Work : The Door to Dignity and Independence

The Transformational Power of Work. “Sowing, transplanting, cultivating… I love it!” says Carmen Sánchez, Colombian refugee in Ecuador

Growing up in Colombia, Carmen always loved plants. Little did she know that her passion for flowers would give her a path to autonomy, integration and normalcy in Ecuador, where she now lives after being forced to flee her home.

After fleeing war or persecution, refugees are often denied the right to work. Yet, the very opportunity to work implies much more than having a roof over one’s head and a safe place to sleep; it is one of the most effective ways for people like Carmen to rebuild their lives.

In a post-pandemic world, finding work is especially hard. That’s why UNHCR is going the extra mile, working hard with our partners to strengthen the resilience of the displaced.

Like 100 other families in the area, Carmen gets seedling kits from a germination centre run by the “Plant Your Food” project, one of the many livelihood initiatives promoted by UNHCR to help refugees. The project helps refugees become self-reliant by selling fruits and vegetables in local fairs while preserving the environment.

While growing corns, papayas, passion fruits and sugar canes dramatically improves Carmen’s income, it also does wonders for her mental health:


“My mind is kept busy; it is like therapy,”


she says as she dreams of buying a new house that could also double as a bakery.



How Does UNHCR Help to Promote Livelihoods?


UNHCR assists refugees living in a new community by advocating for their economic inclusion and helping them gain access to the labour market. Partnering with governments, humanitarian organizations, the private sector and civil society, we help refugees seize economic opportunities to work and earn a living so that they can rebuild their lives with dignity.


Agriculture and food security

Encourage refugees in rural areas to farm, feed themselves and improve their income. 



Financial inclusion

UNHCR works with financial service providers and other partners to help refugees gain access to important financial services such as banking, so they can gain more control and independence for their lives.

© UNHCR/Lilly Carlisle


Inclusive market systems

Adapted to support refugees to work in local markets.

© UNHCR/Kamrul Hasan



A global brand bringing refugee-made artisanal products to the global market. Check out the products!

© UNHCR/Perdo Costa Gomes


Poverty alleviation coalition

Co-led by UNHCR and its partners, the coalition helps the poorest refugees to escape poverty.

©UNHCR/Natalia Micevic


Data and analysis

Collect and analyse the socio-economic data needed to enhance our programmes.

© UNHCR/Olga Sarrado Mur


Why should refugees work?

  • An effective way to rebuild their lives
  • Provide for families
  • Maintain a sense of dignity
  • Regain independence
  • Reclaim control of their future
  • Contribute to the host community

About UNHCR:

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was established on 14 December 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee issues. It strives to ensure that everyone has the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another state, with the option to voluntarily return home when conditions are conducive for return, integrate locally or resettle to a third country. UNHCR has twice won the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1954 for its ground-breaking work in helping the refugees of Europe, and in 1981 for its worldwide assistance to refugees.