Each year on June 20th the United Nations and countless civic groups host World Refugee Day events in order to draw attention to the millions of refugees and internally displaced persons worldwide who have been forced to flee their homes due to war, conflict and persecution. Today, there are an unprecedented 65 million displaced people, many of them women and children.
Women and girls are denied equal access to essential education opportunities. Girls are almost 2.5 times more likely to be out of school in countries affected by conflict, and an even larger proportion of displaced young women cannot access university education and become tomorrow’s leaders. Women refugees have few economic opportunities to build their livelihoods, with limited earning options.
While the Spark of Hope Foundation currently supports 43 young women (plus five alumnae), 11 are refugees or are from areas of conflict, including Syria. Here are two brief examples.
- Israa Issa is a 22 year-old Palestinian refugee from the Mieh Mieh refugee camp near Sidon in south Lebanon. The 60-year-old camp is overcrowded, there are frequent water shortages and health care is poor. She is the only female out of 200 in her mechanical engineering class at the highly ranked American University of Beirut. In 10 years, she sees herself working at a leading car-manufacturing firm in Europe on the design of a solar powered car, thus dramatically reducing our future carbon footprint and potentially changing oil geopolitics!
- May Al-Herek is a 20-year-old student from Hama, Syria, where a brutal civil war has killed over 300,000 people and displaced millions. She is studying Environmental Sciences at the Asian University for Women in Bangladesh and says: “I want to use my education to help clear the country of the destruction and weaponry of war and the pollution that is growing daily.”
Countries of origin of the women we support include Argentina (alumna); Kenya; Kyrgyz Republic, Lebanon (including refugee camps), Liberia, Nepal, Pakistan, Palestine, Syria, Tajikistan and Uganda.
They attend programs at the Bachelor, Masters, Professional and PhD levels at universities in Bangladesh, Canada, France, Lebanon, Liberia, Nepal, Pakistan, Switzerland, United Kingdom.
Such young women have an enormous capacity for resilience and the potential to become powerful agents of change. Their leadership in decision-making is essential for lasting peace and stability.