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UNHCR urges better protection of refugees from workplace SGBV

UNITED Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi has called for renewed and bold actions to better protect refugees and displaced people from sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in the workplace.

And UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie says there was need for bolder and stronger measures to protect refugee women and girls who continue to be exposed to sexual and gender-based violence.

In a message to mark the 16 Days of Activism which began on November 25 and whose theme is, ‘End Gender-Based Violence in the world of work’, Grandi said the world of work could be particularly risky for refugees and other forcibly displaced people.

“Many are left with no choice but the informal sector, exposing them to unsafe and abusive working conditions, including gender-based violence,” Grandi said.

As the world marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UNHCR regrets that access to safe and lawful employment remains a distant reality for many refugees in their countries of asylum.

It stated that granting them the right to work and to access markets where they could sell their products would reduce the risk of sexual violence.

UNHCR stated that it would also enable them to be more self-reliant and to contribute to the economies of their host communities in safety and dignity.

“Sexual harassment is both unacceptable and unjustifiable and we have taken a series of decisive actions to ensure a safe and respectful work environment for all colleagues. These include an independent helpline for colleagues who want to report misconduct or need advice. This is a key priority for the organisation,” said Grandi.

And Jolie said for many women, the risk of being raped or sexually abused permeates every aspect of their life, even the most basic tasks such as collecting water and firewood.

“I hope the international community will renew its commitment to ending these violent acts, and its focus on urgent practical solutions,” said Jolie.

Since 2014, UNHCR, in partnership with Safe from the Start, an anti-SGBV initiative supported by the US Government, has developed 15 new projects to reduce the risk of SGBV through access to cooking energy and the creation of livelihood opportunities for refugee women.

One, the MADE51 artisan initiative allows refugee artisans, many of them women at risk of SGBV, to receive expert product development support and access to international marketing channels and sustainable livelihoods.

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