Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Education (MSEd)


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Sonya R. Draper


Arab refugee women experience incomprehensible acts of violence and war that drive them out of their homelands. According to Greenwood (2013), among the 4.8 million Arab refugees, women and children comprise approximately three-fourths of those displaced and compound the conditions of gender-based violence, poverty, lack of economic opportunities, and a dire lack of the most basic educational programs. Arab refugee women are more likely to face further violence and marginalization because of economic pressures (UNICEF, 2001).

The purpose of this study was to document and analyze the factors, barriers, and learning needs of Arab refugee women with low-level language and literacy skills and intended to show how their prior experiences and current life contexts affected their educational participation and future learning experiences. Additionally, the study explored the complexities of living in the host country, where Arab refugee women often endure a perpetuation of the same cultural restrictions as in their home country and assessed the overall programmatic shortfalls and inadequacies of educational provision for Arab refugee women in the Piedmont Area of North Carolina where they now live. The Arab refugee women participants interviewed for this study had been living in the Piedmont Area of North Carolina for at least 3 years. A total of 5 participants were interviewed. They were all between 32 and 50 years old and mostly participated in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and General Educational Development (GED) programs.

This study used one-on-one interviews as a data collection method, each interviewee was asked 6 semi-structured questions in order to gain a better understanding of the social and economic barriers affecting their participation in educational programs, literacy development, and English language proficiency, and was audio recorded for validity. Purposeful sampling and 2 coding were implemented as various methods of qualitative research. This study was grounded in Abraham Maslow’s (1943) theory of Self-actualization derived from humanistic psychological theory which states that self-actualizing individuals are able to resolve life’s contradictions which ultimately have the potential to generate the manifestation of free will. It is clear that the participants in this study were hindered from exercising free will and were subjected to a series of outside influences such as their spousal controls, marital responsibilities, child rearing, financial dependence, cultural constraints, and religious obligation.

The findings of this study disclose that Arab refugee women need assistance to overcome the academic, sociocultural, and socioeconomic factors to be productive and happy in their new home country. Emanating from this study were the following emerging themes: Theme 1, Language barriers; Theme 2, Early marriage and family responsibilities; and Theme 3, Low literacy and education level in their home country. Low participation rate in educational programs emerged as a subtheme of the study’s Theme 2.