Unit plan for ages 15-18 in Civic Education: Refugee Women and Girls


Somali refugee girls at the Hartisheik camp in Ethiopia enjoying a game of volleyball.   © UNHCR/R.Chalasani



  • To understand that women and girls of all cultures and from all nationalities have the same basic human rights to shelter, food and safety, and also to dignity, self-sufficiency and self-determination
  • To realise the plight of refugee women and girls which includes the denial of these basic rights
  • To comprehend the various difficulties which they have to face in their daily lives, identifying what are the contributory causes of these difficulties
  • To see that refugees, especially women and girls need protection
  • To understand the concept of empowerment


  • To be aware of unconscious sexism and stereotyping, i.e. perceptions of women and girls in different cultures
  • To devise ways to improve the living situations of refugee women and girls, and how they can be helped to help themselves.

LESSON 1: Perceptions of Women in Different Communities


Many modes of perception and interpretation of reality result in individuals having unconscious mind sets. These mind sets affect one's view of others and their role in a community.

The view of the role of women and girls varies from culture to culture and from community to community. Religious education, politics and location, whether urban or rural, all contribute to determine a woman's permissible roles and activities.


Students work in pairs through the activity "My son, My Son" as outlined in the lesson plan.


Students are given the article "Fighting for Equal Rights..." to read for homework. As they read, they are required to answer questions which form a summary.
Class time should be available the following lesson to pool information to obtain an overall view of the conscious and unconscious sexism and stereotyping that contribute to the difficult situations faced by refugee women and girls.


Refugee women and girls lead the International Women's Day procession at Dukwi camp.   © UNHCR/P.Rulashe

Activity: "My Son, My Son" from Graham Pike and Daniel Selby, Global Teacher, Global Learner (London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1988), p. 52 (see lesson plans for details)

"The Universal Declaration of Human Rights" (external link, new window) - simple English version.

"Fighting for Equal Rights...", Refugees, no. 126 (Geneva, UNHCR, 2002)

LESSONS 2-3: Refugee Women and Girls - Survivors Twice


80 per cent of the world's 21 million refugees and internally displaced people are women and children.

This lesson deals with features of refugee women's lives.

Link to previous lesson

Review of homework questions dealing with the attitude of women refugees concerning themselves, the attitude of the menfolk of the women refugees, and the daily work load of a woman refugee.


View and discuss the video. Reconsider answers to the homework questions in the light of new insights gained from the video.

Students read "Refugees, Feminine Plural", then answer comprehension and discussion questions.


Helplessness: Post-September 11 arrivals in Jalozai Camp in Afghanistan.  © UNHCR/A.Banta

Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women (Geneva, UNHCR, 1991)

UNHCR, The State of the World's Refugees 1995:
In Search of Solutions
(Oxford, OUP, 1995), p. 60-61

Corinne A.A. Packer, UNHCR and Refugee Women:
Rebuilding a Future Together
(Geneva, UNHCR, 1995). p. 6-16

LESSON 4: Empowerment - Helping Refugee Women to Help Themselves


Protection of refugee women: cultural dilemmas

Students research background material and write an essay. (Refer to lesson plan for essay topic.)


Renewal: Afghan girls back in school in Kabul after the Taliban.  © UNHCR/P.Benatar

Christiane Berthiaume, "Do we really care?", Refugees, no. 100, 1995, p. 12-13. Refer also to resources from previous lessons