Gender Equality is a Human Right
While globally women experience many levels of discrimination and disadvantages, the experience of migrant and refugee women is compounded by their ethnicity and immigrant status. The challenges they face increase by the day due to the magnitude of displacement, the growing vulnerabilities, compounded by diminishing resources and strained social services in refugee-hosting districts. Their situation has worsened amidst the covid-19 pandemic thus increasing their vulnerability to shocks including major disease outbreaks, food shortages, climate change, adolescent pregnancies, menstrual poverty, sexual and gender based violence (SCBV) and an increased dependence on natural resources as a source of livelihoods and cooking energy.
Financial and Market Inclusion
Financial and Market inclusion are a catalyst for achieving gender equality and economic empowerment of women. Yet refugee women form part of the 48% of Ugandans excluded from accessing formal financial services because they are considered a “flight risk” by financial institutions. Lack of access to formal capital impedes refugee communities, particularly women from starting businesses to generate income. Enhancing’ women’s direct access to and control over financial resources, strengthens their role as decision-makers and enhances their ability to influence how their households allocate resources.
Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SHRH)
In developing regions, it is estimated that over 200 million women who want to avoid pregnancy do not have access to contraceptives or family planning methods. Uganda has one of the highest fertility rates in the world, high rates of teenage pregnancies as well as rising HIV/AIDS infection rates amongst adolescents. Likewise, Refugee women and girls do not have access to comprehensive information and services on sexual and reproductive health and rights thus increasing the likelihood of unwanted pregnancies, experience poor SRHR outcomes including school absence due to menstruation, unsafe abortions, and sexual violence. When women and girls have access to and control over their own sexual and reproductive health, they can complete their education, grow their career, and take care of themselves and their family.
Environment and Climate Change
Refugees are often settled in environmentally marginal locations with population densities up to ten times the national average. The demands on ecosystem services from rapid refugee influxes outpace planning and implementation of remedial measures. Access to sustainable energy for sufficient and clean cooking, lighting and power remain key challenges in the refugee settlements and in Uganda at large. Over 75 percent of refugees are without any renewable source of energy. Likewise, 93% of refugees in Uganda depend on the natural forests for their source of cooking energy, farmland, shelter, timber, and fodder to feed the animals. Similarly, refugee women headed households experience low resilience to climate change because of limited access to physical productive assets.