I had the great pleasure of launching our research series on safe shelter from sexual and gender-based violence in forced displacement contexts today at the UNHCR NGO Consultation in Geneva. This was the study I introduced in an IntLawGrrls post last June, as we were starting our data analysis.
IntLawGrrls might recall that the study was aimed at filling the gap between limited international guidance on safe shelter provision in forced displacement contexts and knowledge about what is and is not working on the ground. We had 3 main objectives:
- Identify and describe shelter models available to refugees, the internally displaced, and other migrants fleeing sexual and gender-based violence.
- Identify challenges experienced by staff and residents in these settings and document strategies used to respond to these challenges.
- Explore protection needs and options for particularly marginalized victim groups, such as male survivors, sexual minorities, and people with disabilities.
To learn more about the above, we interviewed safe shelter residents, safe shelter staff, and key informants in Colombia, Haiti, Kenya, and Thailand in the first half of 2012. The case-study research culminated in five reports: four country reports and one comparative report. All are available here on the Human Rights Center website.
One of our key findings was the great diversity of existing safe shelter mechanisms – even beyond traditional safe houses. Other data concerned the tremendous work being done under shockingly constrained resources. Of course, we also documented recurrent challenges related to resource limitations, security and emotional support needs of shelter STAFF as well as residents, limited transition options, the need for community buy-in, and the lack of coordination among shelter programs – especially between mainstream safe shelters and those serving refugees or IDPs.
In addition, we noted some of the ethical and political challenges that can arise in the provision of focused protection of a few, while in the midst of general deprivation.
Finally, we marked critical protection gaps – particularly around LGBT persons, male survivors, and persons with serious health conditions.
Protection solutions must be context-specific. For this reason, our recommendations are circumspect; we tried not to overstep the bounds of our data. Hopefully, our exploratory study in four very distinct countries will nonetheless shed light on what is and what is not working well in those contexts, and what strategies might be helpful in similar circumstances.
So far, the heads of UNHCR’s Policy Development and Evaluation Service and the Division of International Protection have welcomed the research and say it will directly impact their thinking and programming on protection from sexual and gender-based violence. We hope so. We also hope for similar openness as we bring our research back to providers and policymakers in each case study country this month – we’ll then share their grassroots-level updates, feedback, and additional recommendations with UNHCR headquarters again in July when we’re done.