Single Mothers Overcome Obstacles to Support Their Family
For refugee women fleeing the world’s most oppressive and conflicted regions, the promise of a new life in Tucson offers hope, opportunity and freedom from fear and persecution. However, a new life in America comes with many challenges, especially for single mothers who have languished for years or even decades in a refugee camp with no opportunities for education or skill advancement. Now, they face not only the challenge of finding employment, but must secure affordable childcare as well.
For Meheria Maleh, a case manager for the IRC in Tucson, every day offers opportunities to help refugee women overcome the most difficult barriers in adjusting to life in their new communities.
“Many women refugees we serve often arrive after spending years in refugee camps, without proper shelter, nutrition, education, or basic health care,” said Maleh. “One of the first steps we take is to make sure they know the IRC in Tucson is here to support them in every step of their journey. Beyond that, we assist women and girls through education and encouragement so they can participate equally with men in decision-making, and influence the decisions that will determine the future of their families.”
Meheria recalls the story of one woman, Cecilia*, a Rwandan refugee who fled to Cameroon where she lived homeless for 19 years. After applying and being approved for refugee status, Cecilia arrived in Tucson with her two small children in 2010. Her immediate struggle was to find a way to attend English class while she waited for her two children to be able to start school. Despite initial challenges, it only took her a few months to find her first job; and with her newfound confidence, she quickly realized her opportunities for advancement. Today, Cecilia speaks fluent English and is now working in a job she loves. She is able to give her children a safe home, steady meals, an education and access to healthcare. Every year, the IRC in Tucson helps dozens of mothers like Cecilia.
“It is the women like Cecilia who remind me every day of the human potential that is within each of us,” said Maleh. “It is a privilege to work with the IRC in Tucson to provide opportunities for women to realize that potential.”
*Names have been changed to ensure privacy.