International Planned Parenthood Federation/ Western Hemisphere Region (IPPF/WHR)

Migrant Women and Girls as Storytellers: Transforming the Humanitarian Imagination

Lead Organization

International Planned Parenthood Federation/ Western Hemisphere Region (IPPF/WHR)

New York, New York, United States

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Project Summary

Migrant women and girls haven’t been engaged in shaping the humanitarian health response to forced migration in Latin America and the Caribbean; therefore, the gendered dimensions of migrants’ needs are not sufficiently addressed.Our solution presents art and storytelling as innovative mechanisms to promote healing and actively engage migrant women and girls in the humanitarian ecosystem. Stories and art will inform strategic litigation and enrich advocacy, inspiring humanitarian actors and decision makers to advance rights frameworks through creative, multifaceted approaches. We will also fill gaps in humanitarian healthcare by providing sexual and reproductive health (SRH) care, gender-based violence (GBV) services, and psychosocial support to migrant women and girls, improving service delivery models in response to migrants’ stories and expanding access through scale-up.Our goal is that the lived experiences of migrant women and girls drive a feminist shift in the humanitarian health response, catalyzing systemic change for millions of migrants.

Problem Statement

Forced migration is one of the defining global issues of our time, dehumanizing millions and fueling xenophobia and racism. Despite the development of gender-sensitive humanitarian programming, implementation continues to fall short. Women and marginalized groups are still largely viewed by the humanitarian ecosystem as passive beneficiaries of aid and not as agents of change capable of shaping effective solutions. Women and girls make up about half of the 10 million forced migrants in Latin America and the Caribbean; however, the gendered dimensions of migrants’ needs and experiences are not sufficiently understood or addressed. They leave their countries to escape violence in their homes and communities, to get the healthcare their children need, and to seek out work that regularly puts food on the table. And yet the structural inequalities and intersecting forms of discrimination that affected them at home manifest in new ways along their journey. While on the move, they face sexual violence, human trafficking networks, and mistreatment by smugglers, police and healthcare personnel. Their lived experiences make them experts in identifying what they need, but their voices are seldom heard. Humanitarian response often disregards sexual and reproductive healthcare and psychosocial support as essential components of a life-saving approach and neglects to adequately address gender-based violence. Structural factors such as discriminatory laws and gendered economic conditions are also largely ignored. These complex challenges will not be overcome by a quick fix or superficial consultations with beneficiaries. It’s time for humanitarian business-as-usual to evolve and embrace transformative engagement.

Solution Overview

Our solution begins with care. The clinics and community-based health services overseen by consortium partners will serve as the entry point to reach migrant women and girls, filling critical gaps in the humanitarian healthcare response by providing expanded SRH, GBV, and psychosocial care along migration routes in eight countries. The solution continues with stories. Healthcare providers will connect migrant women and girls with our storytelling centers—safe spaces where they will be guided through the empowering and healing process of telling stories from their lives to build a collective narrative of the experience of migration. Artists will collaborate with migrant women and girls to present stories in creative new ways.In partnership with migrant storytellers and artists, the consortium will use these stories and artistic interventions as evidence and inspiration to catalyze systemic change. We will bring this new evidence and original research to global and regional decision-making spaces such as UN and IAWG meetings and WHO consultations to propose improved rights frameworks and mechanisms that respond to the gendered complexity of migrants’ experiences, while in parallel advocating for meaningful in-country implementation. We will identify paradigmatic cases of rights violations for strategic litigation to reinforce the national application of existing legal frameworks and establish new precedents, while also gaining insight into what justice would look like for these women and girls. SRH and GBV healthcare models offered by national consortium partners will be adjusted and improved in response to migrants’ stories, and later scaled up to expand access.

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Project Funders

  • David and Lucile Packard Foundation 2016 - 2020
  • Global Affairs Canada 2019 - 2020
  • David and Lucile Packard Foundation 2017 - 2018

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