Shifting Gender Roles In Syrian Refugee Women’s Pursuit of Livelihoods in Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon

March 22, 2021

Released at the fifth Brussels Conference on “Supporting the future of Syria and the region,” Triangle’s report unpacks the relationship between livelihoods and protection risks among Syrian refugee women. The current situation in Syria has forced millions of refugee women to enter the labour market, often placing a double burden on them. In doing so, they are exposed to sexual and gender-based violence both in the public sphere and at home.

Refugee hosting communities experience significant pressures as the situation persists to be challenging despite the efforts of the host governments and communities. The predominant challenge for the refugee communities is poverty as over 60% of Syrian refugees are living below the poverty line. Moreover, UN Women and UNHCR assessments conducted with Syrian refugees in displacement found high levels of female-headed households.

Gender discrimination and inequality, exacerbated by factors such as socio-economic challenges, prolonged family separation, breakdown of community structures, loss of financial and social assets, male unemployment, overcrowded housing lacking privacy, resulted in the placement of refugee women and girls at heightened risks of sexual and gender-based violence, sexual exploitation, and abuse, as highlighted by recent UN Women studies.

Triangle’s report is the first to provide statistically significant data on this interplay between Syrian refugee women seeking out livelihoods in Lebanon, and a key resource for agencies working on livelihoods, gender and protection in Iraq and Jordan. The report was commissioned by UN Women, UNHCR and the ILO.

The report provided evidence-based research that can inform current and future livelihoods programming and promote pathways to increase the safe, dignified and sustainable participation and empowerment of displaced women in the labour force. The research was conducted between September 2019 and February 2020 throughout Lebanon by Triangle’s team based in Beirut, with supplemental qualitative information gathered in Jordan and Iraq.

The relationship between women’s economic empowerment, workplace harassment and violence, and domestic violence was explored globally, albeit to a limited degree as the empirical investigation in better understanding this subject in the context of displacement, and specifically for Syrian refugees and Iraqi IDPs is limited. In order to address this knowledge gap and provide an evidence-base for current and future programming, UN Women contracted Triangle to conduct an in-depth research study to investigate the relationship between access to livelihood opportunities and protection risks and outcomes that relate to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) across Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq.

The research generated primary qualitative and quantitative data, which was analysed to inform recommendations to support future livelihood programming which promotes pathways to increase the safe, dignified and sustainable participation of displaced women in the labour force, as well as women’s empowerment over the longer-term.


Risks, Opportunities, and Shifting Gender Roles in Syrian Refugee Women’s Pursuit of Livelihoods in Lebanon, With Additional Observations From Jordan and Iraq


October 2020 – March 2021

Lebanon, Iraq, and Jordan
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