Finalist for the region South-West (Wildcard team)

The Shajara System 

The Problem

During the past five years, some 700,000 female refugees have arrived in Germany – mainly from Africa and the Middle East. The German authorities already put in place multiple support programs that are supposed to foster the integration of female refugees. However, burdened with traumatic experiences, incapacitated by gender, education and culture-specific barriers and suffering from discrimination very few women actually sign up for these programs. While a vast majority of these female refugees is highly motivated to work, they face an uphill societal battle and their access to the German labour market is impaired. Their employment rate remains disappointingly low.

The Solution – Shajara (“tree“ in Arabic)

Roots (1)
The Rafiq develops a personal relationship with the female refugees and accompanies them on their integration journey.

Trunk (2)
The Rafiq encourages the female refugees to participate in training programs laying the ground for further integration steps.

Branches (3)
The qualifications acquired during the support programs allow the female refugees to successfully complete internships and vocational training.

Fruit (4)
The Rafiq’s mentoring leads both to labour market integration as well as integration into the broader society.

A Rafiq (“companion“ in Arabic)

  • is a woman
  • works on an honorary basis (with certain social security protection)
  • combines visits to her clientele on their premises with appointments in her office in the local city hall
  • keeps a close network with relevant authorities
  • gets in-depth information on “all she needs to know” from the dedicated website, e.g. Rafiq best practices, key contacts

Path Forward

Phase 1: pilot in 67133 Maxdorf in cooperation with a local NGO “NetzwerkHilfe” ( in the next 12 months

Phase 2: step-by-step rollout of Shajara System across Germany -> growing national network as committed Shajara alumni become new Rafiqs

Their YES! topic

Access to the German labour market: How can we strengthen the integration of refugees?

by Paul Berbée und Katia Gallegos Torres, ZEW – Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research

In recent years, over one million people have come to Germany to seek asylum. It currently looks as if most of them will not return to their countries of origin in the foreseeable future. From an economic point of view, there is much to be said for people who will be living in Germany for a more extended period.  They should be integrated into the labour market as quickly and as well as possible: Only if fugitives have jobs do they pay contributions to social security funds. Quite apart from this, a job provides greater personal satisfaction, quick language acquisition and contacts with locals.

Current figures show that although more and more refugees are finding work in Germany, a large number of them still have great difficulty in gaining a permanent foothold in the labour market. At the same time, the German labour market has developed well in recent years, and companies are more concerned about how they can find enough workers in the future. Against this background, it is crucial to understand better which access routes to the labour market for refugees have the best chances of success and what are the biggest obstacles to integration. Based on the experience of recent years, innovative approaches are needed to ensure that the labour market integration of refugees can be successfully managed in the future.

In general:

– Which different actors play a role in the integration of refugees in your city/region? How can they get involved, and what difficulties do they face? What could be improved locally, and how could this be extended to other areas?

More concretely:

– How can companies quickly and easily find out what skills refugees bring with them if no meaningful certificates are available?

– How can refugees (and companies) more easily obtain information about the legal framework and the situation on the labour market?

– How can the language acquisition of fugitives and the acquisition of German school-leaving certificates be promoted?

– How can vocational schools and training companies adapt to refugees who have practical skills but little experience in the German education system?