Women: the backbone of the refugee community

Women are the backbone of the refugee community.

Women and children constitute over 80% of the refugee population.

Women aged between 18 and 60+ years represent some 20% of the refugee population, and bear the largest care burden.

Women-headed households represent 64% of all refugee households largely as a result of families splitting, with men remaining in the home country.

Children under 18 years of age constitute 60% of the population, resulting in a significant care burden on women, directly as biological parents or as foster caregivers.

How conflict affects women and girls

  • Women are known to be hardworking, and compare favourably to male peers. However, stripped of means of to make a living, refugee women must manage the heavy burden of caring for minors. With reductions in food rations, the situation for refugee women becomes desperate, sometimes forcing them to engage in risky practices to provide for their families.  
  • In times of conflict and its aftermath, legal structures that traditionally protect women and girls, including formal and informal justice systems and respect for the rule of law, break down leaving them vulnerable to abuse and violence. Atrocities and abuses and the resultant culture of violence can become ingrained, creating a culture of impunity.  

  • Violence against women and girls remains among the most serious threats to the safety and security of women and girls affected by conflict and displacement. Rape, sexual assault, dowry-related violence, intimate partner violence, forced and early marriage, teenage pregnancy and sexual exploitation and abuse are among the violations of women and girl could experience. Such crimes are also perpetrated against men and boys.

  • During conflict and displacement, gender roles, relationships and dynamics change, often causing an increase in violence. Shifts in family dynamics and gender roles sometimes compel women and girls to resort to negative coping mechanisms, such as early marriage, transactional or commercial sex, whilst men and boys no longer feel they have a place or authority within the community, nor a role to support their families.