Women's Refugee Commission

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Women's Refugee Commission
Founded 1989
Type NGO
  • New York; Washington, D.C.; Geneva
Website Women's Refugee Commission

The Women's Refugee Commission is a 501(c)3 organization that improves the lives and protects the rights of women, children and youth displaced by conflict and crisis. Established in 1989, it was part of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) until the summer of 2014 when it became a legally separate entity.

Through research and fact-finding field missions, the organization identifies critical problems that affect displaced women, children and young people, including gaps in lifesaving reproductive health care, lack of dignified livelihoods for refugees and, in the U.S., the treatment of asylum-seekers. The Women's Refugee Commission documents best practices and proposes solutions, and develops innovative tools to improve the way humanitarian assistance is delivered in refugee settings. On Capitol Hill, at the United Nations and with humanitarian organizations, governments and donors, the organization pushes for improvements in refugee policy and practice until measurable long-term change is realized.


Adolescent Girls[edit]

The Women's Refugee Commission illuminates and addresses the critical needs of adolescent girls in crisis settings to ensure that they stay safe and make positive changes in their lives. We identify and promote ways that girls can protect themselves, access healthcare, complete school, build leadership skills and be seen as a valued part of their families and communities.

Detention & Asylum[edit]

The Women's Refugee Commission, Detention & Asylum Program (DAP) advocates for legislation and policy that would ensure the safety and well-being of migrant women, families and unaccompanied children. DAP works with the Obama administration, the U.S. Congress and the Department of Homeland Security, including its various agencies, to institutionalize these important safeguards.


To address the gap in knowledge on the issue and to place refugees with disabilities higher on the international agenda, the Women’s Refugee Commission undertook a six-month research project in 2008 to assess the situation of those living with disabilities among displaced and conflict-affected populations. Using our field research in five countries—Ecuador, Jordan, Nepal, Thailand and Yemen—we sought to document existing services for displaced persons with disabilities, identify gaps and good practices and make concrete recommendations on how to improve services, protection and participation for this neglected population.

Fuel & Firewood[edit]

The collection, supply and use of firewood and alternative energies in humanitarian settings has been associated with a variety of harmful consequences, including but not limited to: rape and assault during firewood collection, environmental degradation and respiratory and other illnesses caused by the indoor burning of biomass materials. The Women's Refugee Commission 2006 report, Beyond Firewood: Fuel Alternatives and Protection Strategies for Displaced Women and Girls, helped place this crucial health, environmental and security issue on the humanitarian agenda. We worked with key partners throughout the humanitarian system to create the InterAgency Standing Committee Task Force on Safe Access to Firewood and alternative Energy in Humanitarian Settings (IASC Task Force SAFE).

Gender-based Violence[edit]

The Women’s Refugee Commission has been a leading proponent of efforts to promote women’s empowerment, gender equality and protection against gender-based violence. We have advocated for the passage of landmark Security Council resolutions on the protection of women and children. Our groundbreaking 2002 report If Not Now, When? documented the shortcomings of previous efforts to address GBV.


The Women’s Refugee Commission researches and develops guidelines on appropriate livelihoods for displaced women and youth that recognize their skills, experience and capacity. Livelihoods are targeted towards local markets, are comprehensive in approach, and promote self-reliance that is both dignified and sustainable.

Sexual & Reproductive Health[edit]

Family planning saves lives, yet it is often neglected in areas affected by conflict or disaster. According to research the Women’s Refugee Commission conducted in five countries: Djibouti, Jordan, Kenya, Malaysia and Uganda, access to and use of family planning tends to be even lower among refugees than among those living in surrounding communities. To address this, the Women's Refugee Commission has developed informational materials using pictures that clearly explain how family planning works, what its benefits are and where it can be obtained. These materials can be adapted to different cultural contexts.

Women, Peace & Security[edit]

The Women's Refugee Commission works for full implementation of the Women, Peace and Security agenda at the UN. It undertakes advocacy to ensure that the UN and its members support and recognize the work of women, who are the linchpins of their communities and whose contributions are key to putting their countries back on the path to peace and security.


The Women's Refugee Commission works to ensure that displaced youth have opportunities to learn and grow so they can contribute to their communities and one day be able to support themselves and their families.


Executive Office

Sarah Costa - Executive Director

Sudanë Del Valle - Assistant to the Executive Director


Joan Timoney - Director of Advocacy and External Relations

Elizabeth Cafferty - Senior Advocacy Officer

Rachael Reilly - Senior Advocacy Officer/ Geneva Representative


Diana Quick - Director of Communications

Nicole Rajani - Communications Officer

Fred Hamerman - Writer/Editor


Rachael Barrett - Deputy Director, Foundation and Government Relations

Jonathan Aronoff - Development Coordinator

Erin Oglesby - Events coordinator


Eldar Kekic - Finance Controller

Solange Ondende - Grants Manager


Dale Buscher - Senior Director for Programs

Detention and Asylum

Michelle Brané - Director, Detention and Asylum Program

Emily Butera - Senior Program Officer, Detention and Asylum Program

Jennifer Podkul - Program Officer, Detention and Asylum Program

Katharina Obser - Program Specialist, Advocacy

Jessica Jones - Equal Justice Works Fellow


Josh Chaffin - Senior Program Officer, Economic Strengthening and Child Protection

Emma Pearce - Disability Program Officer

Zehra Rizvi - Senior Program Livelihoods

Dhana Lama - Program Coordinator

Reproductive Health

Sandra Krause - Director, Reproductive Health Program

Erin Patrick - Senior Program Officer, Fuel and Firewood Initiative

Mihoko Tanabe - Program Officer, Reproductive Health Program

Jennifer Schlecht - Senior Program Officer, Reproductive Health Program

James Wabwire Agoro - SAFE Project Coordinator

Honorary Chair[edit]

Liv Ullmann

Founding Chair[edit]

Catherine O'Neill


Robin Fray Carey

Jocelyn Cunningham

Chairs Emeritae

Glenda Burkhart

Dina Dublon

Jurate Kazickas

Judy Mayotte

Kathleen Newland

Regina S. Peruggi

Board of Directors[edit]

Sarah Costa, Thao Huu Van Do, Paula J. Dobriansky, Martha Gallo, Kiki Ramos Gindler, Indira Kajosevic Skoric, Aster Kidane, Donna McKay, Terry Peigh, Emily Sloboh, David Spears, Helen Torelli, Linda Verba, Debra Walton, Kristin Wells, Samuel M. Witten, Deborah Tolman, Sandra Sennett Tully

External links[edit]