International Women’s Day: Empowering women affected by war through the simple act of gardening

International Women’s Day, today, March 8, is a time to reflect on progress made and to celebrate the acts of courage and determination by ordinary women in their communities.

The United Nations has marked this year’s theme as “Think equal, build smart, innovate for change” as an opportunity to look at innovative ways in which we can support the empowerment of women and advance gender equality.

When it comes to women’s initiatives in refugee camps, we have found that supporting women so that they are empowered to lead their own projects and organisations from the ground up, has fantastic return on investment for local communities and economies.

Floral teacup with coffee in the Azadi Community Garden, Domiz 1 camp, Kurdistan

The Lemon Tree Trust Liberation Garden in Domiz camp in the the Kurdistan Region of Iraq is one of these initiatives. Led by Aveen Ibrahem, who lives in Domiz after fleeing Syria with her family, the garden provides a hub for more than 50 women who visit it daily to tend to vegetables and herbs. It is a safe space for women to meet and socialise, share tea and garden. It is also a chance for women, men and children displaced by war, who have experienced unimaginable trauma, to seek solace and a connection with their previous life.

Aveen says: “We have become a family in the garden, we discuss life together over tea almost every day.”

In addition, the garden:

  • Has become a part of the lives of every women working within it and serves great importance;
  • Provides psychological comfort, a sense of calm and hope for life after what people have experienced – having to leave their homes and gardens;
  • Does not carry a material importance as much as it makes the women feel at home. Children accompany their mothers to the garden to help with the work, and love playing in the garden beds.

Gardening addresses issues of isolation, mental health, and women’s empowerment in the communities in which we are active. We have found it to be a powerful and innovative way to make connections with people and work with them directly to bring beauty and joy to countless lives.

Community gathering and celebration with food in the Azadi Community Garden, Domiz 1 camp, Kurdistan

Group of female community gardeners and children in Azadi Community Garden, Domiz 1 camp, Kurdistan

The Lemon Tree Trust recognises the unique role women play in refugee camps, celebrating their willingness to try new things and come together as a community to build new opportunities.

You can support our work with a donation. Together we are transforming refugee camps, one garden at a time.


It was our pleasure to join O’s Refugee Aid Team and others on an aid convoy on World Refugee Day in northern France on 20 June. Lemon Tree Trust donated sleeping bags, basketball hoops and balls, phone chargers and seed packets to specialist teams working directly with displaced people living in temporary camps in Calais and Dunkirk. The trip also … Continued

The team behind FLORXLzine – Carmen Sheridan, Hannah Jones and Emma Brown – have raised £1000 for the Lemon Tree Trust through sales of the print publication. The first issue of the zine was launched in November 2021 to celebrate plants, gardens and horticulture and the team have gone on to publish two more. They … Continued

Thank you to Rachael Jefferies for inviting us on to the Centre for Minorities Research Podcast to talk about our work. The Centre for Minorities Research is based at the University of St Andrews, St Andrews in Scotland, UK. And the centre’s student-led podcast provides a space for students to creatively explore their research interests. … Continued