Did you know that women and girls make up about 50 percent of any refugee, internally displaced, or stateless population? Globally, they often face more healthcare issues, economic setbacks and gender-based violence.

Yet despite the multitude of challenges they face, every day the women we work with shape the world in extraordinary ways. In honor of International Women’s Day (March 8), we’re shining the spotlight on five women from around the world who are thriving in the face of conflict and economic crises.


I told the hiring manager I'm here for welding and he said 'you cannot do this job.' I said yes; if you can learn, that means that I will also learn.

Rahma, 24, shows a piece of furniture she has constructed in Kampala, Uganda.
Rahma, 24, shows a piece of furniture she has constructed in Kampala, Uganda.
Photo: Joseph Sozi for the IRC

At 21 years old, Rahma faced a financial hurdle preventing her from attending school. As a solution, she relocated to Kampala to live with her older sister. This marked the beginning of a new journey for her. It was at this point that she first learned of the IRC and IKEA Foundation’s Re:BUiLD program, sparking her pursuit to train as a welder.

Upon completing her education and seeking to elevate her training, Rahma encountered significant challenges as a young woman in finding work placement opportunities. “I went to ask for a place to continue my training but the guys told me we cannot give girls a job,” she explains. “They told me to go to the hotels and start serving food.” 

Undeterred by this setback, Rahma persisted and successfully landed an apprenticeship when the Re:BUiLD program matched her with KenKat workshop. Subsequently, she received additional training that led to her becoming a permanent member of the staff.

Even some of Rahma’s current colleagues didn’t believe in her when she first arrived. "I told the guy I'm here for welding and he said 'you cannot do this job’”, Rahma recalls. “I said yes, if you can learn that means that I will also learn! So, the guy gave me the opportunity and said: ‘if you can compete with the guys, then you can stay here and work.’ So, I had to compete with them and I'm still here, not giving up.”

Rahma’s ambitions continue to soar, and she dreams of running her own business and training other young people like herself. “I would love to offer training to anyone who's willing, especially the girls. I can learn today and share that opportunity with anyone.


When they study and work hard, it makes me hopeful about their future. When my students and other people call me “teacher,” it makes me proud. And when I get my salary at the end of each month, it also makes me happy.

Hajera reads a book aloud from a book to her students.
Hajera reads a book aloud to her students.
Photo: Mahab Azizi for the IRC

Hajera, a 19-year-old teacher, graciously welcomes children aged 5-11 into her home in Logar, Afghanistan, offering education to those without access to formal schooling. The Community Based Classes, a component of an IRC initiative in conjunction with the European Union, deliver quality education to Afghan children, focusing on those impacted by conflict and displacement.

Hajera, unable to pursue education past grade 10 herself, is resolute about providing other children, particularly young girls in her community, the opportunity to learn, despite not being able to access formal schooling.“I encourage them to study and tell them if you stand on your feet then you will be independent,” she says. 

As well as teaching, Hajera dedicates time to raising awareness in her community, particularly speaking with parents, about the benefits of education for the whole family. She draws upon her personal journey of conquering financial challenges, stepping up to support her father by sharing the household financial responsibilities.

When children show up to her classes, she feels proud that she’s been able to make an impact and change their parents’ minds about school. She hopes for a future where every child has access to education.


I'd rather regret the things that I’ve done than regret the things I haven’t done. I felt working as a tram driver was the place I belonged to. I liked the work, and I believed in myself.

Maryna stands in front of a tram
"When we were asked what we used to do before the war and what we do now, a lot of people wanted to continue working in the same field, but I wanted to change everything completely,” Maryna says of her new career.
Photo: Tamara Kiptenko for the IRC

In November 2021, not long before the war in Ukraine escalated, Maryna moved to Poland with her husband and young children. They made the decision to relocate as her husband was facing challenges securing employment in Ukraine due to health issues.

Maryna was always driven by her career ambitions. Initially working in a laboratory and then becoming a shop owner overseeing 70 employees, her career trajectory took a turn after a car accident led to leg injuries.

Then the full-scale invasion in Ukraine started, leaving the family in a state of shock and affecting their situation in Poland. It was January 2023] when Maryna discovered the IRC-supported "One Step to Employment" job center, where she found the opportunity to embark on a new career as a tram driver. Through the center, Maryna was linked with a job consultant and a psychologist. With their guidance, she molded her new career path. Encouraged by their support, Maryna decided to delve into a career she had long pondered—becoming a tram driver.

Despite facing the hurdles of studying, parenting, and financial burden, Maryna excelled in her tram driver training, acing both the internal exam and driving test on her initial try. “I'm happy and proud of myself,” says Maryna. “Moreover, the exam was in Polish and the instructor said I did great.”

Maryna understands that there are many Ukrainian women like her in Poland now, seeking a job after leaving behind their war-torn communities. Her biggest advice: don’t be afraid. “All you need is to start, to take action,” she says. “If you keep staying at home and feeling afraid, then what? If we teach children to keep learning something new, then we should also set an example. Don't be afraid!”


I want to encourage all women and girls who love karate to follow their dreams and never be afraid of anything.

Samira faces the camera, smiling.
Samira, 19, at the IRC’s Summer Academy in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Photo: Shuran Huang for the IRC

Samira, a 17-year-old Karate black belt from Afghanistan, sought refuge in Turkey for six years due to educational barriers in her home country. However, life as a refugee in the new land presented its unique array of challenges. 

Samira and her sisters persevered in their dedication to their passions, such as karate, amidst obstacles like immigration status restrictions. Alina, their mother, stressed the importance of a comprehensive education, yet legal barriers frequently impeded their advancement. After spending seven years in Turkey, the family relocated to the US in May 2023. They faced fresh hurdles such as transportation and adjusting to apartment living, which disrupted their karate training.

Samira quickly joined the IRC’s Summer Academy in Maryland, a program that aids newly-arrived school-age kids in gaining the knowledge and skills needed for integration and self-reliance. During her time there, she thrived in mathematics, forged meaningful friendships, and treasured the nurturing atmosphere provided.

Samira, now in 11th grade, holds onto her determination and shares a pact with her sister to pursue a path as Karate instructors post high school graduation. She contemplates the hurdles that girls might encounter - showing interest in Karate but hesitating to follow through due to the fear of familial disapproval. “I believe that being from a family that lets its members pursue whatever they want makes me very fortunate. In fact, in Afghanistan girls are not allowed to do lots of things. Our family is very good,” she says. “I also want to encourage all women and girls who love karate to follow their dreams and never be afraid of anything.”


I'm proud that I have managed to rebuild myself at 45-years-old, because it's very difficult to start again.

Halyna sits on a chair, facing the camera.
Halyna was forced to leave her home in Ukraine behind in February 2022.
Photo: International Rescue Committee

In Lviv, Ukraine, Halyna thrived in her career as an event manager, orchestrating conferences and exhibitions. Her days were filled with joy alongside her husband and two children. However, as the war escalated in February 2022, Halyna made the heart-wrenching decision to uproot her and her children’s entire existence, seeking refuge in London with her brother. 

While Halyna thought she would only be in the UK for a few weeks, the worsening situation in her home meant she had to make the difficult decision to stay in London permanently. “I decided to stay here because of my children,” says Halyna. “If I was alone, I would be back in Ukraine, maybe close to the frontline, maybe as a journalist. But I chose a safe place for my children.” 

Upon securing a job at a hotel, Halyna grew disheartened by her inability to apply the skills honed in Ukraine. Her yearning was for a role centered around assisting others, a pursuit close to her heart. She came across a community initiative in her city supporting Ukrainian refugees by assisting them with employment opportunities. Halyna now works with the local council to help identify barriers and solutions for other Ukrainian refugees who are struggling to find work. 

Participating in the IRC leadership course, Halyna struck up a friendship with Afghan refugee Masoma, discussing their mutual challenges with integration. The women aspire to broaden the employability program to support more Afghan refugees in need. “I managed to rebuild myself, and now I want to help others build a career here and find a new way to live in the UK.”

How can I support women around the world?  

When women and girls are disproportionately affected by conflicts and disasters, they deserve to tell their own stories. This International Women’s Day, support the IRC as we foster communities where women can raise their voices and choose their own futures.