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Last edited: December 24, 2013

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  • An important lesson learned in developing livelihoods programming in conflict-affected settings is that advocacy is an essential component in any efforts to improve women’s participation in income-generation activities.  Advocacy may focus broadly on rights issues, such as women’s rights to employment, property ownership, inheritance, protections in marriage, access to resources, and access to education and training (Ray & Heller, 2009).  Advocacy may also focus more specifically on better working conditions for women, such as childcare.  In refugee contexts, it may be important to ensure that host governments recognize the legal status of refugee women and give them the legal right to work, including outside of the camps and in urban areas (Chynoweth & Patrick, 2007; Ray & Heller, 2009).


Case Study:  UNHCR funds the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services (CEOSS) in Egypt, to run an economic development programme for refugees. This programme consists of vocational training and job placement components. From 2007 to 2008, the programme trained 300 refugees (43 percent female) and placed 94 participants in jobs upon graduation. Market assessments were conducted by specialized consultants to identify areas for which there was an identified labor demand. Those selected, including medical care/nursing, embroidery, Internet-based enterprise, computer maintenance and others, either did not require work permits or could be done from home. For refugee women, working from home decreases their risk of on-site gender-based violence and need for child care. CEOSS developed relationships with Egyptian employers in order to create a “job bank” for referring graduates of the programme. Before sending trainees to interview at selected companies, they provided interview training. Before entering a position, many underwent an apprenticeship period where they received further, more specialized, training.  Overall, the CEOSS programme is a strong example of an innovative refugee livelihood programme that is based on market needs, includes creative outreach to employers and has training and job placement components. But it was not without its challenges. Some of the obstacles this programme faced include the fact that many refugees prefered to work in industries that were relevant in their home country or are in demand in resettlement countries. Practitioners reported that some refugee participants were less interested in the dynamics of the Egyptian labor market. Practitioners also reported that refugees who did not speak Arabic were much harder to place.  Another obstacle was that some refugees reportedly feared that participation in the programme would negatively affect their ability to receive minimal cash assistance or other forms of aid.

For a list of training manuals, training kits, and films used by the CEOSS in economic development, see the website. All resources are available to community-based organizations and other practitioners free of charge by contacting CEOSS directly.


Source: Excerpted from Heller & Timoney, 2009, p. 6.


Additional Tools:

For a checklist for mainstreaming protection and prevention efforts into livelihoods Programming, see Women’s Refugee Commission: Integrating Protection/ GBV Mitigation into Livelihoods Programmes.

Women Savings and Credit Association: Manual for Community Volunteers to Facilitate Group Meetings about Domestic Violence. This manual was created by WOSCA, a domestic violence programme in Tanzania, and includes tools for facilitating groups on domestic violence, gender, culture, and prevention.   

Women’s Refugee Commission. 2009a. Building Livelihoods: A Field Manual for Practitioners in Humanitarian Settings. New York: Women’s Refugee Commission.  This document gives a comprehensive overview of livelihoods programming and provide assessment, design, and monitoring and evaluation tools.

The Women’s Refugee Commission has developed an e-learning tool  to help practitioners, policy makers and donors in the field and at headquarters gain a better understanding of how to mitigate the risk of GBV through safe and effective livelihood interventions. After the completion of the course, participants will understand the links between gender-based violence and livelihoods, learn approaches to reduce the risk of gender-based violence, and understand how to develop safe and effective livelihoods programs for displaced people. 

See additional information about WRC’s livelihoods programming and Women’s Refugee Commission. 2009b. Working Women at Risk: the Links Between Making a Living and Sexual Violence for Refugees in Ethiopia. New York: WRC.

For a preliminary exploration of best practices, see pages 16-21 of The Danish Institute for Human Rights and World Outgames. 2009. Copenhagen Catalogue of Good Practices.

See also: The Yogyakarta Principles: The Application of International Human Rights Law in relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. 2006. Available in 6 languages.

Chynoweth, S. & Patrick, M. 2007. Sexual Violence During Firewood Collection: Income-Generation as Protection in Displaced Settings. In Terry, G. & Hoare, J. (eds.) Gender-Based Violence. Oxfam GB: Oxford, UK: pp.43 – 55.

For an example of a “safe savings” component to microfinance programmes, see the Intervention with Microfinance for AIDS and Gender Equity (IMAGE) study.

For a presentation on the impact of combining discussions groups about gender and violence with a savings and loan programme, see: Annan, J., Watchter, K., & Iyengar, R. 2009. Impact Evaluation: Prevention of Sexual and Physical Violence against Women in Burundi. Presentation, SVRI Forum.


For recommendations and steps for assessing, designing, monitoring & evaluating economic programmes for children in crises, see:

Chaffin, J. and Rhoads, N. Forthcoming (Draft). “Children and Economic Strengthening Programmes: How to Maximize Benefits and Minimize Harm.” Child Protection in Crisis.

Child Protection in Crisis Livelihoods and Economic Strengthening Task Force, 2012. Children and Economic Strengthening Programs: How to Maximize Benefits and Minimize Harm. Child Protection in Crisis (CPC) Network. (draft).

Katz, B., Chaffin, J., Alon, I., & Ager, A. 2012. Livelihoods, Economic Strengthening, Child Protection and Well-Being in Western Uganda: Final Report. Child Protection in Crisis. This study in Western Uganda tried to determine the links between household income/assets and the protection and well-being of children.  We also explored if and how economic interventions for caregivers could improve the lives of the children in their care, without doing inadvertent harm.  Armed with answers to these questions, governments, NGOs and donors should be able to make better funding and programming decisions.

Child Protection in Crisis. 2012a. Child Safeguarding in Cash Transfer Programming. Provides personnel using Cash Transfer Programming with advice on the child protection issues to consider during preparation, planning, implementation and monitoring. 

Child Protection in Crisis. 2012b. What Cash Transfer Programming can do to Protect Children from Violence, Abuse, and Exploitation: Review and Recommendations. Examines the links between cash transfers and the positive and negative outcomes for children, in particular the role cash transfers have played in protecting children from harm, exploitation, abuse and violence.