When We Build Bonds with Migrants, We Become Part of Their Story

When We Build Bonds with Migrants, We Become Part of Their Story 

 Elham Elgaid, Protection Team Leader for IOM in Libya 


I’ve been a humanitarian field worker for the past four years of my life. I believe that we are blessed to be able to help vulnerable people every day and convey their messages and voices. Working in this field, I have become more conscious of the daily struggles some people face in order to survive.  

 This is what I am meant to be doing. I can never forget the smile of a child who lost their parents at sea and is now starting over again in a safer place. I can never forget the old woman who was praying for us because we helped her family or listened to her story. The smallest act of kindness means a lot to the people we are supporting here in Libya.  

Despite all the challenges we face in the field, the thing that keeps me motivated is being able to provide help to those who need it most and inspire hope amidst despair. Some people I met along the way have become very good friends of mine.   

The most challenging part of our work is when we cannot do more to alleviate someone’s suffering. There are times when the pain and suffering in front of us is too much for anyone to take. We build bonds with migrants and we become part of their journey, and that is a privilege as well as a responsibility.  

Being a woman who works in detention centres, at migrant disembarkation points and airports can be challenging in our context. Libyan history features women who had powerful presence and leading positions hundreds of years ago, but nowadays new cultural boundaries have been created for working women. I have always been determined to be present wherever help was needed, and to defend my right to be on the frontlines with my male colleagues. 

In my current position as Protection Team Leader, I am seen as a hard-working woman who believes in human dignity and gender equality. My colleagues are very respectful and supportive, and I am honoured to work alongside some of the most inspiring women and men in this field.   

 I wish we can all empower each other and that our society can accept that women can be humanitarian aid workers and leaders and that when we are united, we can achieve more.