Rozhan Gawdan, Private Sector Partnerships Officer in UNHCR’s Jordan operation, shares what she has learnt about Syrian refugee women – and what makes them so inspiring.
A couple of months ago, Rozhan Gawdan met a Syrian refugee woman with two young children. She was also caring for her elderly mother who had cancer.
“She cooked and sold food to her neighbours, took her mother to all her medical appointments, looked after her children and made sure they kept up with their schoolwork,” says Rozhan. Her situation wasn’t unusual; many Syrian refugee women in Jordan juggle similar responsibilities, while also being the main breadwinners for their households.
In the nine years she has worked for UNHCR — first in refugee emergencies in Iraq and Greece, and now in Jordan — Rozhan’s respect for refugees has grown enormously, and for women in particular.
“They are fighters, trying to provide for the needs of their children and extended families, [for example] a brother or a husband who was injured in Syria and has specific needs,” Rozhan adds. “They help everyone, and often forget about themselves.”
More than 114 million people worldwide have been forcibly displaced from their homes. The majority of these people are hosted by low- and middle-income countries, such as Jordan.
Jordan has been very welcoming to refugees, however there are restrictions placed on where they can work. Permitted industries, such as agriculture and construction, are rarely suitable for refugee women, for both practical and cultural reasons. As a result, women who are the head of their household often struggle to support their families financially.
“That’s why basic needs cash assistance payments from UNHCR are so essential in their lives and a source of hope for them,” says Rozhan. “It helps them organise their priorities and avoid accumulating debt, as well as protecting them from the risk of eviction from their homes.
“Cash assistance gives them the opportunity to live a decent life.”
Rozhan describes her role with the Private Sector Partnerships team as “shedding light on the reality of the refugee situation, the challenges they face and their needs”.
Rozhan works in Jordan’s capital, Amman. She assists in managing the Connecting Worlds app and is involved in a range of education initiatives including UNHCR’s Aiming Higher, and DAFI scholarship programs.
“While the Connecting Worlds app is running, the first thing I do each day is moderate all the exchanges between donors and refugees, and check if there are any requests for support from users on the app,” she says. “Then I follow up on content plans for the other campaigns we work on, including the [annual] Winter Appeal.”
Over the course of her career with UNHCR, Rozhan has listened to many refugee women’s stories and trauma. She takes comfort from the thought that her role with UNHCR helps them in some way.
“It is very difficult to listen to the challenges of people around you,” she says. “Raising funds for important programs such as cash assistance makes me feel I am doing something to help ease their difficulties.”
Rozhan is motivated and inspired by the resilience of refugee women who play such an important role in their communities, often caring for multiple generations.
“I would like donors to know that these women are very strong,” she says. “In the past 12 years of the Syrian crisis, they have gone through a lot of difficult things, things that we cannot imagine.
“There is a lot to learn from them, such as courage and positive energy – that they are still ready to help everyone around them despite all the difficulties they face.”
All donations to the Leading Women Fund are delivered as cash assistance to Syrian refugee women who have found themselves the head of their household. Donate now to provide vital support.
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