The Holding On exhibition showcases the stories of internally displaced people by asking them to reflect on their most cherished possessions. The items that displaced people carry with them when they have to leave their homes often become physical representations of a world that has since disappeared. For many, they represent a promise of return. A key, a shirt or a photo can now serve both as a symbol of struggle and a beacon of hope.

Using virtual reality technology, attendees will be able to enter the “makeshift” homes and communities of internally displaced individuals to watch them share their story of displacement and the significance of the possession they continue to hold on to.

These stories of people displaced within the borders of their own countries, collected by IOM staff around the world, will serve to raise awareness of the plight of internally displaced persons and celebrate their courage, tenacity and resilience of spirit, while ensuring their voices are front and centre.

One example is the story of Hannatu Yusuf, a Nigerian woman who had to leave her home to escape the violence of Boko Haram. When she fled, she couldn’t take much with her and barely had any clothes to wear. Eventually she found a t-shirt that came to represent more in her life than just a simple item of clothing. “This t-shirt kept me safe,” said Hannatu. “It’s very valuable to me and I don’t want to lose it. When I pick it up, I remember the difficulties I faced, and tears fall from my eyes.”

Each year millions of men, women, and children are displaced within the borders of their own countries by conflict, violence, disasters, natural hazards and climate stress. Internally displaced persons are among the world’s most vulnerable people, facing poverty, lost educational opportunities, unemployment, marginalization and insecurity, to name but a few challenges. Generations of internally displaced persons are often the most neglected in many of the world’s crises.

In 1998, the UN launched the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, which continue to serve as the global standard for States and humanitarian actors for protecting and assisting internally displaced people. Over the last 20 years, the Guiding Principles remain the most important international framework for the protection of internally displaced persons.