Vienna, 3 November 2022 -- UNODC and UNIDO, together with the Permanent Missions of Finland, Norway, and Sweden in Vienna, hosted the fourth annual Vienna Discussion Forum (VDF) to discuss gender equality and women's and girls’ empowerment in the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the mandates of the two organizations. In its 2022 edition, the VDF shed light on the gender aspects of migration and forced displacement and the importance of ensuring that measures to address migration and displacement -whether caused by conflict or other insecurities- are gender-responsive and have a human rights-centered approach. It highlighted the need to understand the different displacement patterns of men and women as only then it is possible to effectively support men and women in transit to their final destination, safeguarding them from human trafficking and migrant smuggling.
Panelists explored the consequences of the lack of accessible legal migration pathways for migrants, refugees, and persons forced into displacement and the inherent risk of them falling prey to smuggling networks exposing them to mistreatment, and violence, including sexual violence, kidnapping, torture, and even loss of life. This risk clearly has a gender element as studies show that women comprise roughly half of the world’s 281 million migrants and the 82,4 million people forcibly displaced worldwide. The UNODC 2020 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons shows that women and girls are especially at risk as for every 10 victims detected globally, 5 were women and 2 were girls.
UNODC Executive Director, Ghada Waly, emphasized that in an already precarious situation, gender exacerbates vulnerabilities, especially those faced by women and girls who are particularly at risk for certain crimes. She stressed the lack of gendered approaches in policies and noted that “The disproportionate impact of conflict on women and girls is recognized in numerous human rights instruments, but it is not always captured in laws, policies, and measures to address migration and forced displacement.”
The VDF shed light on policy gaps and their impact on gender mainstreaming processes as well as the importance of economic empowerment of displaced women and girls. While understanding the specific risks and challenges faced by refugee and migrant women and girls, Member States must move beyond seeing them solely as victims. Their agency and potential to bring about positive change must be recognized, as socioeconomic empowerment is key to ensuring their displacement does not leave them in a continued situation of vulnerability. Host countries can offer migrants, refugees, and displaced persons with opportunities to make a viable livelihood, but they must ensure that both men and women have access to these resources and opportunities. For instance, women coming from strongly patriarchal societies tend to have less decision-making power and often find it harder to exercise their agency.
UNIDO Managing Director, Directorate of Global Partnerships and External Relations, Fatou Haidara further pointed out that “Displaced women and girls are potential agents of change and leaders who contribute to their countries of origin, transit and destination economically and socially in multiple ways.” This gendered approach must thus be applied to the policies and practices of recipient countries which was emphasized by the State Secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland Johanna Sumuvuori “It is not only about women and girls, but it is also about the well-being of the whole of society.”
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