We place the human rights of the most vulnerable, including displaced women and girls, at the very centre of research and policy responses. In the last decade alone, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras have seen the number of asylum-seekers and refugees northwards grow rapidly, to a total of 396,000 – an increase of 58% from 2016. In Venezuela, 5 million have left their country for Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador and the Caribbean since 2014. Women represent around 30% of the total of Central American migrants to Mexico, and 50% of Venezuelan migration to Brazil and Colombia.
Women and young girls who are driven by necessity to leave their countries in Central and South America (often on basis of gendered threats such as sexual violence) face a range of gender-specific threats to their health and well-being both in the process of migrating and in the places of settlement that they reach. Sexual and reproductive health is a key component of social development and well-being that is particularly at risk in contexts of displacement (risks of rape and sexual assault, of sexual disease, of lack of contraception or sanitary materials are all features of processes of forced displacement in this region and elsewhere) and the ability of displaced women and adolescent girls to access and exercise their sexual and reproductive health rights faces a number of obstacles. These risks may be increased due to internal and external travel restrictions, difficulties in accessing health services and medicines at border sites, in transit and in settlements, as well as a lack of documentation and situations of poverty and exclusion. At the same time, health systems in host communities need support too.
These immediate problems point to wider issues of national and regional health governance, of the need for effective planning for flexible responsiveness to crises of displacement that may become protracted and the fair sharing of responsibility for securing rights protection.
All this matters not only because securing these rights is integral to recognising the dignity of displaced women and girls, but also because it is critical to enabling them to act as agents of development, as productive social and economic agents whose activities support the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals.
More research and a gender sensitive, rights-based strategies are thus urgently required. ReGHID’s overall vision is therefore to generate knowledge useful in decision-making, policy and practice in Central and South America, and give voice to displaced women and girls by strengthening their agency and placing them at the centre of knowledge production.
ReGHID will therefore
– identify the sexual and reproductive health needs of women and adolescent girls displaced from Central America to Mexico and from Venezuela to Brazil and Colombia;
– analyse the challenges that displaced women and girls face in relation to SRH;
– assess the impact of displacement on local health systems in the area of SRH, noting the obligations of receiving and transit states to ensure that the human right to health for all is respected and protected;
– produce awareness and guiding material in support of women and adolescent girls’ SRH during displacement.