Changing the narrative – Stories of Solidarity
Lara and Sana
In 2018, JIF is launching a new campaign to counter the narrative of the crisis which tends to systematically oppose refugees to host communities. This dehumanizing discourse overshadows the countless acts of solidarity that individuals have initiated towards one another throughout Jordan. As part of this new campaign, JIF INGOs have chosen to highlight these individual stories of trust, friendship and solidarity that they witness so often working along host communities, refugees and minorities in Jordan. Contribute, send your story to JIF.
Lara is from Damascus. She arrived with her family in Jordan in 2012, thinking she would quickly go back home. But as war continued to rage and her savings started to dry up, she decided to start her own business in 2014, in Amman. Initially, there were only 5 Syrian women, but now Lara buys from 40 other Syrian women to produce clothing, soap, candles, accessories, and embroidery. “I set up this business to break free from the cycle of aid. I wanted to produce something sustainable for me and other women here.”
Setting up a business was not easy. In accordance to the law, she partnered with a Jordanian man that her family had met in Amman. One morning, she found the doors of her workshop closed, and the equipment gone: the partner had vanished, taking with him months of work and investment. “I lost a part of me at that moment. I really got depressed,” she recalls, “But the women I was working with started to call me ‘we will work for you for free’. Suddenly they were the ones helping me”. Her landlord offered her to stay in the workshop until she could get back on her feet, so she found the strength to start all over again.
With her new sponsor, a Jordanian relative, and the committed work of her employees, her business picked up again. Lara is mainly responsible for developing the capacity of the women, while her partner is responsible for the production. Since 2015, Lara has trained 200 women, including Jordanian, Syrian refugees and Palestinians, and four of them started their own small business. For many of the women Lara trained, this is their first job –as many families would not let women work before. But the income and confidence they gained helped them convince their family. “Most of the women within this institution are vulnerable. Their husbands either cannot find work in Amman, or are not here with them” Lara explains.
In the small workshop, as hands get busy with crafting, women open up, share their experience and support each other. “We have all been brought together by war: we are more than colleagues. It’s a community. Some women work at home as well, so we organize small gathering every month to see each other” Lara continues.
To boost the sales, she created a Facebook page, “Syrian Jasmine”, which caught the eyes of Sana, a Jordanian woman with a gift for clothing design. “I reached out to her and I was so impressed by how kind and inspired she is. We realized we were neighbors, and had a lot in common, so our collaboration started”. Sana does the embroidery and dying at home and comes to the workshop regularly for her colleagues to work on sewing. “But sometimes, I just come over to be with them.” Sana adds.
Lara and Sana also developed a very fruitful working relationship. Lara always consults Sana to see what new trainings and techniques she can bring to the employees. On her side, when Sana comes across projects requiring skilled seamstresses, she never hesitates to recommend Syrian Jasmine “she treats Jasmine as if it’s her own” adds Lara “working with her is a privilege”.
For Sana, working along Syrian women and Lara makes perfect sense. “Syrians have the skills, the determination and the willpower to achieve their goals, but they don’t receive enough support.” Sana goes on “If I ever have the money to establish a business, I will open a sewing factory and employ Syrian women. If we can use their skills to improve our economy, then we will not need to import so many products from other countries.”
Lara concludes “We as Syrians have many talents. We have ideas and innovations. We can use them to support ourselves and support the country we are re in. We are not a burden but useful.”
This story is based on an article published by Oxfam Jordan. Read the original.,Pictures © Alixandra Buck/Oxfam
Oxfam has been in Jordan since the early 1990s, working primarily through Jordanian civil society and focusing largely on women’s access to justice and transformative leadership. We also responded to the Iraqi refugee influx into Jordan. In early 2013, Oxfam significantly scaled up operations to respond to the Syrian refugee crisis and provide essential humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees as well as vulnerable Jordanian households.