First day of IGCF 2020 amplifies refugee plight and challenges - GulfToday

First day of IGCF 2020 amplifies refugee plight and challenges


Five refugee speakers hailing from different conflict zones seen on stage during a panel discussion at IGCF.

Sahar Ejaz

Among the teeming erudite voices relishing in open communication and transparent networking, a quiet corner of the IGCF 2020 venue was dedicated to discussing stories of the bravehearts – the other 1 per cent – hosted by The Big Heart Foundation in partnership with the UNHCR.

Five refugee speakers hailing from different conflict zones took to the panel dais with their ‘Inspiring Stories,’ shouldering the onerous responsibility of conveying the plight of their own displaced communities.

What was central to the discussion was clear – access to education for all. Distraught, bereft and fatigued from day-to-day struggles, the panellists found freedom and a new beginning in education that they hope to make available to all back home.

“It all starts with education,” pressed Hina Shikhani, an Afghan refugee and advocate currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in Peshawar, Pakistan. “That’s the most powerful tool we can give to refugees. It helps them thrive not just survive.”

Shikhani owes her “turning point” to the DAFI scholarship, UNHCR’s higher education scholarship programme that opened unthinkable doors for her tireless passion to flourish. Putting her growing platform and network to use, Shikhani devotes most of her time to ensuring refugee girls like herself have access to student grants and educational opportunities.

For Jessy Volonte, an ICT instructor from the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, “it's all about giving back to the community.”

Born and raised in Tehran, artist Fatimah Hossaini took it upon herself to return to her motherland to pay back what she owed as an Afghan national and a returnee, highlighting the unseen stories of women through art and illuminating lectures at Kabul University.

“[Being a refugee] is a badge of strength, a badge of victory,” Hossaini told the panel moderator at the IGCF Refugee session, which ran for an hour and half on Wednesday afternoon.

While education takes the front seat for all, Mohamad Hassan Mohamud drew a clear distinction between what the power of pen meant to a refugee child out of home in debilitating circumstances as compared to a sheltered one.

“Education is the difference between life and death for refugees in the camp,” said Mohamud, the first refugee ever to co-chair the World Economic Forum in 2019.

The 9th edition of the International Government Communication Forum played an important role in broadcasting overlooked endeavours of displaced persons.

Sahar is an intern at Gulf Today. She covers Culture, Arts and social issues.

Related articles