Women’s education helps refugees succeed

women's education - substitute teacher in classroom

Awaz was a refugee who fled a country that sometimes did not allow women’s education past elementary school. Because of her studies in the United States, she is now a manager and substitute teacher. 

Contrary to some common generalizations or stereotypes, I think that refugees and immigrants can be very successful in America. They must overcome some beginning challenges. There are many stories about refugees who come to this country without a dollar in their pocket. Now they are great businessmen or women, university professors, famous politicians, Hollywood stars, investors, and inventors, etc. Most of these stories are in fact about successful men.

What I am intending in this article is to explain how women’s education can be a great contribution to the advancement and development to America.

Several years ago, I met a young lady in a business center In Lincoln, Nebraska. Her name is Awaz. She is a refugee from Iraq. Before we became close friends, I used to see her in a center for helping refugees. Awaz, 32 years old and a mom of 3 children, has an interesting story that I think every refugee should hear.

Back in her original country, Iraq, Awaz was unable to go to school due to financial problems and some cultural values that prevented her family from sending her to school.

She was only permitted to study until the 6th grade.

Most female children are allowed to study until they finish elementary school. After that they are not allowed to go to college or higher education. This phenomenon was very common in most tribal areas in Middle Eastern countries until recently. It is still practiced somewhat, but not so regularly.

Awaz one of the victims of the social and cultural values around women’s education. Though she was a very successful student in her elementary school, her parents did not allow her to go to college back in 2002 and 2003.

Due to ethnic problems and civil wars both in Iraq and Syria, Awaz became a target for many extremist groups in the area. Her family waspersecuted and they fled to refugee camps in Iraq under the supervision of the UN organizations. Finally, they were able to enter the United States of America.

Coming to this country was a turning point in her dreams and efforts.

After settling in Lincoln, Nebraska, Awaz worked hard to start her education process. She was unable to study due to her language and taking care of her three children. But since she was determined, she supported her children and at the same time, she studied English. She knew that without language skills, it was impossible to achieve her dream of being a successful college student and getting a good job.

After two years of work and studying, Awaz was able to get GED from a local school and enter a local college for further study. She was able to overcome the language barriers and the GED aws the first step towards a better education. Now Awaz is a successful manager at a local restaurant.

Besides her job as a restaurant manager, she is now studying for a business degree in business management at a university.

Work and study did not stop Awaz from helping other people in the local community. Awaz volunteers at a local organization as a substitute teacher helping children who come from low-income refugee and immigrant families. She also helps these families learn American culture, English language, and job skills.

Besides raising a family, Awaz was able to help the community and achieve her goals in education and work. This story shows us that refugees and immigrants, if provided with necessary resources such as women’s education, can make a great contribution to their communities. Women are equal to men in these positive contributions.

Refugees shaking hands

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About Pakhshan
Pakhsan is a Kurdish refugee.