CSW 60 Side Event: “Empowering Women Refugees for Successful Integration into the United States Society through Quality Education”

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The 60th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)`s theme was women’s empowerment and its link to sustainable development. The current refugee crisis around the world and the increasing number of refugees in the United States of America cause many challenges related to refugee integration within the US resettlement community. Peace Islands Institute, Journalists and Writers Foundation, Dialogue Institute Southwest, Kimse Yok Mu, United Methodist Church, and the Pan Pacific South East Asia Women’s Association International organized a panel discussion on the issue of empowering women refugees for successful integration into the US through Quality Education during the CSW 60 on 17 March 2016 at Church Center for the United Nations.

Today, more than two-third of Syrian refugees do not receive formal education.

Fatma Zehra Colak

After the welcome remarks were delivered by the moderator Hulya Dogan, who is the Program Director at the Dialogue Institute Southwest as well as a Research Assistant at the Texas A&M University, Dr. Faith Nibbs shared her experiences about challenges and problems of refugees entered to the United Nations in earlier years. Dr. Nibbs, who is the Director of the Forced Migration Innovation Project and Research said that in the past, all refugee documents were written by men. But nowadays, the Internet provides women refugees a platform where they can speak freely and can educate themselves. “Women refugees need education to find their voice, because voice is Power” said Dr. Nibbs.

Dr. Pauline Muchina, the Project Director of Healthy Families, Healthy Planet, called attention to the inhumane treatment and conditions like sexual abuse, violence, rape and discrimination of women refugees taking place on daily basis. “Human dignity cannot be taken by anyone, not even by the government”, Dr. Muchina said and demanded that religious institutions and other civil organizations need to support the refugees. “They deserve better life than we deserve right now” said Dr. Muchina.

The Director for International Affairs of the international civil society organization Kimse Yok Mu, Fatma Zehra Colak gave the audience an overview about the conditions of the refugees living in Turkey. “Humanitarian aid does not only consist of giving refugees their basic needs as food, water, health and sanitation. Education is also a humanitarian need and must be accessible to everyone. But today, more than two-third of Syrian refugees do not receive formal education”, Ms. Colak indicated. According to her, the key strategy to solve these problems is to train teachers and combat child labor.

Cynthia Nunes Colbert, the President of the Catholic Charities shared various life stories of successfully integrated refugees living in the United Nations and pointed out that education plays an important role for women’s empowerment, especially for women refugees.

The last panelist was Sara Anne Kauffman, who is the Houston Area Director, and Ms. Kauffman explained how people in Houston have welcomed 2.164 refugees last year. Together with volunteers, they taught English to the Refugees especially with an aim to empower women. “With lower educational access, women would get lower incomes”, Ms. Kauffman mentioned and concluded her remarks by saying that “We need more volunteers and teachers to enable women refugees a better access to education and to social life.”

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