Women and Children in the Middle of War: Double Vulnerability

The agreement between Cuba and the United States, Boko Haram assaults, the Islamic State- ISIS, the attacks in Paris, the drop in oil prices, and refugees across the world were the events staged in 2015. I still remember the pain, anger and sadness I felt when I saw in the headlines of Kurdi Aylan photography, the three-year-old Syrian who drowned off the coast of Turkey, trying to reach Greece with his family in a failed attempt to escape the war in his native Syria.

Currently and according to figures from the United Nations Agency for Refugees -- UNHCR, there are more than 59.5 million refugees in the world, of which, only the first six months of last year recorded 1,850 as killed or disappeared while attempting to escape their desperate reality in their countries or regions: lack of opportunities, armed conflict, hunger, poverty, and desertion. I want to highlight the terrible consequences of those who suffer the most and are most vulnerable among this minority: women and children refugees - victims of war. Sadly, the UN reported that women account for 49% of refugees worldwide.

Women and children victims of war, not only face security issues and dangers involved in this condition, but are also more vulnerable to sex trafficking and sexual violence. Criminal gangs smuggle and find them easy targets due mostly to their illegal status, poverty, language barriers; not to mention their difficulty in reporting offenses to the authorities. Not long ago I read a UN Womens report where sexual violence in armed conflict is a form of "low cost" mechanism with high impact, and it has become a lethal weapon that kills present and future generations bringing strong consequences for all.

After Syria, Colombia became the second largest country of conflict displacements with 6.5 million people leaving their homes due to our internal conflict, especially FARC terrorist groups and paramilitaries, a real tragic dimension taking into account that it is twice the population of Uruguay. Like other countries, rural Colombian women and children became the target of abuse. Many of them were displaced or recruited by the FARC, especially in the last decade of the conflict; women and children have become in many cases victims of sexual violence, forced abortion, sterilization, taken for vengeance from men, forced into prostitution and even enslaved.

A book titled Sexual Violence as an International Crime Perpetrated by the FARC collects testimonies from women and girls who demobilized and suffered the humiliation and consequences of the war. The FARC not only recruited women, but also girls between the ages of 11 and 15 years belonging to indigenous communities and treated them as sexual slaves. According to the book, by 2011 about 1,800 guerrilla's women and girls were forced to have abortions. "...But not only the war was fatal to them, so has been justice. The investigations and sentences for sexual violence in conflict are virtually zero and this has failed to gain any attention in civilized society. Like if sexual violence wasn't enough, women and girls' victims either on the armed groups or refugees have had little chance to access justice. According to different reports impunity is closed to 98%.

If there is vast evidence that states the importance of women and children in prosperous societies, how can we ignore the magnitude of this population in the middle of wars, and its consequences: increased human trafficking, rape, illegal abortions, teenage pregnancies, that will lead to more poverty and despair.

We can't live in fair and inclusive nations if we are unconcerned about basic human rights. We cannot grow in civilized societies if we as leaders do not take full responsibility of the policy making, create talk-less-do-more projects, boost innovative solutions for social change, support social entrepreneurial projects, and mobilize people and resources towards fighting this battle.

We as humanity should learn from all mistakes mankind has made throughout history and work to create better mechanisms of justice. More deaths like Aylan Kurdi, nor any women victim of war should not occur. Unless we take concrete and immediate action, we will continue to see the dire consequences that will make us unsustainable, poorer and more unequal.