the New York Declaration, for adoption at the UNGA in December 2018. A parallel process for development of a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) was undertaken by the UN General Assembly.

In May 2017, the research team developed a comprehensive gender analysis (PDF) of the draft GCR and Plan Of Action, to support advocacy for stronger commitments to the protection of refugee women and girls in these documents. This analysis generated significant international interest and led the research team to undertake a gender audit of the UNHCR meetings that developed the final draft of the GCR. This gender audit was done in partnership with a team of women from refugee backgrounds, and in close cooperation with UNHCR. The final gender audit reports can be found on the UNHCR page.

The final version of the GCR, adopted by the UN General Assembly in New York on 17 December 2018, retained the strong gender language and commitments to refugee women and girls, that our Gender audit team had fought so hard to have included. These include comprehensive commitments to address gender inequalities and the endemic sexual and gender-based violence which characterises refugee women’s and girls’ lives.

Core Principles

The gender audit influenced the development of the current project, including a recognition that any project that seeks to address the objectives of the GCR to improve the protection, equality and participation of refugee women, cannot take a “one size fits all” approach, and needs to be address both individual and structural barriers to be “transformative, not palliative”.

Together with the team’s long history of working with refugee women, the insights gained from the gender audit contributed to core principles underpinning the project:

  1. SGBV is a cross cutting issue and major barrier to gender equality.
  2. Gender equality is essential for the protection of refugee women and girls
  3. Women and girls are not inherently vulnerable, but are put in vulnerable situations

Project Aim

These principles are reflected in the four key project aims:

  1. Improve international protection measures for refugee women and girls, by increasing the capacity of service providers to work more effectively with them, including through the effective application of an AGD approach to promote gender equality and support efforts to end sexual and gender-based violence.
  2. Ensure the different but particular needs of women and girls, men and boys, and principles of AGD inform the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the GCR across the 4 pillars of the CRRF
  3. Strengthen the ability of women’s civil society organisations and other stakeholders to include and empower refugee women to be actively involved in program design, implementation, management and monitoring of the GCR. – mentioned the importance of documenting what works and sharing this
  4. Contribute to an accessible and effective “community of practice”, linked directly to AGD commitments in the GCR.

It was noted that structural change is needed to truly address barriers that block women’s inclusion and equality, and that this will involve complex politics and a need to work with multiple stakeholders with different perspectives, values and constraints.

The project will be completed in three stages, with outcomes from each stage informing the next. Project countries include Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, Bangladesh and Australia, to cover a range of refugee contexts and challenges. Potential sources of seed funding are being explored to support refugee women’s groups to trial projects as part of the action research methodology.

Stage 1 (2017/18) – Promoting strong gender focus in the GCR, informed by consultations with refugee women and their involvement in a gender audit of GCR meetings. Analysis of the final GCR identified areas for development, monitoring and evaluation. A multi-stakeholder workshop held in Bangkok in October 2018 with refugee women, local NGOs and other key stakeholders introduced the project and laid the groundwork for local partnerships in each of the project sites.

Stage 2 (2019 to mid 2020) – Participatory reciprocal research consultations in each site will identify local challenges to gender equality and SGBV prevention, (in)effective local responses, recommended changes, and strategies for increased refugee women’s involvement in addressing challenges. Follow-up consultations/workshops in each site will support the development of implementation tools/strategies with training support for project design and monitoring/evaluation activities. Findings will be shared by refugee women at the 2019 Global Refugee Forum.

Stage 3 (mid 2020 to end 2021) – Models, tools and films developed in the project will be finalised and made available via UNHCR’s planned Digital Platform of good practices. Concrete examples of GCR commitments implemented in practice will be identified by refugee women, who will present their findings at the 70-year Refugee Convention commemoration.

In addition to the international project funded by DFAT, a parallel project is being conducted in Australia to consider the gender commitments of the GCR in a resettlement context. This parallel work is possible through the support and in-kind contributions of the project’s Australian partners, including AMES Australia (VIC), Australian National Committee On Refugee Women (ANCORW), Diversitat (VIC), Jesuit Refugee Service Australia, Multicultural Development Association (QLD), Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network (MYAN), Settlement Services International (SSI, NSW), and Townsville Multicultural Support Group (TMSG).

For further queries regarding the project please contact:

Dr Linda Bartolomei

Ph: 02 9385 1859