International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day 2017

On 8 March, UNRWA joins the international community in celebrating International Women’s Day. This year’s global theme, ‘Women in the Changing World of Work’, celebrates the achievements of women in the workforce and draws attention to the impact of changes in the world of work on women, both in terms of opportunities, as well as growing concerns such as the informality of labour and instability of livelihoods and income. By unlocking the full potential of women in the world of work, we can strive towards ending poverty, promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth, reducing inequalities within and between countries, and achievement gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls.

This year for International Women’s Day, UNRWA is recognizing and celebrating the Palestine refugee women whose achievements in the world of work have had a lasting impact on their families, colleagues and communities. Throughout the campaign, we will be highlighting the stories of working women, including Palestine refugees, who have made a difference in your lives. 

We are looking for stories of the women who lead. The women who build. The women who teach. The women who heal. The women who innovate. This International Women’s Day, tell us about the women who inspire.

Wafa Diyab, UNRWA Recruitment Officer, received flowers from her colleagues celebrating her UNRWA Gender Equality Champion Award. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Tamer Hamam

Gender Champion Award Winners

This year for International Women’s Day, UNRWA is recognizing staff members from each of its fields of operations – Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Gaza and the West Bank – who have contributed to advancing gender equality in the Agency and more equitable and inclusive services and protection for Palestine refugees. Learn more about the UNRWA staff members who their peers have recognized as champions for gender equality in the workplace.

On International Women’s Day, UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl recognizes the female staff at UNRWA, whose extraordinary work plays a key role in improving the lives of Palestine refugees every day.

In Their Own Words

In Their Own Words

In Their Own Words: Fragments of Palestinian Women’s Stories is based on a project that started in early 2015 to mark International Women’s Day by paying tribute to Palestine refugee women, some of whom are UNRWA staff, through their stories, told in their own words.

The stories show fragments of these women’s lives, shedding light on their triumphs and at times their losses. The stories shown in the booklet vary in content, but they all tell a similar story of courage, resourcefulness and a will to choose life and hope in the face of adversity.


Sameera from Syria

Sameera works as a school attendant in one of the UNRWA schools in Damascus. Fridays were always special for Sameera and her family, but one Friday everything changed when Yarmouk camp was hit by bombings. Read her story of ‘The Lemon Tree’


Manal from Jordan

Manal always wished she could be self-employed, despite others telling her that it would be difficult. After befriending a teacher who encouraged her to work, they opened a learning centre together in Marka camp offering remedial classes to students. Read Manal’s story of the ‘Freckles’

Khawla from the West Bank

Khawla is a field nursing officer in the West Bank. She has worked with UNRWA for the past 26 years. In 2010, Khawla discovered she has breast cancer in 2010. As a nurse, she knows that cancer does not equal death but is afraid to tell her family, and going through chemotherapy proves challenging. Read Khawla’s story of ‘The Red Rose’.

Suzan from Gaza

In 2014, in the middle of another war in Gaza, the building where Suzan and her family lived was hit. A deputy school principal for an UNRWA girls’ school, she refused to stop working when her family moved to a designated emergency shelter during the war and became a deputy shelter manager.

Ferial from Lebanon

Ferial is a Camp Services Officer with UNRWA in Shatila Camp in Lebanon. She was the first woman to hold such a position and despite facing much criticism, she perseveres. Read Ferial’s story of the ‘High Heels’

Mother Aysha

In the face of family and cultural pressure, Mother Aysha worked for more than 35 years, buying and selling clothes in the markets of Gaza and making dresses with traditional Palestinian embroidery. With the help of the UNRWA microfinance programme, she became a successful tradeswoman and the sole breadwinner for her large family of 26. In this short film, listen to Mother Aysha talk about how she defied stereotypes and worked hard to overcome the challenges she faced throughout her life. Mother Aysha’s life serves as a testament to the resilience and strength of Palestine refugee women and an inspiration to women everywhere.


Top five UNRWA donors for 2016