Written by Anila Noor. Anila is a refugee-activist, TEDx Speaker, Gender & Policy advisor and Researcher. She’s the founder of the Global Independent Refugee Women Leaders (GIRWL). These are her words.

Making Refugees Visible

Anila Noor

Image: Aad van Viet

I am many things, a woman, a mother, an activist and a refugee. One thing I refuse to be is invisible!

Imagine, walking around with all this passion, experience and knowledge but getting continuous rejection. Beng told you are not good enough only because you look different and watching others get opportunities who have half your experience. That is why we need to speak out.

Being a refugee is just a status

Whenever I think about the challenges I have faced to become the woman I am today, I think about the power I have gained. My experiences motivate me to be active and speak about refugee rights in different spaces. I have used my platform to speak at the Global Refugee Forum, European Parliament and universities – to discuss immigration and refugee issues in spaces where decisions about our future are made.

On Refugee Week, I want to be visible. Not as another statistic, another burden on the community hosting me, but as another person looking for a new start.

In my work, I seek to raise the voices of refugees and migrants, especially women, to participate in policy discussions on immigration and refugee rights in the countries they live in. This gives them the space for their voices to be heard by governments and organisations.

Refugees living under the threat of the coronavirus

The coronavirus has resulted in increased discrimination against refugees, an increase in gender-based violence, and many other oppressions – including the lack of opportunities for living better lives. We know how hard it has been for governments, charities and community organisations to respond to the pandemic in countries like the UK, Italy and the United States.

It is worrying to see the coronavirus cases appearing in extremely overcrowded refugee camps where social distancing is impossible, healthcare is virtually non-existent and there is limited access to soap and water for people to wash their hands. Imagine trying to slow the spread of the virus and treat sick people in those circumstances.

Despite this, the pandemic has shown the vital role of refugees in society and the work force. Refugees have been acknowledged as key workers in hospitals, care homes and shops.

Coronavirus meant we had no time to wait for the world to be equal and we couldn’t delay finding opportunities to contribute positively.

Also, the response to the coronavirus offered by refugees for refugees, shows how refugees are typically the first to respond to crises that affect their communities. As the global refugee network seeks to rebuild during and after the coronavirus pandemic, it will be important to recognise how strong, meaningful and effective refugee participation can be to help make sure we build back better.

Together, we are raising our voices and demanding equality and rights now, in this new place we call home. It is not going to happened in a year or decade – it will take a continuous effort and combined struggle joining the national movements to achieve our goals.

In these circumstances and with the huge challenge we are facing today, we need to be kind, aspirational, involve everyone and build dreams. The next generation look to us for a fairer future.



Anila was forced to flee to the Netherlands, where she is now based, due to instability in her home country, Pakistan. As well as founding GIRWL she’s a core member of the Global Refugee Led Network and is launching New Women Connectors, making mainstream the unheard voices of migrant and refugee women living across Europe. You can also read what she’s written about women refugees having a seat at the table, including refugees and migrants in decision-making their futures.and refugee leadership during the coronavirus.

Get creative and make a room in a shoebox to join the Giant Dolls’ House project and reflect on what home means to you.

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