Employment for Refugee Women

Employment in the United States is very important to your family’s future and well-being, as well as to your own development and financial stability as a woman. All adults, women and men, who are between the ages of 18 and 64 and are able to work, should make finding a job a priority. Learn more below.

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The Benefits of Working

In the United States women make up half the work force, do the same jobs as men at all levels, and often supervise male workers. Getting and keeping a job holds many benefits for both you and your family.

Supporting the household – When both spouses work, the household income increases, making it easier to afford such expenses as monthly bills and rent, as well as food and clothing. A double income also enables you to save money and increase your family’s financial security.

Receiving employment-based benefits – Some jobs include certain benefits such as health insurance where the employer offers insurance plans for the employee and often pays part of the monthly cost. The rest of the cost of insurance is taken out of the worker’s paycheck. Most Americans rely on employment-based health insurance programs since the cost of health care is high and health insurance helps to reduce those costs. Receiving health insurance through your work place is a significant benefit.

Improving your English – Working outside the home will allow you to practice and improve your English as you interact with coworkers and clients in a professional setting. Learning English will allow you to become involved in your community and increase your ability to manage your affairs whether you are going to the grocery store, the doctor’s office, or the bank.

Interacting with others – A work place also affords you the opportunity to interact with a diverse group of people and learn about American culture and values, which will enable you to better adjust to your new environment.  

Acquiring professional skills – Your first job will provide you with the professional skills and knowledge that will prepare you for your next job. The more skills you acquire, the greater your chances are of receiving a promotion or finding a better paying job.

Using public transportation or learning to drive – Getting to and from work might require you to use public transportation or learn to drive. Learning how to use public transportation or drive will greatly contribute to your independence and self-sufficiency, help familiarize you with your neighborhood and your city, and provide you with a sense of belonging to your new home.

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Taghreed Ibrahim is a pastry chef in Washington from Iraq who was resettled in America with her husband and two children in September 2013. Taghreed’s children are 9 and 14. She secured her first job as a part-time cashier at Safeway within 4-5 months after arriving. The IRC helped her enroll in a part-time culinary training program in partnership with a local nonprofit, Project Feast. After completing the training, she enrolled in a culinary program at South Seattle College and graduated last year. She now works at Bakery Nouveau, a cute little local shop in Burien. The family left Iraq for Dubai, but soon after applied for resettlement in the U.S. since they were on a temporary visa and would be sent to Iraq where Taghreed's husband faced death threats. Taghreed was depressed and was unable to sleep so she stayed up all night baking to help cope.

Working Mothers and Single Mothers

Many women who raise young children often find it difficult to juggle the demands of work and home, especially if they are single mothers. However, there are solutions to help mothers who work outside of the home.

One solution is placing the children in daycare. Daycare services are not free. Early Head Start is a federally-funded program that serves low income children from birth to the age of 3. Another program, Head Start caters to families with children ages 3 to 4. Enrolling young children in one of these programs will allow a single mother, or both parents, to work outside of the home. Another solution is to utilize friends, neighbors, or adult family members such as grandparents as child care providers to assist working parents. For couples, a third solution is for one of the parents to find a part-time job with evening and weekend hours, which would allow one parent to care for the children while the other parent is at work.

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Changing Family Dynamics

Americans value independence in both men and women. In many families, both the husband and the wife work and in some families, the wife earns more than the husband. In other families, the wife has found a job and the husband has not. In this case, the husband will be expected to care for the children when they are not in school.

In situations like these, some men may feel that they have lost their leadership role in the family. Some women may feel stress as they take on new responsibilities and become the primary wage-earner. Showing support for one another, along with open and honest communication, can increase understanding and ease stress between spouses.

Atlanta, Georgia/Kenya Refugee/Naima Abdullahi, 36, watches her son Teso, 14, play guitar at their home in Atlanta, Georgia. Naima's uncle was murdered in Ethiopia for his involvement in the Oromo movement, her parents fled to Kenya as political refugees. Growing up in Kenya, Naima and her three siblings could not tell anyone they were refugees. It became a family secret, and they always had a fear of being caught. When Naima was 10 years old her family was resettled in San Jose, California, with the help of the IRC.Since Naima was initially the only one who spoke English, she became the family spokesperson and took on a lot of responsibilities at a young age. Eventually her family moved to Seattle and they all became U.S. citizens in 1996. Today, Naima has worked as a caseworker at the IRC in Atlanta for five years. ÒI enjoy working with my clients,
Taghreed and her two sons Ali (grey shirt) and Yousif (dark blue shirt) sit in their living room in Seattle.

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The content on this website is developed by the Cultural Orientation Resource Exchange (CORE), is in the public domain, and may be reproduced. The contents of this website were developed under an agreement financed by the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, United States Department of State, but do not necessarily represent the policy of that agency and should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.