08 March 2023
UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini, Associate Protection and Neutrality Officer, GFO Amal Abu Shawareb and UNRWA Deputy Commissioner-General Leni Stenseth discuss the Agency's achievements in the field of gender equality and the launch of the UNRWA Gender Equality Champion Award.

AMMAN, 8 March 2023: This International Women's Day, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is proud to announce the launch of the UNRWA Gender Equality Champion Award. The award recognizes the work of UNRWA employees, leadership, teams, or projects or innovative approaches that significantly contribute to advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment across the Agency’s programmes for Palestine refugees and within Agency staff.

Commenting on the award, UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said, “As an equal opportunity employer, we at UNRWA are committed to promoting gender equality and empowering women – both in the Agency and within the Palestine refugee community. This award will celebrate achievements and encourage us to remain innovative and forthcoming. We are very proud of what we have already achieved, including full gender parity in our schools several decades ago.”

In reference to this year’s IWD theme of “Digital Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality”, the UNRWA Deputy Commissioner-General, Leni Stenseth, underlined how UNRWA has engaged women and girls from the start in the digital transformation of the Agency, pointing to the success of the UNRWA Information Technology Service Center (ITSC) in Gaza:  “There cannot be gender equality in this increasingly digitalized world without ensuring that women have access to digital arenas. Within two years of its launch, the IT hub in Gaza has grown 22 times in size and now offers opportunities for livelihoods in the IT sector for young Palestine refugees, including many women and persons with disabilities. This gives us motivation to continue because we see that it makes a difference.”

Click here to watch a video of Commissioner-General Lazzarini and Deputy Commissioner-General Stenseth in conversation with Amal Abu Shawareb (Associate Protection and Neutrality Officer) of the UNRWA Women’s Advisory Group on occasion of International Women’s Day.


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  • UNRWA Education achieved gender parity in its classrooms in the mid-1960s. The Ramallah Women’s Training Centre, opened in 1962, was the first vocational training centre of its kind in the Middle East Region at the time.
  • Currently, 50 per cent of all students in UNRWA schools are girls.  45 per cent of all students at UNRWA Technical and Vocational Training Centres are women.
  • UNRWA launched the Women’s Advisory Forum on 8 March 2022 as a safe space for female staff to engage amongst themselves and with the Agency’s senior management. 
  • UNRWA established the Information Technology Service Center (ITSC) in in 2020. Out of 135 employees today, 40 per cent are women.
  • In 2022, 48 per cent of all loans disbursed through the UNRWA Microfinance Programme were disbursed to women.




Background Information: 

UNRWA is the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. The United Nations General Assembly established UNRWA in 1949 with a mandate to provide humanitarian assistance and protection to registered Palestine refugees in the Agency’s area of operations pending a just and lasting solution to their plight.

UNRWA operates in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, The Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. 

Tens of thousands of Palestine refugees who lost their homes and livelihoods due to the 1948 conflict continue to be displaced and in need of support, nearly 75 years on.

UNRWA helps Palestine Refugees achieve their full potential in human development through quality services it provides in education, health care, relief and social services, protection, camp infrastructure and improvement, microfinance, and emergency assistance. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions.


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