International Women’s Day 2014

Equality for women is progress for all

The long journey of Palestine refugee women

For Palestine refugees, the past 66 years have been marked by incredible hardship – including displacement, sometimes several times over, and violence; including poverty, sickness and hardship; including the denial of rights as basic as education or movement. But this long journey has also been marked by courage, strength and achievement in measure equal to the challenges faced, and much of that has come from Palestine refugee women.

Since the very beginning, these women have been the pillars of the community, the guardians of its collective memory and story of itself. But also, the progress and achievement of Palestine refugees are tied directly to those of its women. Each girl who receives a high-quality education; each young woman who pursues vocational training or a university degree; each woman who takes charge of her own health care or braves the risk of a microfinance loan to change her life – their achievements and progress have been a major contribution to that of their whole community.

Unfortunately, the Palestine refugee community still faces hardship and suffering all across the region, from a devastating conflict in Syria to a crippling blockade in Gaza and the prolonged occupation of the West Bank. And unfortunately, Palestine refugee women and girls remain uniquely vulnerable to all of these dangers. They continue to experience threats to their right to education, their right to movement or even their right to freedom from gender-based or sexual violence in their homes.

This International Women’s Day, UNRWA reaffirms its commitment to these women. They have shown immense and steadfast solidarity with their people. Now, they deserve the same.

Voices from the field

For marginalized people, including Palestine refugees, banks and financial systems can be completely inaccessible, but just a little bit of credit and the related services open up a whole new world of self-determination and control. Reaching excluded people has been the goal of our microfinance programme ever since 1991 – and since 1994, we’ve been reaching out specifically to women, knowing that equal access for women means progress for all.

Over these twenty years, we’ve been proud to work with thousands of remarkable women. We’ve been able to offer our support to their skill and courage. This is our way of showing solidarity with them on their journey. We’ve learned a lot from their stories over the years, and this International Women’s Day, we invite you to listen.


Mervat Qablawi, from Syria, knows what it is like to lose everything. But the encouragement of friends and family, and support from UNRWA, reminded her that a woman never gives up.

From Jordan, editor-in-chief Hanan al-Fuqaha talks about earning the respect and recognition of her peers through hard work and dedication.

Sandy el-Hilo, from Burj Barajneh in Lebanon, fused passion with practicality, using microfinance to further her dream of becoming a photographer.

Gaza Strip
West Bank

A widow and mother of two in Gaza, Khawla Abed Sharqaqwi Fayyad encourages women facing challenging circumstances to search for their own solutions.

Samira Barahme, from the West Bank, calls on women to depend on themselves. Life as a Palestine refugee woman requires resourcefulness, audacity and courage.


Feature Story: The Unknown Road

The Unknown Road

"As if leaving our motherland was not enough, we also had to leave the countries where we found asylum, without knowing where we were going," says Rania. Thirty-seven, Rania was displaced at the beginning of the conflict in Syria from Harasta, in rural Damascus, to Daria. Violence intensified in Daria and her family of five sought safety in al-Wafideen camp in Damascus, but even that was not spared bullets and snipers, and the family was forced to resort to Yarmouk camp - which has, since then, suffered months of siege and blockade.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Read more


The Unknown Road

“It is my favorite time reminiscing about the past,” said Ina’am Hadad, and it’s easy to understand why: Her impressive past illuminates the strides that not just she but also Palestine refugee women in general have made.
 Now Dr. Hadad, Ina’am grew up with four sisters and two brothers in a low-income family in Jabal al-Kalaa, ‘the Citadel’ of Amman. Her father was a blacksmith, whose sole aim was to provide for the needs of his family. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Read more

Mothers of Courage

On International Women's Day, UNRWA celebrates the courageous women who have been crucial in helping their families survive the stormy journey of the Palestine refugees, from the Nakba in 1948 until today. Meet the midwife Umm-Ismail, who helped other women safely give birth during the flight across the River Jordan in 1967 despite having lost contact with her own children, and the legendary clothes trader Mother Aysha Hamid, who supports single-handed an extended family of 26 in Gaza. Meet a lady who is being rescued from the ruins of Yarmouk in Damascus. And listen to the great-grandmother Fouzeye Idrese, who fled Syria and, desperate, is seeking help from UNRWA in Lebanon. She says this is her third Nakba.

The long journey of Palestine refugee women

'The Long Journey of Palestine Refugee Women' candidly portrays the lives and experiences of Palestine refugee women, this collection is a testament not only to their own strength and dignity, but also to the richness and resilience of their community.

“As we celebrate the contribution of Palestinian women, we must also reflect on the work which remains to be done. Events in the region have shown that Palestine refugees, in particular women and girls, remain uniquely vulnerable. We must strive to support the specific needs of each refugee woman, ensuring her access to services and encouraging her pursuit of new and greater opportunities. Without equality for and empowerment of women, there is progress for no one.”

UNRWA Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi

IWD Poster: A Recipe for Resilience

Islam is from Aida refugee camp. She has enlisted thirteen other women like her in 'Noor', a women's empowerment group that teaches Palestinian cuisine to raise funds for their physically impaired children. This Women's Day, UNRWA is honoring the resilience of Palestine refugee women like Islam who have overcome the challenges of occupation, displacement, siege and marginalization.

Show your support for Islam and other Palestine refugee women by supporting them this March via our maternal care and social safety net programmes.

Click here to see the full size poster

A Recipe for Resilience

Individual Donors Update

Our fundraising drive in honour of the strength and resilience of Palestine refugee women has concluded. Throughout the month of March we received US$5,606 to support our maternal-care and social safety-net programmes. We will continue accepting donations in support of Palestine refugee women, particularly those living in abject poverty.

Your kind donations have supported hundreds of women in Gaza, the West Bank, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan who will receive food and monetary assistance and various antenatal care services – from supplements and check-ups, to midwife assistance in the delivery room. Thanks once more for supporting those who make society a possibility.




The European Union has played an important role in empowering Palestine refugee women through supporting UNRWA human development programmes.

يقوم الاتحاد الأوروبي بدور هام في تمكين النساء الفلسطينيات اللاجئات من خلال دعمه لبرامج الأونروا للتنمية البشرية.