Ethiopia: JRS holds panel discussion in preparation of International Women's Day
03 March 2009

In the discussion many refugee women said they feel they are not valued by their male counterparts.
Addis Ababa, 3 March 2009 — As a prelude to this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD), a half-day panel discussion was held on March 3, 2009. The twenty-six participants were members of the Association of Refugee Women established through joint efforts of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), JRS and the Development and Inter-church Aid Commission (DICAC) in 2009 in Addis Ababa. The purpose of the panel was to discuss issues related to the IWD theme for the year “Sharing the caring for the future.”

A film screened at the start of the panel depicted the life of refugee women in the camps – the reasons for their displacement, the difficulties connected to their lives as refugees and their initiative to overcome the problems they encountered. The film revealed that 80% of the world’s refugee population are women and children.

The panel was facilitated by a representative from the UNHCR Regional Liaison Office (UNHCR/RLO). It caste light on the problems faced by women, the theme for the year and the role expected of others to assist women to overcome their burdens. Panelist refugee women shared their experiences with the participants and the participants reflected on that, adding their own experiences as well.

Women must have a voice

In the discussion many refugee women said they feel they are not valued by their male counterparts. Their husbands often spend the subsistence allowance unwisely on alcohol or on extra marital relationships which adds to the suffering of the family. They force their wives to have more children leaving them no say on the family size. The refugee women also mentioned that the subsistence allowance is often not sufficient.

The participants expressed their desire to be listened to and not to be ignored. They suggested that UNHCR should make women the heads of families which would enable them to collect the subsistence allowance and spend it for the benefit of the family. And they expressed the need to educate their husbands in order to build their awareness on relevant issues.

Prominent among the recommendations forwarded by the refugee women was the need to organise two awareness-raising workshops. One should involve couples, giving them the opportunity to discuss strategies that help “share the caring” while the other workshop should involve teenagers, giving them the opportunity to learn about their roles as future parents. JRS will consider their recommendations in their future planning.

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