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June 19-20 2020

Virtual Refugee Conference


Access to Higher Education for Refugee Women in the Île-de-France Region

By Andee Brown Gershenberg

My degrees are my wings, they make me fly, Mariam said in an interview discussing the importance of education. For refugee women, education is a source of independence on a multiplicity of levels. For some, access to education has been a result of a constant battle against social norms and cultural pressures. For others, access to education is an escape from a life of inequalities. For the majority, education is carried across borders, providing optimism for a better future. 

As the number of asylum demands in France continues to rise as a result of economic poverty, unstable political regimes, and warfare, the nation has become highly regarded in terms of the development of sustainable systems for managing migration flows. Regional actors at a governmental and institutional level face the challenge of addressing the rights and needs of refugees that extend beyond immediate humanitarian assistance and focus on long-term socio-economic integration. 

International law has long established a foundation for the right to education. However, the UNHCR reports only 3% of the global refugee population has access to higher education, and for women this number is even lower (1) . From a gendered perspective, education at all levels is beneficial by breaking the circle of poverty, narrowing disparities in child rearing, and promoting the empowerment of women for better economic inclusion on a global scale. Although several efforts have been made to address such inequalities, these resources are largely insufficient. 

On World Refugee Day, UniR invites you to join us for the publication of our latest study on the obstacles faced by refugee women in accessing higher education in the region Île-de-France. Based on over 16 hours of testimony with 12 refugee women from different profiles, we will present the results of our qualitative study highlighting the experiences of the research participants and applying them to the larger refugee population. In addition, we will introduce Intercultur’elles, UniR’s new mentoring program developed in direct response to the research results. The program aims to validate the experiences of refugee women through the sharing of personal, professional and academic skills with local mentors.

Faced with a growing need to better understand how civil society actors can advocate for equitable access to higher education, UniR encourages the participation of a diversity of actors from near and far to engage in a dialogue that mobilizes the data beyond the scope of the study. The initiative aims to raise awareness around the issue of access to education and advocates for the development of long-term approaches to socio-economic integration. 

The event will be streamed online via Zoom and will take place on World Refugee Day, June 20th, 2020. More information about the initiative will be announced in the coming weeks. If you would like to know more about the study or to stay updated on the event, feel free to contact Andee Brown Gershenberg, head of research, at andee.gersh@uni-r.org or visit our website at www.uni-r.org


1.Tertiary Education: Out of Reach - Stepping Up: Refugee Education in Crisis. UNHCR.