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« Refugees and internally displaced persons »

Modified on 2013/05/16 15:23 by Haoyi Chen Paths: Read in Order Categorized as Chapter 2 - Migration, displaced persons and refugees
From gender issues to gender statistics on refugees and internally displaced persons: illustrative examples

Policy-relevant questions Data needed Sources of data
Do women and men refugees have the same types of living arrangements? Number of refugees by sex, type of accommodation and type of household Population censuses
Refugee registers or other administrative sources
Do women and men participate equally in the administration of refugee camps? Number of refugees participating in camp-level decision-making by sex Administrative sources related to refugee camps
Do women and men asylum-seekers / refugees have equal access to individual identity documentation? Number of asylum seekers / refugees and number of individually registered asylum seekers / refugees by sex Combination of several sources: refugee registers, administrative sources and population censuses.
Do all women of reproductive age in refugee camps have access to sanitary supplies? Number of women of reproductive age living in refugee camps and number of women provided with sanitary supplies Administrative sources related to refugee camps
Do refugee girls and boys have equal access to schooling? Enrolled refugee pupils / students and refugee population by sex, age, grade and level of education

School attendance for refugee children by sex, age and level of education
School administrative sources combined with information on population from censuses and surveys.

Population census
Surveys focused on refugee camps or IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) profiling surveys

  • + Gender issues
    • Refugee and internally displaced women and girls are less likely than men and boys to have access to some of the most fundamental human rights. These include their right to food, health care, shelter, nationality and documentation. Some of the challenges faced by women and girls in these situations are similar in nature to those faced by women and girls in all societies, albeit influenced by displacement. Other challenges are specific and unique to their displaced status. Women and girls represent slightly less than half of the refugees worldwide (UNHCR, 2011). Women are underrepresented among asylum-seekers, have the same share as men among the internally displaced persons, and are slightly overrepresented among the stateless persons. In some countries such as those in Asia, men represent the majority of refugee population, either because women remain behind in the country of origin or because women may be more likely to find work as domestic servants and not register as refugee (UNHCR, 2011). In other countries, such as those in Central Africa, however, women represent more than half of the refugees (UNHCR, 2011). In such cases, men tend to find more often jobs out of the camps, while women remain living in the camps, taking care of the children and preparing food for their families.

      Refugee and internally displaced women and girls are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence and exploitation (United Nations, 2006). No one is spared the violence, but women and girls are particularly affected because of their status in society and their sex. Gender-based violence – including rape, forced impregnation, forced abortion, trafficking, sexual slavery, and the intentional spread of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS – is one of the defining characteristics of contemporary armed conflict. Women’s vulnerability to rape and sexual assaults continues during flight from their homes and at the crossing of the border. Women and girls are increasingly seeking protection in another country; however, compared to men, they more often lack documentation, the means to travel and/or knowledge about their rights (UNFPA, 2006). Forced to resort to smugglers and perilous routes to reach safety, women and adolescent girls may also be forced to offer sex to border guards and others in return for permission to pass and are at greater risk of being trafficked into prostitution and other forced labour.

      Vulnerability to sexual violence and abuse remains high in many refugee camps, particularly in those overcrowded, with inadequate security and a lack of distinctly placed sanitation and bathing facilities for women and for men (United Nations, 2006). Lack of, or biases in, judicial systems and/or in traditional justice mechanisms often leave them with no redress or result in further stigmatization and discrimination. Long walk distances out of the camps to collect water and firewood for cooking and heating may also expose women to the threat of rape. Single women or unaccompanied girls in collective centres may be at higher risk of abuse or violence, if they are not accommodated separately from men or if there is not sufficient privacy. Too often, unaccompanied or separated girls fall victim to traffickers and disappear in the course of the asylum procedure.

      Refugee women without individual documentation of their status in the host countries are more vulnerable to general abuse. Women who are not registered and/or have no individual identity documents, are either dependent on male family members for access to food, assistance or essential services or have no such access. Girls who are not registered are at greater risk of sexual exploitation, early and forced marriage, slavery, trafficking, permanent separation from their families, unauthorized and illicit adoption and other human rights abuses. Some displaced women and girls are virtually imprisoned indoors, fearing arrest and deportation, or the wrath of their husband, father, male siblings or other relations, if they leave their homes.

      Status inequality and gender-differentiated roles increase the vulnerability of refugee and internally displaced women to abuse and hardship (United Nations, 2006). For example, women may not participate equally with men in the administration of camps and in the formulation and implementation of assistance programmes, with negative effects on equal access to food or other essential items, as well as on health and education of children. When access to food is limited, some refugee women are forced to provide sexual favours for obtaining food rations for themselves and their families. Refugee and displaced women may also have more difficulties in finding adequate jobs and be at risk of exploitation.

      Staying in school and completing their education tend to be more difficult for refugee girls than boys, especially in secondary schools (UNHCR, 2011). The reasons for low educational participation for girls are often related to limited or difficult school access; presence or fear of an unsafe learning environment; financial constraints that require girls to contribute to family economies; lack of documentation; or cultural assumptions about the value of educating girls (UNHCR, 2011). In particular, adolescent girls may drop out of school due to reasons such as early marriage, lack of parental guidance, poverty and insecurity, as reported for Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya (UNHCR, 2011). Female refugee teachers are recognized as crucial in increasing safety in school, especially for girls, and in preventing sexual exploitation and abuse, including trading sex for grade promotion. However, female refugee teachers represent only a small minority among all refugee teachers (UNHCR, 2011).

      Returning in communities of origin often entails new hardship for women and girls. Due to gender discriminating laws and customs in the country of origin, returning refugees and internally displaced women, particularly widows, may face specific difficulties in reclaiming property in post-conflict situations. Women may be excluded from peace processes and continue to suffer violence and discrimination in reconstruction and rehabilitation activities. In the absence of male relatives, especially following conflict, women and girls may assume non-traditional roles and face discrimination and prejudice as a result. Women may also find themselves face to face with their rapists and attackers and be forced to live in fear and silence, as cultural taboos and the absence of support have kept the crimes hidden and protected the perpetrators.

  • + Data needed
    • Number of refugees / asylum seekers / stateless persons by sex, age, type of living quarters / accommodation, urban/rural areas, and country of origin.

      Number of internally displaced persons by sex, age, type of living quarters / accommodation, urban/rural areas and place of displacement.

      Number of individually registered asylum seekers / refugees by sex and age.

      Number of refugees living in camps involved in camp-level decision-making by sex.

      The statistics above, although often unavailable or with incomplete coverage, can provide basic demographic information on refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced persons. When available, information on marital status, type of household, and labour force status, should be obtained and used as breakdown variables.

      In addition, sex-disaggregated data on access to education, health and nutrition is particularly important to monitor the situation of refugee children. For adults, sex-disaggregated data on sexual behaviour related to HIV prevention and access to health services, including reproductive and maternal health care and support for victims of violence should be obtained.

      Furthermore, qualitative and quantitative information based on case studies and reports is necessary to understand gender-specific problems and difficulties faced by refugees and internally displaced persons, including violence, sexual abuse, economic dependency and lack of economic opportunities.

  • + Examples of indicators derived from gender statistics on refugees and internally displaced persons:
    • Share of women among refugees

      Proportion of refugees and asylum-seekers registered individually by sex

      Proportion of refugee children aged 12-23 months receiving measles vaccines by sex

      Proportion underweight among refugee children aged 24-59 months by sex

      Proportion of needs met for sanitary materials

      Share of girls among out-of-school refugee children of primary-school age

      Share of women among members of camp management committees

      Note: See UNHCR, 2010a; 2010b; 2010c, for a complete list of indicators related to well-being of refugees and internally displaced persons.

  • + Sources of data
    • Refugee and asylum-seeker registers are most frequently used sources of data on refugees and they can provide information on individual characteristics such as sex, date of birth, marital status, country of origin, and place of displacement. They may also provide information on specific needs of individuals or family or household characteristics. Registers that are continuous are particularly valuable because they allow for regular follow-up of individuals. Nevertheless, this source of data overlooks refugees that are not able or not willing to be registered.

      Population censuses may collect data on refugees living in camps. Compared to registers, censuses can provide more comprehensive data on individual and household characteristics, including on migration, education, work and living arrangements. However, because censuses are usually conducted only every 10 years and because they do not allow regular follow-up on individuals, the information obtained becomes quickly outdated.

      IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) profiling surveys can provide information on individuals and households in certain displaced or affected populations.

      Surveillance systems targeted to refugee camps can be used to provide information on health and mortality (UNHCR, 2010a). HIV Behavioural Surveillance Surveys (BSS) have been conducted, for example, in 2010, in Kenya, United Republic of Tanzania, and Uganda (UNHCR, 2011).

      Administrative sources are an important source of information on access of refugees to education and health services. Additional administrative records focused on the population in camps can be used a source of information on nutrition and supplementary feeding, or management of camps.


  • + Conceptual and measurement issues
    • Gender statistics on refugees and internally displaced persons are generally lacking and, most often, the data available refer only to the total number of refugees and internally displaced persons by sex and age. Still, even sex and age disaggregated data are available for less than two thirds of refugees counted by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR, 2011). In some cases, more detailed data are collected, but they are not disseminated. For example, population censuses often collect data on demographic, social and economic characteristics for refugees living in camps, including data on migration, living arrangements, education and work. However, little of what is published goes beyond sex and age of those women and men refugees. With regard to some issues, data may not be collected at all, either because of field difficulties, or because there are no guidelines and standards of data collection. Sexual violence and abuse, access to food and other basic necessities, for instance, are among the most difficult topics to collect in such situations.

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