Project summary

People Involved: UNSW team - Adjunct Associate Professor Eileen Pittaway, Dr Linda Bartolomei, Effie Mitchell, Geraldine Doney and Rachel Tan (Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network).

The UNSW team is working with a team of women from diverse refugee backgrounds: Shaza Al-Rihwwi, Azizah Noor, Apajok Biar, Hafsa Tameesuddin, Sitarah Mohammadi, Foni Vuni, Najeeba Wazefadost and Andrea Ayala.

Research Areas: Refugee women and girls, International Law and Policy, Gender, Advocacy

Other partners and collaborators: UNHCR Geneva, Australian National Committee on Refugee Women (ANCORW), and Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN).

A gender audit assesses the extent to which gender and other diversity issues and concerns are addressed and reflected in policies, programs, structures, proceedings and decision-making processes.Gender audits can the be used to identify strengths and gaps in processes and planning, in relation to their potential to contribute to the achievement of gender equality. Identified strengths can be built upon, and identified gaps can highlight areas for strategies and action to support and strengthen a gender focus.

A team from the UNSW Forced Migration Research Network, working alongside women from diverse refugee backgrounds, has undertaken a gender audit approach to support the development of strong gender focus in the development and implementation of the Global Compact of Refugees. This gender audit process documents the discussion of AGD and SGBV, with a particular focus on women and girls, in each meeting involving Member States, United Nation Agencies, Civil society and other actors and combines the findings into a comprehensive report with recommendations.

The gender audit has been funded and supported by UNHCR Geneva:

  • Gender Audit of the 2017/2018 Thematic Meetings and High Commissioner’s Dialogue which informed the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) (Completed — The Gender Audit of the 2017 thematic. discussions for the draft Compact on Refugees and the 2017 High Commissioner’s Dialogue was extremely successful and contributed to the inclusion of a strong AGD and SGBV focus, with particular commitments to women and girls in the final document. The final reports are available in the dropdown.
  • Gender Audit of the 2019 preparatory meetings for the Global Refugee Forum to take place 17th – 19th December 2019. Check the dropdown for more information.

The initial gender audit informed the development of a 3.5 year project to support implementation and monitoring of the gender commitments in the GCR in five countries in the Asia pacific: Refugee women: key to the global compact on refugees. This action research project is funded by the Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and provides additional resource support to the work of the Gender Audit team.

Why a focus on gender and SGBV?

  • Gender is a primary social category which is central to the study of intersectionality, including how gender-based discriminations intersect with discrimination and inequalities experienced on the basis of age, ability, sexuality, race, religion and other diversities. This is at the core of UNHCR’s Age, Gender and Diversity Policy. However, despite the concerted efforts of many service providers including civil society and UN Agencies, and significant advances in law and policy over the past 30 years to address the protection needs of refugee women and girls, they are still not effectively addressed. Diverse groups are often not explicitly mentioned, and the gender cross cut in all groups not acknowledged. There is a tendency for these issues to “slip off the table” and meeting reports often do not include their discussion. The aim of the Gender Audit is to ensure that this does not happen again.


  • The endemic rape and sexual abuse experienced by the majority of refugee women is a major barrier to many of the protection measures and durable solutions which should be available to all refugees. Men and boys also suffer from the horror of sexual abuse, and this must also be addressed. Women and girls additionally face bearing children of rape, and adolescent girls frequently die from pregnancy when they are too young to bear a child.

    For a full discussion on the need to address gender inequality in refugee settings, see the background concept note.

  • Major obstacles to the provision of adequate responses to women and adolescent girls rest in the way in which they are designated in law and policy. The most common labels are those of “minority” and “vulnerable” groups. However, refugee women, adolescents and girls are not just passive survivors. In many refugee camps and sites, women run crèches for children, arrange care for orphaned or lost children, provide safe spaces for women who have experienced sexual and gender-based violence, manage scarce rations to ensure that families are fed, run small businesses, run basic schools, and provide protection such as the building of thorn fences. They also have a keen analysis of the problems experienced in camps and potential solutions. However, because of their minority status, and discourses of vulnerability, their capacities, skills and abilities often go unrecognized. While women’s and girls’ capabilities and social capital are devalued, 50% of the refugee population’s contributions to solutions remain unrecognized.


  • Gender audit flyer, prep meetings, NGO Consultations and GRF final

    Cross-cutting resources: Snapshots of measures to address Gender Inequality, from the UNSW/UNHCR Gender Audit team: