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“Refugee is my status, it doesn’t mean that I can’t make my dreams come true. All refugee women have to take courage,” says Irene, a 40--‐year--‐old Ivorian.


Irene knows what she’s talking about: she has been a refugee in Liberia for the past 14 years. When war broke out in her native Cote d’Ivoire in 2002, rebels killed her father and soldiers raped her in her own home.

They shot her in the back and ran away. At the time, she was seven months pregnant. Miraculously, both Irene and her child survived, after being taken to a refugee camp in Liberia.


Before the war, Irene had gone to tailoring school, where she learned how to make clothes and later started her own training centre for other women. After finding safety in Liberia, Irene decided to open a new centre there, teaching tailoring, hairdressing and other skills.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, helped Irene setup her training centre, as part of efforts to support refugee women in Liberia in becoming self‐reliant through livelihoods training. Vocational, skill training and livelihood programmes such as these can contribute to SGBV prevention by empowering women, including survivors of such violence.

“I am grateful to UNHCR for supporting me to have what I have today,” says Irene, whose goal is to help more women become self--‐reliant. “I want to empower women…I am proud to say that women too can be successful. This is why I wanted to pull women together to empower them.”

To support the centre, Irene and the women she trains sell the clothes they make together. The training also helps promote local integration by teaching Liberian women as well as Ivorian refugees: “I teach both Liberians and refugee women, because Liberians were very good to us, they welcomed us. So it is my duty to give back to them.”

With UNHCR’s support, Irene has trained over 50 refugee and Liberian women, not only by teaching them how to sew or style hair but also by helping them regain confidence and self--‐worth, which many lost during the war. Every week, she also invites the women to discuss issues affecting them and how they can rebuild their lives as empowered members of society.

“Today I’m training more women, Liberian women, refugee women,” she proudly explains. “Today they are able to take care of their families. I’m proud of myself and I’m also proud of them.”

Thank you for helping women like Irene get the assistance and skills they need to thrive and build better futures.

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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.