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.


We have awarded prizes to 72 winning gardens in our 2021 Lemon Tree Trust (LTT) annual garden competitions. LTT competitions took place in a record nine camps in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), despite ongoing Covid-19 restrictions. Winners have received cash prizes and gifts of seeds and plants, and all participants have received certificates.  … Continued

Land restoration in refugee camps and wider communities has enormous potential to enhance the living conditions of forcibly displaced people and the ecosystems of war-torn regions. To coincide with the official launch of the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration and World Environment Day on 5 June 2021, we were delighted to take part in a ‘Refugees and Restoration’ roundtable … Continued

Ahmed Ibrahim Ismail lives in the Azar neighbourhood of Domiz 2 camp. “I have a humble garden in my house, and I started working on it with my children two years ago. We have spent many good times in it, especially during the curfew for the coronavirus.⁣  ⁣“My garden contains 20 different types of roses and … Continued