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  • Livelihoods

    Peter Biro
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    Many urban and camp-based refugees find themselves in desperate and dangerous situations. With a typical refugee situation now lasting an average of 17 years, it is crucial that refugees in both urban areas and camps be able to earn a living and sustain themselves and their families. Productive livelihoods are vital for refugees' social, emotional and economic well-being. (The term "livelihood" refers to the capabilities, assets and strategies that people use to make a living.)

    Displaced individuals can enhance their livelihoods in several ways: vocational and skills training, self-employment, small business development, microcredit schemes, job and apprenticeship placement programs, food-for-work programs, agriculture and livestock programs and other income-generating activities.

    Our Work

    The Women's Refugee Commission researches and develops guidance on appropriate livelihoods for displaced women and youth that recognize their skills, experience and capacities. Our recommendations are oriented around local markets, are comprehensive in approach and are both safe and sustainable.

    The goal is to strengthen their self-reliance and resilience. Humanitarian workers and program designers should devise strategies that are market-oriented and build on refugees' existing skills. At the same time, these initiatives have to take into consideration that earning income can increase women's risk of harm and violence. Our livelihoods work focuses on urban refugees, women's empowerment and youth and child protection, developing strategies for creating safe and effective livelihoods for different vulnerable groups.

    We go into local markets to understand the challenges and opportunities of doing business as a refugee. We use this research to develop guidance that will help others design innovative, market-based livelihood programs, which ensure that refugees gain skills that will allow them to make a decent living. We advocate for those designing economic programs to involve women, children and adolescents at all stages, from the initial start-up phase, through carrying out the project, to evaluating it after it's over. We then test these models in local contexts, monitor the results and share what we've learned through reports, trainings, practical tools and advocacy.

    Learn More

    Use the drop-down menu on the left side of the page to access this program's Research and Resources, and to explore our work on particular issues in more depth.