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February 10, 2023

Five young women who are chasing their dreams in STEM

In the world today, women only account for 34 percent of the STEM workforce. For refugee women and girls — who have limited access to educational resources — the number of opportunities to pursue a career in STEM are even more challenging. UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has spearheaded many opportunities for refugee women and girls around the world to pursue interests in science, technology, engineering and math, but closing the gender gap requires support from all sectors. 

On February 11th, we celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science to raise awareness about the gender gap in STEM fields and the necessity of creating equitable solutions for women and girls. Today, meet five young refugee women who are beating the odds and chasing their dreams by pursuing careers in STEM fields. 


At the Kakuma refugee camp and Kalobeyei settlement in Kenya, more than 30,000 refugee girls attend pre-primary, primary and secondary school. Nyater, a South Sudanese refugee is one of those girls. UNHCR works with partners and local governments in Kenya to help women and girls access education and STEM opportunities at the refugee camps, including providing catch-up lessons to girls who did not have access to classrooms previously.

In between her classes, Nyater studies at the laboratory to catch up and review her lectures to ensure she passes  all key subjects in her pursuit to attend medical school and become a doctor. 


Eman, a 16-year-old Syrian refugee, has spent most of her life in the Zaatari refugee camp. Her family was forced to flee Syria in 2012, and she has grown up in the camp ever since. Because of this, most of her education has been provided through the camp and UNHCR’s programs. In 2019, she started a program at UNHCR’s Innovation Lab that aims to help refugees develop community-based solutions based on technology and recycled materials. 

"We have to be better than our prior selves, not just better than someone else.”

When Eman first learned to code in 2019, she felt like a new world had opened up to her. Her education in STEM has helped her build communication skills and self-confidence, and she has participated in several robotics competitions utilizing her skills. 


Antoinette* participates in a mechanics vocational training program run by UNHCR partner, AIRD (African Initiatives for Relief and Development). As an internally displaced person, Antoinette and her family were forced to flee their home when conflict reached their home in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. During the conflict, she lost her husband and three of her children, leaving her to fend for herself and her four other children. 

UNHCR’s training program with AIRD offers women the resources to begin rebuilding their lives with new skills and livelihood opportunities. The program also helps internally displaced people integrate with their host communities. “We want to have our own garage – for us, the women here in Kasai Central, that’s what we truly want,” Antoinette shares. “Through the help of UNHCR, my life has changed. For me and my children. Life has changed.”


When Laura was a child, her family was forced to flee Colombia to escape threats of gang violence in her neighborhood. As she grew up and attended school as a refugee in Ecuador, she always dreamed of becoming an astronaut. She developed an interest in robotics at an early age, but believed her dream of going to space was beyond her reach. 

When Laura resettled to the United States as a teenager, she discovered that her dream wasn’t as far as she believed. She attended Rhode Island College with majors in Physics and Mathematics, and with the support of her family and community, is pursuing her dream of becoming an astronaut. 

“I think of other people that are going through stuff and, it might seem like there's no way out, that you're trapped and that nothing will ever get better. With a little bit of help, we can all overcome and be happy at one point.”


“My dream is to be walking wearing the white lab coat and hear people call me Pharmacist Jawaher,” shares Jawaher, a 26-year-old Syrian refugee. Jawaher is studying pharmacy at the American University in Jordan. 

Like many young Syrian refugees, Jawaher spent many years of her school-aged life growing up in the Zaatari refugee camp. Her family always prioritized her education over everything else because scholarship opportunities for refugees, especially young refugee women, were limited. Although she faced a difficult path, she was inspired to continue her education when she saw her father complete his Bachelor’s degree in 2019 — 36 years after he graduated from high school. 

Jawaher’s family pours all of their savings into her education, and she hopes to make them proud by earning her white coat. 

How you can help… 

Closing the gender gap in education and the STEM workforce requires that no one is left behind. Solutions must be equitable and include people across the board, especially displaced women and girls who have had their education interrupted. By becoming USA for UNHCR’s newest monthly donor, you can support the full journeys of refugees and ensure they have the opportunities to achieve their dreams. 

*Name changed for protection reasons.