We Need Global Solidarity for Refugees

As a European and a Swede (and an economist), I am struck by how often we discuss refugees in terms of the “cost” of accepting asylum seekers.

These conversations miss out on the many economic benefits of migration. Young refugees are often so inclined to start building their new lives that they integrate quite quickly into a new country with much to offer. We also miss the most important component of the conversation – the refugees themselves.

Wars, violence and persecution lead to people fleeing from their homes. A new report released on June 19, 2019 from UNHCR shows that 70.8 million people are now forcibly displaced worldwide – more than the UN Refugee Agency has ever recorded. Levels have doubled in the past 20 years and increased by 2.3 million people in the past year alone.

This year’s UNHCR Global Trends report states that these figures are conservative since the Venezuelan crisis is only partly reflected. According to data from neighboring nations, about 4 million Venezuelans have fled the country, which makes it one of the world’s largest displacement crises in recent history.

What do these numbers actually mean? 

The majority of individuals who are forcibly displaced are Internally Displaced People (IDPs) – people who are displaced to other areas within their own country. There are 41.3 million IDPs worldwide. Refugees – people forced to flee their country because of conflict, war or persecution – accounted for 25.9 million people worldwide in 2018 (half a million more than in 2017). Asylum seekers are people outside their country of origin who receive international protection but are awaiting the outcome of their claim to refugee status. They account for 3.5 million people globally.

Now, here are some important facts: 

  • About 80% of refugees live in countries neighboring their countries of origin
  • The world’s poorest countries host a third of all refugees worldwide
  • High income countries (like most countries in Europe) host only 2.7 refugees per 1,000 of population on average
  • In 2018, every second refugee was a child

Research shows that women and children are the most vulnerable in times of crisis. Sexual violence and rape is used as a weapon of war to further inhibit civilian populations to fight for peace and their fundamental human rights. One very recent case of this is Sudan today. 

Europe has seen a surge of refugees since 2014. Many have risked their lives in horribly overcrowded rubber dinghies to cross the Mediterranean Sea for safety – sometime without functioning life vests. UNHCR estimates that over 17,800 people have died at sea between 2014 and 2018. In this year alone, the UN Refugee Agency estimates that 559 people have died and are missing.

The largest group of people seeking refuge in Europe after crossing the Mediterranean are from Afghanistan.

The war-torn nation was recently reported as the most dangerous country in the world, and 2018 was the most deadly year ever recorded for civilians in Afghanistan.

So what is Europe doing to support asylum seekers from Afghanistan and those crossing the Mediterranean Sea? From what I understand and see in my daily life in Sweden – not enough.

This week, the Swedish parliament voted to extend a “temporary” stringent law which has been highly criticized by humanitarian aid organizations and UN Agencies. Sweden, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and other countries in Europe continue to deport individuals back to Afghanistan – many of whom arrived in Europe as unaccompanied minors several years ago.

Sea rescues have been criminalized as NGO rescue ships are no longer permitted to work out of Italy. Pia Klemp, a German boat captain, faces 20 years in prison and horrendous fines for saving people from drowning in the Mediterranean.

Sweden is using old prisons to forcibly detain high-school attending, Swedish speaking young asylum-seekers from Afghanistan who await deportations. The wait may last several months and the migration and judicial system for asylum seekers is highly criticized. Racism is becoming more visible.

This week, a friend of mine who is an Afghani asylum seeker in Sweden was harassed by police for no reason as he got off a train. We later found out from migration officials that they have been ordered to intimidate asylum seekers so that they will be more inclined to return voluntarily.

Despite being an eternal optimist, I have a hard time seeing anything positive in this stark situation. The message that Europe is sending is that some lives are valued less than others – that some lives are just not important enough to be saved.

“While language around refugees and migrants is often divisive, we are also witnessing an outpouring of generosity and solidarity, especially by communities who are themselves hosting large numbers of refugees. We are also seeing unprecedented engagement by new actors including development actors, private businesses, and individuals, which not only reflects but also delivers the spirit of the Global Compact on Refugees,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugee Filippo Grandi.

“We must build on these positive examples and redouble our solidarity with the many thousands of innocent people who are forced to flee their homes each day.”

We are facing a European crisis that will cost us our solidarity, our humanity and our safeguarding of human rights. The price is too high. If we lose these, we won’t have anything of value left.

I am thankful to be a part of the Swedish Facebook group Vi står inte ut! (We can’t stand it!) which has become a network of 10,000 individuals working to support asylum seekers in various ways. It is through networks like this one that I witness solidarity and fire to fight for our sisters and brothers from other countries.

It is difficult to continue to read and share the stories of refugees, but we must speak the unspeakable, break the silence and fight for a change in our world today.

Investing in the Power of Nurses

Women make up 70% of the total health and social care workforce. In the nursing and midwifery profession, that percentage is even higher. Despite this, however, women hold only 25% of health system leadership roles.

Addressing gender-related barriers to leadership in nursing is critical to ensuring universal access to quality health services and achieving Sustainable Development Goal 3.

Investing in the Power of Nurse Leadership: What Will It Take? is a new report launched by Nursing Now in collaboration with IntraHealth and Johnson and Johnson.

Drawing on surveys and interviews with over 2,500 nurses and nurse-leaders, the report offers essential new insights into the lived experiences of nurses worldwide.

At the Women Deliver 2019 Conference, Girls’ Globe spoke to Barbara Stilwell, Executive Director of Nursing Now.

She told us: “This moment in time is a moment for nurses. And I don’t think it will come again for a long time.”

The research found that there are a ‘constellation of barriers’ preventing female nurses in particular from progressing into leadership roles.

Key recommendations to address these barriers include:

1. Change the perception of the nursing as a ‘soft science’ and elevate the status and profile of nursing in the health sector.

2. Address occupational sex segregation and eliminate the perception of nursing as ‘women’s work.’

3. Eliminate employer discrimination on the basis of gender or child-bearing status.

4. Build nurses’ self-confidence and sense of preparedness to assume leadership positions.

5. Ensure workplace environments that are safe and responsive to work/life balance and allow for employee flexibility to fulfil both formal work and unpaid care responsibilities.

6. Ensure opportunities for nurses to access funding for leadership development, higher education, or other professional development.

7. Foster increased access to professional networks and mentoring schemes for nurses.

It’s clear that major changes are required to strengthen leadership and equality in the global nursing workforce. This report reflects the voices of nurses – it’s time for the rest of the world to listen.

This blog post was created by Girls’ Globe powered by Johnson & Johnson.

A Data-Driven Look at the World Women Live In

This week, Women Deliver 2019 kicks off in Vancouver, Canada, with over 6,000 delegates from different industries, sectors and countries. Equal Measures 2030 shines a light on the hard numbers behind what they’re all there to discuss: the reality facing girls and women living around the world, and how we can improve their lives.

To make progress transparent and accessible to all, they unveiled a powerful tool, launched today: the SDG Gender Index. It reflects a mammoth effort to look at the numbers and measure how countries are really doing at making progress towards achieving gender quality.

Its initial findings were summarized in a 60-page report. The findings were surprising, and will be crucial in setting the agenda for the next decade.

The Sustainable Development Goals

A quick recap: the Sustainable Development Goals are 17 separate benchmarks set by the United Nations. Each has to do with making life more equal, sustainable, healthy and prosperous for citizens.


While they run the gamut from poverty eradication to environmental protection, they work individually and holistically to increase gender equality (which, in turn, strengthens the capacity of each country to achieve their other goals).

Surprising findings

The findings from the SDG Gender Index report show that we can’t rely on stereotypes. Some countries are showing unequal progress, strength in some areas, and weakness in others. Even some of the lower performing countries are well ahead of the highest ranking on certain indicators. For example:

– Rwanda is one of the highest scorers on indicators that capture women’s physical safety, through how safe they feel walking unaccompanied at night.

– Women in Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Thailand and Uruguay are more likely have to have successful accessed modern family planning methods than women in Canada, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands and Sweden (although they all ranked well globally.)

– One of the higher rates of women who use digital banking was seen in Kenya.

GDP does not necessarily translate to equality

It is a common misconception that money equals development, and development leads to equality. Yet, the SDG Gender Index report shows that’s not necessarily so.

“Some countries – Finland, Georgia, Greece, Kyrgyzstan, Malawi, Rwanda, Slovenia, and Viet Nam, among others – perform better than would be expected based on their GDP per capita,” write the authors. “On the other hand, other countries – such as Botswana, Iraq, Malaysia, Russia, South Korea, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United States, among others – have lower gender equality scores than might be expected given the countries’ income levels.”

What the numbers don’t show

While the lowest ranking countries have been mired in troubles, and listed on the OECD‘s list of fragile states, some – like Syria and the Central African Republic – were omitted entirely. In the midst of the level of the depths of conflict that these countries have experienced, reliable data is too difficult to gather and analyze.

Lack of data doesn’t mean we should forget these countries or exclude them as we head towards 2030. These populations may be among the most vulnerable.

Even within the countries that were included in the SDG Gender Index report, it’s important to remember that an average number can be a deceiving figure. Even a high ranking country can have populations who desperately need access to care, services or advocates, and lower ranking countries can have ample communities of empowered women ready to mobilize and lead change.

To know more, you can access the full-length SDG Gender Index report here.

Break the Barriers: Menstruation in the UK

In March 2018, Plan International launched its Break the Barriers: Menstrual Manifesto report. With interviews from over 80 menstruators, the report shines a spotlight on issues facing people who menstruate in the UK today. To celebrate Menstrual Hygiene Day 2018, I’d like to look at some of the report’s key findings, so that on this important day we may all make a commitment to reducing the stigma attached to menstruation.

The internet offers good and bad education

Whilst the internet is often a space where derogatory comments lurk on social media pages, or where the negative stereotypes of menstruation are reinforced through sexist memes, it also offers a space for menstruators and non-menstruators alike to educate themselves on the biology and politics surrounding periods. YouTube stars such as Hannah Witton and Byrony Farmer offer informative videos that move away from the traditionally uncomfortable style of menstruation education.

Period myths still prevail

Age-old myths surrounding periods such as, “during your period you can’t go swimming”, or “using a tampon means you’re no longer a virgin” still hold strong today. Through lack of education, menstruators are consuming negative reactions to periods and understanding menstruation as something unpleasant and unnatural. These negative notions then leave menstruators feeling weaker and more irrational than their counterparts, perpetuating sexist stereotypes.

Gender-neutrality needs to be addressed

Not all those who identify as female menstruate, and people who identify as genders other than female also menstruate. This understanding that not all females menstruate is important in the education of menstruators globally. Currently, the transgender/non-binary experience of menstruation means that some young people are being excluded from necessary menstrual education within school settings.

The education system is failing young people

Schools are contributing to the cultural taboos of menstruation and failing to provide high-quality education. Menstruators are having to ask their teachers – in front of their classmates – when they need to use bathrooms. They are being refused access to toilets, and when they do have access, facilities necessary for menstrual health are missing. Many menstruators worry about leaking at school and the humiliation they will face. There is a lack of understanding within the education system and this is further entrenching a culture of embarrassment.

Period poverty is a reality

The level of period poverty in the UK is unacceptably high and found across many regions. But an important distinction Plan UK makes is that period poverty is understood to be relative poverty. Poverty is not just the condition of being without money or food, but also expands to feelings of exclusion and powerlessness. Due to women’s roles in family life it is often female family members who absorb the shock of poverty. For this reason, many young girls go without period products in order to reduce financial burden.

If there is one thing to take away from Plan’s report it’s the need for each of us to commit to listening to menstruators’ experiences. Doing so will open up conversation, which will in turn challenge the current taboos and stigmas. And, talking about menstruation ensures that it remains high on the agenda; forcing governments, corporations and educational institutions to focus on menstrual equality. We can all make a difference today by committing to talking about menstruation until equality is achieved.

Read more, and download the full report at: https://plan-uk.org/act-for-girls/girls-rights-in-the-uk/break-the-barriers-our-menstrual-manifesto

Invest in Girls & Women: Everybody Wins – New Toolkit from Women Deliver

Today, Women Deliver launched a new advocacy toolkit with the reasons for investing in women and girls as a pathway for sustainable development.

This great new toolkit includes infographics, key messages and statistics to help you communicate the importance of investing in women and girls now and in the Post-2015 agenda. Be inspired and use the toolkit to step up efforts to advocate for the rights and health of women and girls worldwide.

Let’s ensure everyone understands the importance to invest in girls and women!

Below are three of their great infographics. Find the rest of the infographics here.

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Join the online conversation using #InvestInGirls!