International Rescue Committee (IRC)

Job Training Helps Women Find Their Voice

For refugees new to Tucson, arriving in America after escaping life-threatening conditions in some of the world’s most dangerous countries is the beginning of a new set of challenges to overcome. Refugees must quickly adjust to new laws, language, technologies and cultural expectations. The process can be especially challenging for those who come from cultures where women are oppressed, and their voices not heard.
The IRC in Tucson is helping women build confidence so they can overcome one of their biggest challenges: Preparing for their first American job. The IRC offers special job-training programs for women that not only enhance their skills and job readiness, but also provide a safe environment where they can learn with other women who face similar cultural barriers and life circumstances.

IRC Employment Specialist, Gwen Scott, doesn’t just teach refugee women how to obtain a job; in many cases, she helps women find the voice they never knew they had.

“For many refugee women, the opportunity to make a living and have the freedom to make choices for themselves is an entirely new experience” said Scott. “They must first accept that they are no longer in danger and have finally made the journey from harm to home. It’s incredible to see a young woman, who for so long has kept quiet and submissive, finally open up and speak about learning English, taking the bus on her own, and participating in job interviews. It’s an entirely new, empowering experience for them.”

Women in Scott’s class meet every Monday afternoon and discuss progress in the job search, practice interview etiquette and learn about basic job-related tasks such as how to greet a retail customer or organize a rack of clothes.

“All the women want to be self-sufficient, and it’s our goal to give them all the tools they need to accomplish their own American dream,” Scott said. “Through our job training program, refugee women become empowered, productive members of society – a goal that all our clients strive to achieve.”