Mar 15, 2013
To raise awareness and generate new ideas to address the plight of displaced women working to support their families across the world, J.P. Morgan Social Finance recently hosted a panel discussion featuring leaders from The Women’s Refugee Commission and UN Women timed to coincide with the 2013 Commission on the Status of Women.
More than 50 guests ranging from various government missions to the UN, to a director from the MacArthur Foundation to a Member of Afghanistan’s Parliament, attended the panel discussion. Titled “Creating Safe and Effective Livelihoods for Women in Crisis-Affected Settings,” panelists described approaches to involve women in setting economic policy as well as creating paths for safe, sustainable employment.
Wars and natural disasters impose hardships on everyone, but the dangers imposed on women, children and youth – which make up 80% of such displaced populations – can be even more dire in urban and camp-based locations, speakers at the panel session explained. More than 42 million people around the world have been displaced by conflict, and another 10 to 40 million are displaced each year by natural disasters.
Cultural obstacles, along with the economic ones, combine to create a nearly intractable situation for many of these women, based on the discussion. What little money the women earned often had to be turned over to husbands or other family members, frequently in the face of physical threats. To overcome these obstacles, the speakers said, humanitarian organizations needed to address engrained societal norms, going beyond providing financial assistance.
The panel consisted of UN Women’s Head Siobhάn Foran; Dale Buscher, senior director of Programs for the Women’s Refugee Commission; and moderator, Amy Bell, head of Principal Investing in Social Finance at J.P. Morgan. The panelists agreed that a comprehensive strategy influencing economic, cultural and political empowerment was necessary to address the myriad of challenges faced by displaced persons including the safety of women.