On Behalf of Women and Girls in Eastern Chad: A Call for Action

Refugees in Mile refugee camp, eastern Chad

Refugees in Mile refugee camp, eastern Chad. (c) Amnesty International

Yesterday, Reuters began reporting that the government of Chad has formally requested that the mandate for the peacekeeping mission in Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR) not be renewed when it comes to an end in March. But the peacekeeping mission, known by its French acronym MINURCAT, provides much needed security for refugees and humanitarian aid workers in eastern Chad and northeastern CAR, regions which suffer from rampant insecurity and violence.

In September 2009, Amnesty International released a report on violence against refugee women in Eastern Chad. The report found that women and girls face high levels of rape and harassment on a daily basis both inside and outside the refugee camps. These findings are similar to those of other organizations, such as Physicians for Human Rights.

I remember one woman asking me if there was anywhere she could go and feel safe. I didn’t know what to answer because I don’t think there is an answer – Aid worker in Eastern Chad, in an interview with Amnesty International

In these camps, the burden of finding food and other necessities for survival falls on the shoulders of women. They must regularly leave the relative security of the camps to fetch water, travel to village markets, tend vegetable plots, and gather wood for the fire and straw for the livestock. Once outside the camps, the risk of rape, sexual assault and harassment becomes even higher. Perpetrators of the violence are rarely brought to justice and Amnesty found that even when those responsible could be identified, Chadian authorities did not follow-up with the cases. Many women who have been raped are shunned or left by their husbands, and young girls who are victims find it difficult to marry.