Helping female refugees integrate into Dutch society

Current Situation

Women constitute around 30% of the massive influx of refugees into the Netherlands since 2013 (NL Country Report 2019). All studies, including our own, indicate that most women who are granted refugee status have little educational background, limited work experience and difficulty in using social services. Most development organizations agree that, unless this situation is addressed, the employability of female refugees in particular will be jeopardized. According to the Mind the Gap report from KIS (a Dutch integration platform), only 11% of all women refugees who have been looking for work over the last 30 months were successful. The remaining 89% have little hope of employment. Gender stereotyping remains a stumbling block – according to KIS, female refugees are less likely to find jobs than their male counterparts.

Experience shows that when refugees fail to integrate into their new social environment and remain unemployed for an extended period of time, they may become victims or perpetrators of criminality, drug use or trafficking and exploitation of many kinds. This tendency is no less true for women than it is for men. In order to address these problems United Way the Netherlands (UW-NL) is initiating the “Empowering Woman Refugees” project.

Objectives & strategies

With “Empowering Woman Refugees” we aim to offer female refugees a way to an independent future by building their own professional network.The objective of this project is to empower these women and take concrete steps towards their integration into the Dutch labor market and into society as a whole.UW-NL will deliver this objective by equipping these women with the skills they need to find employment and by providing access to the appropriate services.

Our strategy is holistic and complementary. It addresses our priorities with concrete initiatives such as language and skills training, job placement, peer mentoring and social networking.

Our straightforward program is comprised of three steps:

  • We first work on the empowerment of women through the development of a local network and a safe place in form of group training.
  • Then we assign them a personal mentor from the field.
  • Finally they are introduced to local communities in an attempt to empower them.

Since UW-NL believes in a participatory and synergetic approach, it strives to coordinate stakeholders and volunteers in the project management process. Local organizations and the City of Amsterdam will be involved in the identification of suitable beneficiaries, project execution and evaluation. The various activities will be implemented by the following organizations: Whereas, Networkpro, Newbees, Boostransvaal, Vrouwen aan de Amstel and Musea Amsterdam. All of these have more than a decade of  experience in this sector. Volunteers will also play an important part throughout the project.

Target Group

This is a pilot program, starting with 15 selected female refugees who have been registered as unemployed for at least two years. The selected group will consist of women of different ages, cultural backgrounds and experiences. They will be able to collaborate and help each other to successfully complete the program.


By the end of the project year, the beneficiaries will:

  • Be familiar with Dutch culture, values and traditions.
  • Be able to engage in social activities and use social services efficiently.
  • Be inspired to participate in ‘giving back’ programs, thus becoming a valuable social asset.
  • Be able to apply for a variety of jobs due to improved skills and competencies