BAG 4 LIFE
ZA'ATARI, MAFRAQ, JORDAN
2018 - 2019
UNHCR MADE 51
MORE THAN SHELTERS
A MULTI-DISCIPLINARY PROCESS
Creation of income opportunities for single women in the Za'atari refugee camp.
Establishing a value chain, in which old UNHCR tents are processed into bags in the warehouse, and then marketed internationally.
Training and education of 450 women. Sustainable development of the value chain. Financial independence of the seamstresses. Scalability via a manual.
In a few words, MTS's approach to humanitarian contexts essentially involves looking at the camp ecosystem - its constraints and opportunities - and figures out how human-centered innovation could transform this immiserated living space into a more sustainable environment. Recognizing the evident gap between refugees’ drive to create economic opportunities and the shortage of consistent and scaled responses naturally brought us to the idea of implementing income-generating activities in the form of a Social Business. Two additional factors allowed us to further define the aim and the focus of our social enterprise:
SINGLE MOTHERS - According to the UNHCR’s Camp Factsheet, 45% of Za’atari population is single mothers. They face considerable constraints in accessing economic activities. These constraints are often linked to sociocultural norms, child care, and family responsibilities. However, most women – around six in ten (UN Women, 2017) – report that they want to work.
WASTE MANAGEMENT - With the increase in Za'atari's camp population caused by the refugee influx, pressure on the landfills became unmanageable between December 2014 to February 2016, where MTS initiated a recycling pilot project. The idea was to make waste-use a source of income for the people in the refugee camp. A project plan was developed, which led to a camp-wide waste-picking system and the construction of a recycling center. This project was further executed by Oxfam and the German Government. In the meantime, MTS started to run upcycling workshops for single mothers to produce handicraft objects out of fabrics and metals found in the waste. The resulting products were sold in local markets in the region. A new form of livelihood support was consequently initiated.
The UNHCR tents have an average lifespan of one year, and are therefore regularly replaced. In 2017, while researching waste material and its possible upcycling value, our team discovered a whole caravan filled with old UNHCR tents. This created a huge amount of tent fabric, with no further planned use.
Throughout multiple design thinking sessions, we came up with an integrated approach: upcycling UNHCR tents and turning them into bags, and thereby hiring and providing vocational training to the camp's destitute single mothers. With the aim of turning this upcycling project into a self-sustaining Social Business, we decided to target the following goals.
Generate incomes for single mothers, independent from humanitarian aid
Develop the full value chain of the Bag for Life from idea to market, from Za’atari to international markets
Promote a self-sustaining model of Social Business within refugee camps
Teach valuable professional skills and tailoring to increase the women's future employability
Build empathy on a global scale by sharing the tailors’ stories.
Empower consumers who decide to contribute to a social cause through the act of purchasing the bag.
Provide women with an opportunity to spend time together, enabling them to share experiences.
Raise women refugees’ social status by fostering their economic independence and entrepreneurial thinking.
Raise awareness of environmental issues, notably the excessive use of plastic bags, and discuss sustainable alternatives such as recycling and upcycling techniques.
Mitigate the waste management problems in Za’atari refugee camp
The project was built up over two years and during this time, was able to make 450 women more independent and successful. In 2019, the project was handed over to Oxfam and the local Souq Fann initiative, who continue its operation. MTS developed a handbook, and made it available online to replicate the project in other regions of the world.
You can find the shop here: Link
You can download the manual here: Link
THE WHOLE STORY