Refugee Crisis Opens Doors for Pakistan's Secluded Women

Women uprooted by fighting gain new access to health care, education
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 4, 2009 1:30 PM CDT
Displaced Pakistani women wait to receive a medical checkup at a medial center in Yar Hussain refugee camp in Swabi, Pakistan.   (AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)
camera-icon View 2 more images

(Newser) – Women's leaders in Pakistan have found an unexpected silver lining in the country's refugee crisis, the Globe & Mail reports. A million women have been forced from their homes by the fighting, upending the Pashtun code of honor that forces women to spend almost all their time secluded in family compounds. Many women are deeply disturbed by the displacement, aid workers say, but they are also deeply curious about the outside world.

Aid agencies see the crisis as a rare opportunity to provide the women with health care and education. Some women in refugee camps have joined classes to learn skills that may provide an independent income when they return to their homes. "Women's role is definitely going to change after this displacement," says the leader of one women's group. "When you expose women and they survive, they become confident.”