Refugees and immigrants the world over, especially women, face many barriers to employment. Some of these barriers are discriminatory social norms, traditionally gendered occupations, limited proficiency in the local language, the informal economy (which tends to offer poor working conditions and low pay), and lack of resources. (See Raiyan Kabir and Jeni Klugman, Unlocking Refugee Women’s Potential: Closing Economic Gaps to Benefit All , rescue.org.)
Increasing refugee and immigrant women’s access to economic opportunities not only brings them greater financial stability but also contributes greatly to the economy. A recent study found that “refugee women could generate up to $1.4 trillion to [the] annual global GDP—if employment and earnings gender gaps were closed in each of the top 30 refugee-hosting countries” (Unlocking Refugee Women’s Potential, 3). Additionally, enabling refugee and immigrant women to find paid work gives them and their families greater autonomy, decreases poverty, increases gender equality, and promotes inclusive growth.
Shandra from Indonesia has a passion for cooking and nearly 20 years of professional culinary experience. After immigrating to the United States, she wanted to advance economically while using her culinary skills. She is a self-starter with a contagious energy and a talent for educating others and building community. Not only that—she founded a local nonprofit that helps empower survivors of human trafficking.
Shandra enrolled in the Providing Opportunity for Women’s Economic Resilience (POWER) program with the International Rescue Committee in New York City. The POWER program provides industry-specific skill development and job readiness training for refugee and immigrant women. After completing her training, Shandra was offered a teaching position with the League of Kitchens. Now, along with teaching and publishing a cookbook, Shandra is working on rolling out her own cookie and ice cream business. Programs like POWER provide valuable opportunities for women to use their skills, gain new ones, and obtain access to formal economic opportunities.
Elder Dale G. Renlund, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has recently said, “We demonstrate our love for our neighbor by working to ensure the dignity of all Heavenly Father’s children” (“Infuriating Unfairness,” Apr. 2021 general conference). Removing barriers to economic inclusion is one way to carry out that work.
Latter-day Saint Charities strives to remove barriers to employment and support marginalized individuals on their path to building stability for themselves and their families. We partner with robust, community-focused organizations like the International Rescue Committee to support refugee and immigrant women’s participation in formal economic activity.
Latter-day Saint Charites will be hosting a panel discussion on the importance of economic empowerment programming for refugee and immigrant women in the US. Please join us on Thursday, May 6, at 11:00 a.m. mountain daylight time for a live session with representatives from some of our partner organizations. Learn more about their innovative programs and what you can do in your communities to lift and empower women.
- Kathleen Nelson: Executive director, Jannus Economic Opportunity
- Kim Cohen: Director of Strategic Partnerships at UpwardlyGlobal
- Punam Bajrachaya: Health care professional, immigrant from Nepal, and participant in Upwardly Global
- Maria Sigalas: Economic empowerment manager, International Rescue Committee, New York City