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Wisdom is like a baobab tree: no individual can embrace it Working and Learning together towards empowerment of female refugees


  • Saskia J.M. Harkema
  • Catharina J. Beijer


This article describes the case of an EU funded Life Long Learning Partnership between 5 organizations in The Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and the UK. The organizations have a common goal to support refugees, and most of the participants in this program are henceforth refugees seeking employment. We describe the relation between EU policy, and the role of national policies and institutions in these countries. The approach for change starts with individual narratives and the patterns we can discern in these narratives. This methodology developed by Dr. Ghorashi (2005, 2006, and 2010) is the framework wherein we work together and are carrying out research. According to Ghorashi refugees have to go through 3 stages in order to regain control over their lives and in so doing profit from the possibilities that for instance entrepreneurship can offer. The first stage is that of survival, the second that of recognition and the third phase that of feeling at home in the new host country. Parallel to these stages she distinguishes 3 phases in the process of empowerment: reliving the pain through storytelling and developing another perspective, contextualizing the experiences through the identification of patterns and lastly abstraction and acting. Refugees form a large and growing group in Europe, hence an understanding how they can be activated is of great importance. This forms the justification for this article which seeks to open up new ways of approaching this large group of people with hidden talents and a huge economic potential. This article especially focuses on the learning and activation of fifty female refugees of at least 40 different countries, in order to become participants in the labor market and society in general.

Suggested Citation

  • Saskia J.M. Harkema & Catharina J. Beijer, 2012. "Wisdom is like a baobab tree: no individual can embrace it Working and Learning together towards empowerment of female refugees," Working Papers 2012/18, Maastricht School of Management.
  • Handle: RePEc:msm:wpaper:2012/18

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