***Learn more about International Women's Day, 8 March 2007: http://www.hrea.org/feature-events/iwd.php ICRC Press Release 7-03-2007 Geneva (ICRC) -- "I had to run away from my village because armed men were making us cook, wash and do everything for them," says Elena, a Colombian who now lives in Bogotá. "If we didn't do what they said, they threatened to take our children away from us. Some day I'd like to go back to my own home in my village and live there with my children." All over the world, the threat of attacks and harassment, the risk of being caught up in violent confrontations and the loss of vital facilities and services drive millions of civilians from their homes in areas convulsed by armed conflicts. Displacement has a deep and lasting impact -- physical, psychological, social and economic -- on the lives of those forced to flee. Women are often obliged to abandon their home environment. They may have to take on unfamiliar roles --such as becoming the family's main breadwinner -- often without the support of their next of kin and their communities, from whom they have frequently become separated in their flight. Faced with such tough challenges, countless women display great strength and resourcefulness in ensuring their own survival and that of their families. Still, the burden of having to seek refuge in a strange and hostile place takes a heavy toll on these women, their children and other family members in their care. In addition to the struggle for survival, these women often face increased risks to their safety and their health. They are also more exposed to the threat of sexual violence and other forms of aggression. The goal of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is to make it possible for people to stay safely in their homes despite ongoing armed conflict and other violent situations. If people are forced to flee to another part of their country, the ICRC and its partners in the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement provide aid and strive to ensure their protection. Where desired and whenever circumstances permit, these organizations enable them to return safely to their homes. Particular attention is being paid to the needs of displaced women and the ICRC and its partners do their utmost to help them to cope. "On International Women's Day this year we pay tribute to the many women forced to abandon their familiar environment", said Florence Tercier, who head's the ICRC's programme to help women in war. "They deserve special attention and support from the ICRC, other aid organizations and their governments."
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