On May 21, 2021, the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) co-hosted a webinar titled, “Mujeres en Movimiento: Risks and Opportunities for Venezuelan Refugee and Migrant Women in the Context of COVID-19,” with the Permanent Mission of Canada to the Organization of American States (OAS). Experts from across Latin America and the Caribbean exchanged ideas on this pressing and timely topic that requires the full attention of the international and donor communities.
PADF Executive Director Katie Taylor and Canadian Ambassador Hugh Adsett provided opening remarks, followed by discussion among a diverse panel of PADF field staff and partners, including those supported by the United States Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM). The panel included PADF Brazil Regional Manager Irina Bacci, Sector Specialist of the Migration Unit at the Inter-American Development Bank Alison Elías, Insight Crime Executive Director and Co-founder Jeremy McDermott, Liz Ivett Meléndez López of Centro de la Mujer Peruana Flora Tristán, Living Water Community Coordinator Rochelle Nakhid of Trinidad & Tobago, Commissioner of the OAS Secretary General for the Crisis of Venezuelan Migrants and Refugees David Smolansky, and Ladysmith Senior Researcher Julia Zulver based in Colombia.
“Host countries and communities in the region continue to demonstrate leadership and undertake significant efforts to respond,” said Ambassador Adsett. “But they require support to welcome and to host millions of refugees and migrants from Venezuela into their societies, offering them hope to lead lives of dignity. (…) Throughout the region you can see the impacts of displacement, exacerbated by the COVID pandemic. While the impacts are felt by all, they are most acutely experienced by communities with vulnerabilities including women and girls.”
Gender-based violence (GBV) is pervasive across Latin America and the Caribbean. Recent numbers indicate that 14 out of 25 countries with the highest rates of femicide in the world are in Latin America, with COVID-19 only aggravating this type of violence. The region is also experiencing one of its largest humanitarian crises as more than 5.5 million Venezuelans have left their home due to poverty, hunger, violence, and persecution.
“Refugee and migrant women are invisible and perpetrators take advantage of the fact that they are invisible. During COVID-19, we have seen that these women that were invisible before, are even more invisible now,” said Zulver.
Many migrants and refugees find themselves in situations of vulnerability under this current context. Women and girls, who make up approximately 50.7 percent of the Venezuelan migrant and refugee population, are particularly vulnerable, facing multiple and overlapping risks, compounded by intersecting identity factors such as age, disability, and ethnicity.
“In PADF’s programs to support host governments in the assistance for and integration of sustainable solutions for Venezuelan refugee and migrant populations, we place women and girls at the forefront of our response given their increased vulnerabilities,” said Taylor.
PADF is deeply committed to supporting vulnerable Venezuelan migrants and refugees as they search for safety throughout the region. We implement multi-faceted programs that seek to provide protection, enhance integration, and foster sustainable solutions for Venezuelan families settling in new host communities. We also promote dialogue between migrants and refugees themselves and community actors such as academia, civil society, financial institutions, and citizens to identify innovative ideas to prevent and mitigate GBV, as well as support resiliency for vulnerable migrants across Latin American and the Caribbean.
Watch the full event:
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