March 8th marks International Women’s Day. A day we celebrate leaders like Hillary Clinton, activists like Emma Watson and others raising their voices for equality and rights for women everywhere. They are our role models, mentors and our heroes.
But - I wanted to take a moment to shine the light on women that you won’t hear about elsewhere and who today are also heroes. You won’t hear them give a speech on equality, or see their names popping up on twitter next to inspirational quotes about women. They won’t be trending – but they should.
These women are the breadwinners of their families – the soul caregivers – their children’s only hope at survival. And they are Syrian refugees.
Over half of Syrian refugees (by the way we are nearing 4 million) are women. While the men stay back to fight or protect their homes – women are left to take care of their families under some of the most unimaginable circumstances. Life as they know it changes overnight; their role as mother, wife, sister or daughter suddenly shifts and they become head of the household. They have to deal with finding basic needs while struggling with isolation and extreme poverty while they are away from their communities and traditional sources of support.
“When left alone, you have to push boundaries and make things happen. When you are weak, you are done. You have to be strong to defend yourself, your kids, and the household.” – Lina, A Syrian refugee
Refugees like Lina are risking their lives to protect their children and their strength and resilience is powerful.
"Syrian refugee women are the glue holding together a broken society. Their strength is extraordinary, but they are struggling alone. Their voices are an appeal for help and protection which cannot be ignored." - UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie who met with Syrian refugee women herself.
Thanks to support from donors and our partners - UNHCR is able to provide female headed households with cash assistance, livelihood opportunities and specialist care for victims of sexual violence.
As the conflict is now about to enter its 5th year, more needs to be done to help Syrian refugee women get back on their feet. In a war dominated by stories about men, the plight of Syria's women is often forgotten.
Help give refugee women a voice by sharing one of the below tweets on International Women's Day!