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Protective Accompaniment: Safeguarding Displaced Women & Girls From Sexual Exploitation and Abuse

Protecting vulnerable refugee women & girls from sexual exploitation/abuse when doing daily survival tasks (collecting water, wood, & food).

Photo of Colleen Striegel
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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

Imagine finding yourself in a place that was supposed to give you refuge but ends up causing you more fear than the violence that forced you to leave your home? This is the situation for many female refugees across the world who are highly vulnerable to all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse. Staying in a refugee camp or seeking protection elsewhere brings serious threats to women’s security. Many women and girls are sexually exploited, raped, and experience other physical abuse when they get water, collect firewood, food or perform other daily survival tasks for themselves and their families. HumanitarianHR is currently developing its protective accompaniment strategy for safeguarding threatened women and girls when they go about their daily work in a refugee camp in Uganda. Data has already been collected in Nakivale refugee camp in Uganda showing that a large number of women and girls are currently victims of sexual exploitation and abuse when collecting water and wood in the camp. These tasks are performed almost exclusively by women and girls which puts them at great risk for sexual exploitation and abuse. This project has community volunteers and possibly external volunteers serving as unarmed “Protectors” who will directly accompany women and girls and serve as a deterrent to sexual exploitation and abuse when they perform their daily survival tasks of collecting water, wood, food, or other resources. The Protectors will be trained in unarmed protective accompaniment, be highly visible in the camp, and have a real-time warning and reporting system to alert camp and UN authorities of imminent threats to women and children in at risk areas. Protective accompaniment is a proven safeguarding strategy, having shown its effectiveness in protecting human rights workers in places as diverse as Guatemala and Timor to protecting students in Safe Walk programs on college campuses throughout the US. We are confident it can work in Nakivale too.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Our target beneficiary population is women and girls currently living in Nakivale refugee settlement in Uganda. For the pilot intervention, we will focus on one discrete sector of the camp. Nakivale is one of the largest refugee settlements in Uganda with a little over 100,000 refugees from a number of different countries: Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, and South Sudan. Approximately 51% of the refugee population are women, 38% of which are girls between the ages of 5 and 17.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Gender Based Violence (GBV) programs currently exist in the camp and they focus on awareness and advocacy campaigns, making public spaces safer for women, improving safe access to services, reducing social acceptance of gender inequality, educating men to help in changing attitudes, and improving victim reporting of abuse. However, there are no formal programs where individual protection is provided for those who are fearful to perform certain survival activities (collecting water, firewood, food.) Also none of the GBV programs have effectively addressed the issue of sexual exploitation/abuse by aid workers (refugee, national, international). The current GBV programming in the camp is essential, but HHR will provide additional support by filling a serious and urgent protection gap. An unarmed force of community protectors, available 24/7, will provide protective accompaniment services to vulnerable women and girls who are afraid to go to threatening areas for survival resources

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Initial Design: I am exploring the idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

HumanitarianHR provides services to help organizations protect vulnerable populations from sexual exploitation and abuse, and provides certification for organizations that demonstrate they have the highest standards and practices in place to protect vulnerable populations. Visit for more information.

Expertise in sector

  • 5-7 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered social enterprise.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

Hearing stories from women & girl refugees about being sexually exploited/abused by the very people who are supposed to be helping them (aid workers, peacekeepers, community leaders) caused us to want to act now to stop to this scourge. It concerns us greatly that there is insufficient dedication to solving this problem or acting swiftly enough to come up with an innovative solution. Others are working on getting to the root causes, which is important, but these women and girls need help today.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Sexual exploitation and abuse are types of violence perpetrated primarily on women and children. Unarmed protective accompaniment is about preventing this violence. This project will promote peace because unarmed protective accompaniment is a form of peacekeeping. Peacekeeping is about preventing violence and promoting security. Because sexual exploitation/abuse is a form of economic violence, it impacts women’s abilities to be prosperous. As most societies tend to blame the victim of sexual exploitation/abuse, victims experience isolation which affects their ability to care for their families and further limits income generation opportunities. By preventing violence and abuse, unarmed protective accompaniment promotes peace which allows for prosperity. This peace and prosperity is experienced by the individual being protected, and will also ripple throughout the community.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

HHR will engage with a Ugandan NGO, Action For Development (ACFODE). ACFODE has more than 25 years of experience working in women's empowerment, in advocacy for women to have a voice in government, and in preventing sexual exploitation and abuse of women and girls. HHR will work collaboratively with ACFODE to develop its protective accompaniment strategy in Nakivale refugee settlement. ACFODE will provide critical assistance in community engagement, obtaining beneficiary feedback, and in addressing any potential barriers to project implementation. ACFODE will also assist HHR in the selection, training, and deployment of Protectors. Working with ACFODE will enhance community acceptance and ensure contextuality when implementing the project. Their participation will be crucial in ensuring the project is sustainable. Visit for more information.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

-HHR has evidence there will be strong community support for this project. A recent survey of refugee women in Nakivale revealed that a significant number of women are calling for immediate action to stop rape in the camp. Yet there has been no effective intervention on the part of the international community. One refugee woman reported, "I need enough protection so that I won't be raped tomorrow." There is an urgent need for this. -There is a pool of refugees to assist with this project.

Geographic Focus

The focus of this project will be a sector in the Nakivale refugee settlement in Uganda, Africa

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

HHR expects the project will take 15 months. After the project is designed, there will be recruitment and selection of “protectors”, development of training materials, training of protectors, deployment of protectors, monitoring and evaluation, and meetings with beneficiaries to adjust the program as necessary based on end user feedback.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No


Join the conversation:

Photo of Abby Nydam

The world needs more projects like this. I applaud your efforts and wish you the best of luck!

My team & I are working to provide prosperity and solar power to small fisheries in rural Bangladesh, please "like" us if you can.

Photo of Colleen Striegel

Thanks Abby!

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