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October 09, 2018

International Day of the Girl: Empowering Refugees

Eight-year-old Saron, from Yei, South Sudan, at the Ofonze Primary School in Bidibidi refugee settlement, Yumbe District, Northern Region, Uganda.


Happy International Day of the Girl!

Today, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, reaffirms its commitment to women and girls, who make up about half of all people forced to flee their homes. With generous donor support, UNHCR helps women and girls transform the losses they've endured into opportunities for a brighter future.

Girls like eight-year-old Saron.

Sporting a pink tee-shirt and a bright smile, Saron looks like a typical happy child. But she's already experienced a lifetime of trauma.

When violence broke out in her homeland, she and her family were among thousands of South Sudanese who escaped to Uganda’s Bidibidi refugee camp in search of safety and peace.

"I came here because of the war," Saron explains. "We ran because people were killed during the night. My mother said we have to come here." When they fled, she had to leave almost all her belongings, including her clothes and textbooks.

Today, thanks to the support of caring Americans, Saron attends Ofonze Primary School in Bidibidi. "When I came to school, I was given books and pens. I was happy." Saron loves school and her favorite subject is math.

"We left everything behind in South Sudan. But when I came to school, I was given books and pens. I was happy."

Along with a restored sense of normalcy and the chance to make friends, school is giving Saron the solid foundation she needs to fulfill her dream of becoming a doctor.

For more than four decades, UNHCR has promoted gender equality for girls like Saron. This work has had a direct impact on the health and well-being of families, communities — and the world.

Here are some examples of how generous donors are helping protect and empower refugee women and girls:

Helping girls go to school. Education equips girls like Saron with the skills they need to unlock their potential. School uniforms, safe learning environments and separate sanitation facilities keep girls in the classroom and learning.

Saron works on an assignment for math, her favorite subject.


Providing safes spaces and addressing sexual violence. Secure shelters, separate washrooms and proper lighting reduce the risk of assault. Survivors receive medical care, counseling and legal support. Education programs show men and boys how to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence.

This UNHCR-supported safe space protects Honduran women who’ve fled gang violence that plagues their country.


Helping girls build self-confidence. Rayan and her sister Zeinab are among dozens of children taking taekwondo classes as part of an initiative launched by UNHCR. Their mother says “They were shy before. But after they started this sport, they made many friends and their self-confidence improved.” Taekwondo has given these girls new skills, but more importantly, the self-esteem to reach for their dreams.


Here's how you can help…

Becoming a USA for UNHCR monthly donor is the most convenient, cost-effective and efficient way you can protect and empower refugee girls like Saron. With your support, they can survive and thrive. Start making a life-transforming difference with your monthly gifts today.