Together with refugees, we build a safer and more vibrant world

UN Women

20 June is World Refugee Day and this year’s theme is about the power of inclusion – “Together we heal, learn and shine”.

Every two seconds, someone is forced to abandon their homes, fleeing crisis. At least 100 million people were forced to flee their homes in the last decade, seeking refugee either within or outside the borders of their country. By the end of 2019, 79.5 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide.

This year’s World Refugee Day is unfolding against the backdrop of global crisis and social change, as the COVID-19 pandemic has left few lives and places untouched. The pandemic has exacerbated existing vulnerabilities of women and girls, who constitute approximately half of those displaced; they face higher risks of gender-based violence, abuse and exploitation, and have difficulty accessing justice, health and response services.

The critical gaps in gender equality are a key driving force behind the Generation Equality Forum taking place in Paris from 30 June to 2 July. The Forum will announce a set of catalytic Action Coalitions with acceleration plans on key areas that matter to all women and girls – from gender-based violence, to climate change, technology, health, and economic systems that leave women and girls behind.

On World Refugee Day, here are some voices of refugees and displaced people who step up every day to build a stronger, safer and more vibrant world, despite many challenges. Generation Equality stands #withrefugees today and every day.

Empowering women, youth and persons with disabilities in Jordan

Ibtsam Sayeed Ahmed, 40, is using her story to empower other women, youth and people with disabilities to stand up for their rights, Jordan. Photo: UN Women/ Lauren Rooney

Ibtsam Sayeed Ahmed, 40, is using her story to empower other women, youth and people with disabilities to stand up for their rights, Jordan. Photo: UN Women/ Lauren Rooney

“In 2012, a bomb hit my house in Dar’aa [Syria], and with that one bomb, my life completely changed,” says Ibstam Sayeed Ahmed, 40. “Momentary pain turned into years of pain. I had to learn to walk again, to adjust to only having one hand, support myself, and ultimately learn how to live again.”

Ahmed fled to Jordan with her sister, but they were separated at the border amid the mayhem of others fleeing. Her sister returned to Dar’aa and was killed days later.

“I was very alone in the world,” says Ahmed.

“Overcoming all of my hardships was difficult. My mobility was not my only barrier. Being a woman, alone in the camp, unsupported, added to my strain. But I did it! I took each day as it came, each new step, and reminded myself to keep on persevering.”

Ahmed got a job in the UN Women Oasis Center as a teaching assistant, educator and peer facilitator, which allowed her to financially support herself and save to pay for her medical bills. Today, she actively empowers women, youth and persons with disabilities to stand up for their rights and pursue an education.

“Empowering yourself is key to breaking any barrier that is in front of you. And in empowering myself, I then had the confidence to empower others,” she says.

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