Covid-19 and climate crisis worsen inequalities for displaced women and girls

By United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Covid-19 and climate crisis worsen inequalities for displaced women and girls

Conflict, climate change, and the Covid-19 pandemic are delivering a triple blow to the rights and safety of refugees, internally displaced and stateless women and girls, many of whom were already facing deep-rooted inequalities and discrimination.

Two years into the pandemic, UNHCR continues to see increased reports of gender-based violence, from domestic violence, forced marriages, child labor, to trafficking and exploitation. In some contexts where families are hit by conflict, disaster, insecurity, and spiraling poverty, girls are being taken out of school to work, beg, wed – and in the most extreme cases, to be sold.

Worsening socio-economic conditions aggravated by the pandemic, mean displaced women and girls are among those hardest hit. Millions are dependent on precarious employment in the informal economy – earning less and yet spending more to sustain their families. They are at greater risk of poverty and exploitation.

Gender inequality is both a root cause and a consequence of forced displacement. The organization knows from the daily interactions that women and girls living in humanitarian crises and armed conflicts are at heightened risk. The world fears existing gender inequalities will only deepen from the impacts of climate change – from inequities in access to natural resources, legal rights, livelihood opportunities, formalized safety nets, technologies and information, and more.

As it marks International Women’s Day, UNHCR urges governments, civil society, each of us, and the communities to address gender inequality in all its forms and to support and promote the leadership, inclusion, and full participation of displaced women and girls. For its part, UNHCR is committed to supporting local, women-led, frontline responses and to strengthening the collaboration with women-led organizations – especially those led by refugees and stateless and internally displaced women and girls.

Unless concerted efforts are made to work in partnership with forcibly displaced women and girls, displaced communities, and all stakeholders to transform systems and harmful social norms that perpetuate gender inequality and discrimination, it risks leaving refugees and forcibly displaced women and girls behind.