Letter to John Kerry, Secretary of State - Protect Syrian Women and Girls
April 21, 2015
Dear Secretary Kerry:
As we mark the fourth anniversary of the crisis in Syria, we write to give voice to the women and girls who disproportionately have suffered the destructive impact of this conflict. We admire the many women who are tirelessly providing much of the civil society leadership to achieve a political solution to the Syrian crisis. We call on the U.S. government and the international community to continue working toward a solution to the conflict and to further protect and empower women and girls so that they can be agents of change who - given the opportunity - will transform their societies.
In the four years since the conflict began, it has become the largest humanitarian crisis in the world. More than 200,000 people have been killed and 1.5 million wounded. Over 12 million people inside Syria are estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance, and more than seven million of them are displaced inside the country. In addition, almost four million Syrians have fled as refugees to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt.
As of September 2014, nearly four out of five people who fled the country were women and children, and more than half of all Syrian refugees are under the age of 18. An entire generation of children is being shaped by violence, displacement, a persistent lack of opportunity - and could be lost forever, with profound long-term consequences for Syria, the region, and the world.
Syrians who have lost their homes need urgent assistance: water, food, shelter, and medical care. It is essential that these basic needs be met. For women and girls, the effects of this protracted violence on their well-being and that of their families and communities is undeniable and long-lasting. They are at significant risk of multiple forms of sexual and gender-based violence, including physical and sexual assault; intimate partner violence; child, early and forced marriage; and sexual exploitation and abuse. Therefore, specific and targeted support for women's and girls' empowerment that goes beyond their basic needs is a crucial component of this humanitarian response.
We are proud that the United States is the single largest donor of humanitarian aid for those affected by the Syria crisis, with total assistance now more than $3 billion, but we believe the U.S. and the international community can do more to protect Syrian women and girls. It is vital that we work to assist women and girls in their efforts to repair and reform their society. This can be done by strengthening meaningful participation of women and girls in humanitarian response programs, and ultimately, by finding a political solution to the conflict that ensures women have a more active role in a political process and expands the role of local women's civil society groups.
As women Senators, we stand ready to work with you and our colleagues in Congress to prioritize resources to ensure that women and girls in the region receive the attention and services they need, and are empowered to pursue their full potential in safety and dignity.
Thank you for attention to our letter and for your service to the State Department and our country.