5.5 Protection Components Need to be Built into Every Step of YEO Program Design in Order to Mitigate Situation-Specific Risks for Displaced Girls and Young Women

Gender influences the economic coping strategies of conflict-affected and displaced individuals. While displacement generally brings greater risk and vulnerability to AGYW, that change can also create new opportunities. Successful programs for displaced adolescent girls and young women must ensure that interventions do not increase the risk of exploitation, abuse and violence to AGYW. In displacement situations, refugees and IDPs arrive in new places with few resources and no safety net. Their legal situation generally precludes work in the formal sector. To earn a living, some families resort to harmful strategies, such as forcing girls into commercial sex work or early marriage. Other livelihood strategies unintentionally place young women and girls at risk, such as hawking goods on unsafe streets.

YEO programs must include a risk analysis and integrate protection strategies to prioritize the safety and wellbeing of all young people. Traditional program indicators, such as income or number of people trained, may mask underlying risks and negative consequences that result from economic interventions. For example, while girls’ income may increase as a result of selling products, HIV prevalence might also increase because girls are exposed to older men during sales transactions. The success of a young woman’s charcoal business might depend on pulling her children out of school. The Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC), an organization that advocates for laws, policies and programs to improve the lives and protect the rights of refugee and internally displaced women, children and young people, recommends analyzing situation-specific risks for AGYW in YEO programs in order to address them effectively.

The WRC has found that many displaced AGYW experience the following:

  • Increase in chores and responsibilities: girls frequently become de facto heads of households;
  • Loss of access to health and education services as result of displacement or local conflict;
  • Dangerous entrance into public spaces, thus increasing their risks and vulnerability;
  • Increased vulnerability when accessing water and energy resources;
  • Increased poverty or perceived protection risks may cause families to force girls into early marriage; and
  • Decreased protection due to their legal status in a new country.

YEO programs can implement the following strategies, outlined in Box 5.5.1, to protect AGYW exposed to new risks as a result of displacement.

5.5.1 Practical Tips: WRC Proposes Protection Strategies for Displaced AGYW

The following protection strategies can mitigate the risk associated with displacement. Agencies, governments and communities should:

  • Engage girls to build their social networks to reduce social isolation, meet and discuss their issues and aspirations. Groups may link to mentorship programs and referrals to services;
  • Engage communities and households to plan for seasonal stresses, like school fees, which often increase pressure to exchange sex for gifts or money;
  • Teach girls basic financial literacy skills (principles of money management, building and safeguarding assets);
  • Intervene with communities and institutions to help girls establish safe and independent control over savings and other assets;
  • Build girls’ readiness to access more demanding opportunities, such as entrepreneurship training, group lending, and the establishment of business.

For more information, see www.womensrefugeecommission.org.