A MULTI-DISCIPLINARY PROCESS
ZA'ATARI, MAFRAQ, JORDAN
2017 - 2019
MORE THAN SHELTERS
Creation of income opportunities for single women in the Za'atari refugee camp.
Establishment of upcycling workshops, in which handicrafts and objects were made from recyclable materials in the refugee camp
Training and education of 450 women. Sustainable development of the value chain. Financial independence of the seamstresses. Scalability via a manual.
Za’atari is a refugee camp in Jordan, located close to the Syrian border. First opened on 28th July 2012 to host those fleeing the Syrian civil war, the camp has now gradually evolved into a permanent settlement due to the protracted nature of the conflict.
Humanitarian assistance is typically short-term in nature and subject to funding shortfalls. Therefore, the possibility for the refugees to earn a sustainable living is in itself limited to the viability of the activities offered to them by the humanitarian actors. This traditional top-down approach - based on a logic of assistance – often fails to identify and foster the existing economic opportunities present in refugee camps. The interesting paradox is that these economic opportunities, such as the sense of entrepreneurship amongst the refugee population, are rather explicit. A short walk along the “Shams-Elysées” - the main market in Za’atari Camp – cannot better reflect the refugees’ capacity to create an innovative economy.
Refugees living in Za’atari obtain basic economic support from the UN to cover their food expenses while being provided with water, healthcare, schooling, and electricity. However, as the sustained crisis in Syria remains unresolved, international financing for the crisis decreases over time, and this support now fails to cover the overall needs of families. As a result, refugees come up with economic solutions to fill the gaps as aid diminishes. According to the UNHCR factsheet of May 2017, around 3,000 informal businesses operate in Za’atari Camp. Several community centres within the camp convene work and skills training. However, numbers of these livelihood activities, such as manufacturing workshops, are limited to their social agenda and do not aim to produce on a commercial scale. Furthermore, the Cash-for-Work (CfW) activities are set up to be non conducive, as a result of multiples restrictions imposed on the number of hours worked and the salary received.
However, most recently, and following the recommendations from the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the Jordanian government launched Jordan Compact, an extensive program aiming, amongst other objectives, to turn the Syrian refugee crisis into a development opportunity. The fostering environment for creating social enterprises within the camp setting seems to be rather encouraging.
In our view, there is a visible gap between the needs and capacities of refugees to develop sustainable economies and the response provided by the livelihood agencies. Another very crucial point is that even if informal or formalized economies are evolving over time in protracted crisis scenarios, most of the time women are
not included. Cultural traditions do not foresee the role of women entrepreneurs in many situations worldwide. Another hindering aspect is that in crisis situations, families are not intact anymore and women often run a household with several children to take care of by themselves. With our project, we not only wanted to foster entrepreneurship in a refugee camp, but rather find holistic solutions for single mothers in devastating situations.
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