It is widely believed that economic opportunities provide women with life options, greater participation in decisionmaking and more equity within the household. As a result, they are assumed to protect women against gender-based violence, including sexual assault and exploitation and domestic violence. The Women's Refugee Commission* (the Commission) traveled to Cairo, Egypt to learn if and how this assumption held for refugees from Sudan, Iraq, Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea, who live and work in Cairo. Although recognized refugees and asylum seekers are eligible for a work permit, in reality they are hard to obtain. Most women the Commission met with reported great difficulty in finding employment and meeting their basic needs. Often they are forced to work in unregulated sectors, such as housekeeping and child care, which exposes them to exploitation, abuse and harassment. There are very limited services for women who have been raped or abused, or women who have experienced domestic violence. The Women's Refugee Commission did see examples of promising livelihood interventions, including programs that include vocational training and job placement components. Such programs should be emulated. Key Findings
- Refugee women in Cairo report great difficulty in meeting their basic needs, immense obstacles to obtaining employment, and many report incidences of racism and xenophobia.
- Lack of legal access to the labor market forces refugee women to work in the unregulated, informal sector, thereby increasing their risk to gender-based violence).
- Existing skills training and job placement programs serving refugee women do not include sessions on gender-based violence, nor referral linkages to gender-based violence programs.
- Very few refugees will be resettled despite the expectation of many that resettlement in a third country is a viable durable solution.
- Livelihood interventions must be brought to scale and more funding should be provided for livelihood programming for vulnerable refugee women.
- UNHCR and partnering agencies must include considerations for gender-based violence in all programming.
- Efforts to identify durable solutions (voluntary return to country of origin, integration into host country or resettlement in a third country) must be intensified.
- The Government of Egypt should reduce impediments to securing work permits for refugees and asylum seekers, enabling broader access to the labor market.