UN Women works around the world with local partners and other UN agencies, including UNHCR, to ensure that programming for refugees takes gender into account, enhancing women’s leadership and self-reliance in displacement settings.
UN Women facilitates displaced women’s access to training, livelihood opportunities, and leadership positions. During the recent Global Refugee Forum in Geneva, UN Women committed to the implementation of pledges on women’s protection, leadership, and socio-economic inclusion.
Some of these stories are shared below with a focus on women’s voices and journeys in displacement settings.
Taghreed’s story – Jordan
Taghreed lived in a Syrian village until her husband, a shepherd, was injured during the country’s civil war. After the army invaded the area where they lived, Taghreed fled to Jordan with her three children.
She first lived in the Za’atari refugee camp, and later moved into the host community after her husband was able to join her. She and her family are among an estimated 1.4 million Syrian refugees living in Jordan.
Taghreed soon discovered UN Women’s Oasis Centre, where she joined a cash-for-work program coordinated by UN Women in partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP), where she tailored clothing such as school uniforms and baby kits for new mothers that were distributed to vulnerable families throughout Jordan.
After completing the courses at the Oasis Centre, Taghreed started a tailoring business from her home. From the money she earned from her business, she enrolled her eldest daughter in her first year of university.
“Thanks to the courses and the fact that I am now a trainer, I feel that I am a person of value”, Taghreed said. “I wish for every woman who has similar circumstances the opportunity to enrol in such courses to have a better life.”
Taghreed also participated in civic engagement and leadership trainings coordinated by the local civil society organization Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development, and gender-based violence (GBV) awareness-raising sessions coordinated by UN Women. During the leadership training sessions, she studied how to become a trainer at the Oasis Centre, and eventually began to teach tailoring to other women in her community so they could earn their own incomes.
Taghreed is among the nearly 2,250 women who have participated in the Second Chance Education courses offered by the Oasis Centre since 2019.
Pori’s story – Bangladesh
Pori is a gender-diverse person who uses female pronouns, and lives in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, as one of 1 million Rohingya refugees who fled Myanmar due to systematic discrimination and ethnic persecution.
At the refugee camp, Pori found the Multi-Purpose Women’s Centre (MPWC), an initiative run by UN Women and its partners, ActionAid Bangladesh and BRAC, which has helped more than 67,000 women and girls with first aid, educational programming, sanitation facilities, and a host of other services.
The MPWC provided Pori with counselling for trauma she experienced throughout her life, including bullying during her school days, mistreatment by her family, and physical and sexual violence. She also took part in GBV awareness sessions, which helped her advocate for her rights.
When men within the camp leered at her, Pori reported the harassment to the camp authorities. Thanks to the counselling and GBV sessions, she is now confident addressing incidents of harassment and engaging camp authorities regarding protection concerns.
Pori, who was illiterate, also took numeracy and literacy training at the centre, where she learned to read and write. These skills helped her get a paying job, where she was recruited to manage the attendance rates of more than 120 women and girls who access the centre every day.
Pori also shared lessons from her sessions on GBV with her family, which helped her relatives develop more accepting attitudes towards gender-diverse people. By gaining confidence in herself and being vocal about her rights, Pori has changed the way community members perceive gender-diverse people.
Before she came to the MPWC, Pori said, “I was not respected back then. But now, I am respected. I am a part of the community.”
Margaret’s story – Uganda
After losing her husband during the war in South Sudan, Margaret* fled to Uganda with her four children and four others given up by her relatives.
When she arrived in Uganda, Margaret was among 1.5 million refugees, 80 per cent of whom are women and girls. The refugees, coming from countries throughout Africa, overwhelmingly live in refugee settlements. Once in Uganda, Margaret began having nightmares and was unable to participate in activities within the community or take care of her children.
Fortunately, she soon enrolled in a 10-week mental health programme run by UN Women and its implementing partner, the Transcultural Psychosocial Organisation. During the course, she made friends with the other women and understood that she was not alone in her struggles.
Margaret says she now has “hope for my future, and more importantly, for my children’s future”.
Margaret also took a leadership skills training course supported by UN Women and its partners under its Gender Equality Accelerator for Humanitarian Coordination and Response, Leadership, Empowerment, Access, and Protection. That training programme has reached 40,000 women since launching in 2021.
The programme gave Margaret greater self-confidence and proficiency in public speaking and advocacy. She was able to mobilize other women to form a support group, which meets regularly to discuss issues such as water shortages, violence, and receiving proper food rations.
She and other widows gather to plan how to help themselves and their children, and encourage entities including WFP, the Office of Prime Minister, and the District Local Government to focus on their needs.
Due to her leadership and advocacy, Margaret was nominated to lead the refugee settlement, and became its head after winning an election.
*Margaret’s name has been changed in this article to ensure her safety.
Originally published on UN Women