JUNE 2019 – This World Refugee Day, we are spotlighting incredible women who either have been refugees or work closely with refugees. These women demonstrate that, despite insurmountable obstacles, negative headlines and lack of support, refugees contribute life-changing efforts to both their host and home countries and communities.
In a place where girls’ access to education is often restricted, Sadiqa Basiri Saleem and three other Afghan women founded a center that has educated more than 2,700 girls.
Sadiqa grew up in a refugee camp in Pakistan after fleeing violence in Afghanistan. Refugee camps all over the world suffer from inadequate nutrition, housing, medical facilities and, perhaps most tragic, schools. This is extremely serious, considering half of the world’s refugees are under 18 years old, and 4 million of them have no access to education.
Refusing to let girls miss school, Sadiqa pooled money with three other women to create the Oruj Learning Center in Central Afghanistan. When it first opened, held in an abandoned mosque, 36 girls attended school each day. Today, six schools welcome hundreds of girls.
In a place where countless children are orphaned due to war, Andeisha Farid created a home for over 1,620 children.
At eleven years old, Andeisha committed herself to someday tutoring those with no access to learning. Displacement is a major disruptor of education, especially when it lasts for years. Some children have spent their whole lives fleeing violence, circumstance or other issues. Andeisha knew that, though her father taught her to read and write while at a refugee camp in Pakistan, other children were not as lucky.
Today, she is not only running a girls’ school and several vocational training centers, but she also created homes for hundreds of children through her nonprofit, The Afghan Child Education and Care Organization. AFCECO runs two orphanages in Pakistan and seven in Afghanistan.
In a time of restriction, Heidy Quah gave agency to more than 2,100 children.
Heidy was 18 years old when she realized the gross loss of young minds happening in the refugee groups that arrived in Malaysia. On a global scale, 92 percent of children attend primary school, 84 percent attend secondary school and 37 percent attend higher education.
In comparison, of the half of refugee children that are able to, 61 percent attend primary school, 23 percent attend secondary school and just 1 percent attend higher education.
To address this unnerving gap, Heidy established the Refuge for the Refugees, which has developed 35 schools and two recovery homes across Malaysia and Myanmar. Moreover, to counter the need to help their families financially, RFTR also has an entrepreneurship program to support children and keep them in school.
In a time of movement and violence, Rouba Mhaissen has helped refugees rebuild their nation and future.
Rouba was convinced that she wanted to make her life about others, and with the influx of Syrians into Lebanon, she discovered how she could do that. Being half-Syrian and half-Lebanese, Rouba was inspired to connect refugees with the education, resources and dignified opportunities they need to rebuild Syria themselves. Too often they are held back by bureaucratic barriers, such as not having transcripts from the schools they attended before fleeing.
Through her organization, SAWA for Development and Aid, Rouba has not only reached hundreds of children with education, but also helps professionals, restricted from working in Lebanon, by employing them as teachers.
As these women have demonstrated, when given education and opportunity, they can raise awareness, solve problems and fill gaps in societies of both host and home countries.
This story was written by Daniela Mora Savovic to recognize World Refugee Day.