How do we support refugee and migrant women?

The need to support refugees and asylum seekers is as important as ever. Violent conflicts, poverty, and climate change are forcing people to migrate, while xenophobic anti-immigration sentiment and anti-refugee government policies are on the rise.  

In 2021, the total number of people who have been forced to flee their homes was 89.3 million. Reasons for fleeing include war and political unrest, as well as natural disasters and extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change. For many forced migrants, the decision to flee is usually caused by a combination of these elements, rather than just one single factor. The decision to migrate is extremely complex because of the dangerous journey that forced migrants must make to seek asylum. Migrants are especially vulnerable to human trafficking, persecution, and dangerous modes of travel such as sea routes.  

Forced migration is an involuntary form of movement of a person or group caused by a variety of social, economic, political, and environmental factors. Forced migrants consist of both refugees and asylum seekers. Asylum seekers are people who are still in the application process for asylum – the legal protection under a host country. Refugees are people who have been granted asylum under the recognition of the host country’s interpretation of international refugee law. 

Migration: an issue of gender equality 

Among the 89.3 million people who are displaced worldwide, over half of the migrants are women and girls who are disproportionately impacted by the vulnerabilities brought on by migration. Women are at a greater risk of exploitation, sexual and gender-based violence, and human trafficking throughout their migration journey and upon arrival. Women with children are further disadvantaged as their caretaking responsibilities prevent them from finding employment in host countries. Furthermore, 60% of preventable maternal deaths occur within humanitarian settings such as refugee camps due to the lack of proper healthcare available to migrant women. 

Women’s insecurity doesn’t end with their arrival to host countries – the process of seeking asylum and receiving legally protected refugee status is arduous due to a reluctance for governments to grant asylum. Therefore, a vast majority of people remain asylum seekers years after their arrival, and must stay within refugee camps without the legal right to seek employment or housing. Even after they have obtained refugee status, migrants face the difficulty of navigating life in a new country – the language barrier can present issues in understanding the immigration system and school system for those with children. Getting access to basic necessities such as affordable housing can also be especially difficult for refugees without a stable source of income. 

How does WONDER empower refugees and asylum seekers? 

By collaborating with its partners, WONDER has provided support services for refugee and migrant women to help them navigate life in new countries. The FATIMA project has supported the empowerment of displaced women across four countries in Europe by offering language classes, personalised development programmes, and work experience. In the UK, we have partnered with the Baytree Centre to provide migrant women and girls with English lessons, financial management classes, and mentoring. 

In light of the recent war in Ukraine, our Polish partner organisation Pontes has welcomed Ukrainian women and their families fleeing the conflict. They have been offering shelter, job support, and Polish language classes to increase their chances of employment. 

WONDER has also worked with its partners in Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire through the ForSUD project to raise awareness among women about safe migration and making informed choices about migration. This includes preventing migration for accepting job offers that are ruses for human trafficking. The ForSUD project has also helped to rehabilitate and re-integrate women who have been trafficked to support their future employment.   

You can help us empower refugee and migrant women by donating to WONDER on Giving Tuesday. When you donate on November 29, a part of your donation can be matched!

Author: Dowon Kim

Corporate volunteering in London Team building
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Corporate Volunteering at WONDER Foundation

WONDER Foundation hosts a variety of corporate volunteering days throughout the year, partnering with organisations and businesses that support our mission and goals.