Empowering Refugee Women

Being a refugee is a condition, not an identity.

WLP is providing refugee women with skills to organize and advocate for themselves, and we are advocating for refugees’ direct participation in decision-making bodies that are impacting their daily lives.

Program Highlights

Improvement of basic services for refugee women

Capacity building for refugee-focused organizations

Training in job skills, leadership, and organizing

Research and policy reforms 

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Several of WLP’s partners are in countries that are serving as havens for refugees fleeing violent wars in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Among them are Afghan refugees in Iran, and Syrian and Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, as well as refugees from conflict ridden Iraq, Libya, Myanmar, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Many of the refugees are traumatized by their experiences, having witnessed massive forced displacement, violence, and death. While deaths from war are usually disproportionately borne by men, the majority of the displaced are women and children. Our purpose is to help ensure refugees' ability to access basic housing, health, education, counseling or other needed services, as well as providing workshops on leadership and advocacy. 

Our partners who work with refugees understand the suffering that their clients have experienced, and work to provide them with counseling and other services. WLP partners in Brazil, Malaysia, and Zimbabwe are providing training to refugee women in individual leadership and economic empowerment. In Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, WLP has launched an initiative focused on empowering Syrian and other refugees, and on sharing our knowledge and learning resources with other community-based organizations that are aiding Syrian refugees.

Empowering Syrian Refugees

After over half a decade of violent conflict in Syria, Syrian refugees make up the largest displaced population in the world. Most Syrian refugees are not living in special camps, but in poor communities in their host countries with few resources and scarce opportunities for employment or education. Their safety, welfare, health, housing, and access to education are continuously at risk. This is particularly true for women and girls.

In some refugee settlement regions, employment is expressly forbidden for refugees, and in others there is simply no opportunity for employment, especially for women who tend to have less education, may never have been formally employed before, and have little time for additional work after raising their children and managing their households. At the heart of their displacement is their status as refugees, which affords them few rights, and even fewer options. 

Through WLP’s Empowering Syrian Refugee Women for a Better Future initiative, WLP partners in Jordan – Sisterhood is Global Institute/Jordan (SIGI/J), Lebanon – Collective for Research and Training on Development–Action (CRTD-A), and Turkey – Foundation for the Support of Women’s Work (FSWW), bring leadership, organizing, and economic empowerment skills to Syrian refugee women. We also work with local support organizations to ensure refugee women’s access to services and refugee participation in community decision-making.  

Our Syrian refugee initiative has five main goals:

  • Facilitate access to referral systems and service providers, especially in relation to sexual health care and social services for victims of violence.
  • Strengthen entrepreneurial skills and encourage refugee women to organize collective economic initiatives. 
  • Provide refugee women with participatory leadership skills and human rights training to help them build better lives for themselves, their families and communities, and society.
  • Build the organizational capacities of emerging Syrian community-based groups that will empower women to organize and engage in peace and recovery processes.
  • Enable promising Syrian women leaders to develop their advocacy skills so that they can better engage in and influence local decision-making. 

Curriculum for Empowering Refugee Women

WLP facilitators are using content from several of our manuals to develop a curriculum that specifically addresses the needs of refugees. Pulling sessions from WLP’s Leading to Compassion, Leading to Choices, Leading to a Culture of Democracy, Beyond Equality, and Victories over Violence, facilitators are adapting the material to address  empowerment, leadership, political activism, and violence against women for forcibly displaced communities.

Workshops and Training of Trainers Institutes

WLP workshops create safe, nurturing spaces for refugee women that allow them to have positive engagement with other women in their communities. Separating their current condition of being a refugee, from their full identity, enables many participants to recognize themselves as survivors and leaders. WLP workshops also strengthen refugee women’s awareness of their human rights and legal protections, and provide tools for mobilizing and advocacy. Our training of trainers institutes (TOTs) equip refugee women leaders to take what they have learned directly back to their communities.

Strengthening Local Service Organizations

In addition to the workshops for refugees, WLP works with local intermediary and service-providing organizations in refugee communities. We are helping them to build stronger networks with other local women’s rights organizations, and providing their staff with training in participatory leadership and gender-mainstreaming. Together we are advocating for refugees’ direct participation in decision-making bodies that are implementing the policies and services for refugees.

Research on Women Refugees  

WLP is developing a research project on the challenges and conditions in the everyday lives of Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. We will conduct in-depth interviews with several dozen refugee women to hear their perspectives on their daily concerns, and the prospects they see for their future. Out of the research we will produce policy briefs, and will use the findings to develop educational tools and strategies for our refugee empowerment programming. While in some instances Syrian-led organizations are consulted about pending policies and new service directions, grassroots Syrian women are rarely heard from at all. The value of our research is that it will amplify the voices of grassroots Syrian refugee women in the policy debates about resettling and serving refugees, and the long-term planning for their safety, health, education, and economic independence.

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