The refugee women and girls face specific risks and are less likely than men and boys to have access to their rights. They Fear for their life, sexual abuse,dangerous and difficult journeys.
Refugee women are in a precarious position, and puts them at risk of exploitation by people in positions of power including landlords, employers and even the police. Pregnant, disabled or older women may face particular challenges.
Most of the refugee households are headed by women. Manal a heavily pregnant women with her fourth child, who has been travelling for two weeks said. “When you are pregnant this journey is very hard. You have to walk long stretches,” she says, “it is much more difficult for a woman to be a refugee than a man.
“We have to take care of the children. That’s a never-ending task. It’s easier for men. They only have to worry about themselves.”
A 25-year-old Nameen, from Homs, went into labour as she was travelling through Turkey. She said.”Fortunately they could get me to the hospital in time. The delivery went well.”
UNHCR works to promote gender equality and ensure their equal access to protection and assistance. The Amnesty International and the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has presented a report recently on the vulnerable position of women refugees and the dangers they face.
The report stated that Europe is failing to provide basic protection for them. Women and girls comprise about half of any refugee..
The Amnesty report says that in many transit centres, men and women sleep together in the same tents and have to use the same toilet and shower facilities. The women said they did not eat or drink so that they would not have to use the toilet; some left the camps to sleep in the open because they felt safer there.
Aleksandar Jonuzoski, who works at the aid station said.”Many women suffer from urinary tract infections. They drink too little, the toilets are not clean and they’re not used to the cold.”
Many of them suffer from bleeding, some have miscarriages. “They are exposed to a lot of stress, having to stand in lines for a long time, being crushed in crowds – that’s all very bad when you are pregnant. We do our best to take these women to the hospital. But sometimes they insist on continuing their journey. And some of them have to ask their husband’s permission first.”
Vladimir Bislimovski, works for the NGO La Strada, which provides assistance to women and children in Vinojug says. “There’s always somebody who wants to take advantage of the vulnerable position of these women,” he added.”But the women don’t talk easily about their experiences. Especially when it comes to sexual violence. They are too ashamed to speak.”
Jelena Hrnjak of the Serbian NGO Atina said. women refugees were forced to work for smugglers and drug dealers.
“When their money is stolen, they can’t continue travelling. But they have to leave the transit countries within 72 hours. So they will do anything for money. That’s how they become victims of human trafficking.”
Hrnjak says. “People say women are protected, because they travel with their families,” he adds. “But there are many single women among these refugees. For their safety they join other groups, so it looks like they travel with their families. But the men in these groups don’t always have their best interests at heart. And besides, even some of the women who are travelling with their families have to deal with domestic violence.”
“The tense situations on the road lead men to take it out on their female family members. We had a woman from Afghanistan here who was constantly beaten by her oldest son. We see men beating their wives right in front of us,” Hrnjak continues.