Women lead the response to COVID-19 in Displacement Camps Around the World
The COVID-19 has presented an unprecedented emergency globally, with governments responding with restrictions and lockdowns to curb the spread of the virus. Internally displaced persons are particularly vulnerable, with the pandemic having impacted the living conditions and personal circumstances of the displaced persons living in camps and camp-like settings, which made it difficult to implement mitigation measures in many displacement settings. Internally displaced persons in crisis and emergency contexts are disproportionately affected by the pandemic due to their specific needs and vulnerabilities. IDPs already face barriers in accessing with adequate living standards, livelihoods, health and education services, often being excluded from public health measures. Restrictions imposed by Governments to protect public health has impacted IDPs access to livelihood opportunities, healthcare facilities, and has further restricted their movements within camps, and with protection risks exacerbated for women, girls, elderly persons and persons with disabilities. Women, girls and groups-at-risk often have less access to lifesaving information and to participate in camp-life due to existing unequal power dynamics or cultural barriers that restricts their movements. Meaningful, inclusive and representative participation in decision-making and camp governance structures is imperative for good camp management in ensuring that the risks, needs and capacities of women, girls and groups-at-risk are considered and prioritised.
Ensuring meaningful participation of all groups is an essential pillar of good management and is essential in improving humanitarian response, disaster risk reduction, community engagement and support, mitigating GBV and ultimately to ensure accountability towards affected populations. With the meaningful participation of different groups within the displaced community, particularly of women, girls and groups-at-risk, the different needs and capacities can be reflected and addressed. With women and girls often making up more than half of the displaced population, women’s participation and inclusion in camp governance structures have been traditionally limited and restricted. Women’s participation in decision-making structures enables them to voice their safer concerns and support the identification of responses to mitigate identified GBV risks. In order to ensure women’s participation, specific strategies need to be adopted to ensure representation safely leads to decision-making. Opening opportunities for women and groups-at-risk to increase their involvement community life can lead to better collective action that reflects a participatory and inclusive approach, thus benefits would reach more women, children, families and groups-t-risk. When women and girls are more aware of their rights to participate, understand the purpose and benefits of this, this empowers them to participate in community decisions and advocate for greater inclusion and representation in camp governance structures.
To respond to the most urgent needs of the pandemic, modalities and activities under the Women’s Participation Project were reoriented and adapted to ensure women and girls had access to the relevant information to prevent the spread of the virus in their communities and to promote an active role of women in the COVID-19 prevention and response activities.