“I want to prove that a girl can be anything.”

Celebrating girls everywhere on International Day of the Girl. 


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Girls everywhere continue to face unimaginable challenges; to their education, their physical safety, health and their emotional wellbeing.  

None more so than the millions of young refugee and displaced girls across the globe.  

In recent years, conflict, COVID-19 and climate change have worsened existing burdens on refugee girls and worn away important progress made over the last decade. 

But despite adversity, refugee girls continue to demonstrate their resourcefulness, creativity, tenacity and resilience. 

On International Day of the Girl we celebrate people like Saleema and the many refugee women and girls like her around the world, who are standing up for their rights and taking action to protect their futures.  

Saleema Rehman was once among a handful of refugee girls attending school in Pakistan. 

After her family was forced to flee their home in Afghanistan, Saleema’s father swore that his daughter would go to school to get an education. Despite the community’s disapproval, Saleema loved learning and set her sights on becoming a doctor.  

Afghan refugee Saleema Rehman has beaten the odds to become the first female doctor in her community. © UNHCR/Amsal Naeem

Now, 20 years later, she stands before a class of 30 refugee girls at her old school, dressed in a white doctor’s coat asking who wants to follow in her footsteps.  

She recently fulfilled a dream of her own when she opened a private clinic serving refugee and local women who struggle to access affordable healthcare.  

Like Saleema, young refugee girls around the world have shown that given the opportunities and the skills, they can be the changemakers, helping to rebuild their lives, support their communities and inspire the next generation. 

Refugee girls deserve to live freely, and safely, with every opportunity in life available to them.  

For more than 40 years, UNHCR has been working to promote gender equality for refugees and displaced girls like Saleema. This work has had a direct impact on the health and wellbeing of them, their families, communities – and the world.  


To find out more about how UNHCR promotes gender equality for refugees and displaced girls like Saleema, please visit our website here.

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