Cash & Livelihoods

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Many urban and camp-based refugees find themselves in desperate and dangerous situations. With a typical refugee situation now lasting an average of 26 years, it is crucial that refugees in both urban areas and camps be able to meet their basic needs and earn a living to sustain themselves and their families. Tailored cash assistance and productive livelihoods (the term livelihood refers to the capabilities, assets and strategies that people use to make a living) are vital for refugees' social, emotional and economic well-being.

Our Work

The Women's Refugee Commission researches and develops guidance on appropriate cash-based interventions and livelihoods for displaced women and youth that recognize their skills, experiences and capacities. Our recommendations are oriented around local markets, are comprehensive in approach and are both safe and sustainable.

Cash assistance is widely-recognized to promote choice and dignity, and where markets allow, is a tool to meet a variety of needs and strengthen local economies. Cash itself is not inherently risky, but simply designing an intervention without knowing how women could be at risk in a given context, can lead to unintended consequences. To maximize the benefits of cash assistance, programming must be tailored to meet specific needs and monitored to ensure safety and inclusion. Cash assistance should be paired with complementary activities and services and linked from the very start to longer-term livelihood solutions.

Livelihoods are at the heart of strengthening refugees’ self-reliance and resilience. Humanitarian workers and program designers should devise strategies that are market-oriented and build on refugees' existing skills. At the same time, these initiatives have to take into consideration that earning income can increase women's risk of harm and violence. Our livelihoods work focuses on urban refugees, women's empowerment and youth and child protection, developing strategies for creating safe and effective livelihoods for different vulnerable groups.

We go into local markets to understand the challenges and opportunities of doing business as a refugee. We use this research to develop guidance that will help others design innovative, market-based livelihood programs, which ensure that refugees gain skills that will allow them to make a decent living. We advocate for those designing economic programs to involve women, children and adolescents at all stages, from the initial start-up phase, through carrying out the project, to evaluating it after it's over. We then test these models in diverse contexts, monitor the results and share what we've learned through reports, trainings, practical tools and advocacy.

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