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Hafiza, and IRC aid worker and refugee from South Sudan, stands in Tongo refugee camp in Ethiopia
Women lead

She's 21, a refugee, and on a mission to end violence against women

Photo: IRC

Hafiza, 21, was born while her family was on the run, fleeing violence in South Sudan. She's spent most of her life in refugee camps in Ethiopia.

She knows all too well that life as a refugee can be brutal, especially for women and girls. They may be forced to marry at a young age by parents who can't afford to provide for them. They risk rape when venturing out of the camp to collect firewood. At home they may endure domestic violence, which tends to flare up during times of crisis. And every day they face discrimination that robs them of their potential.

Hafiza is one of the few refugee women in Ethiopia's Tongo refugee camp to make it to the tenth grade in school. There’s nothing that drives her determination more than ending violence against women and girls.

She has flourished in her job as an International Rescue Committee social worker, listening to survivors and connecting them to lifesaving services. She also relishes her role as a campaigner on women’s rights.

"Women I work with face stigma, discrimination and hatred," she says. "Sometimes they feel shame and guilt about what they’ve been through.”

Hafiza isn’t afraid to have difficult conversations to drive change, even when some of her neighbors in the camp refuse to listen. 

She says, "I know that I have to keep teaching them until they learn to respect women’s and girls’ rights.”

Read more: Hafiza's story, shared by IRC-UK.