It is a warm Thursday morning in the small city of Al-Husun in Jordan. Full of anticipation, twenty women – ten Syrians and ten Jordanians – are on their way to attend a one-week course. The women are participating in a one-week training session on building or enhancing their skills in dairy production, as a means of improving their income. It does not matter whether they are Muslim or Christian, it does not matter if they wear hijab or not, nor if they are Jordanians or Syrians. These women have one common objective: to enhance their skills in dairy production as a means of improving their income. The only thing that matters is their thirst to learn. These women are excited, energetic, and full of hope.
New prospects for Syrian refugees and vulnerable Jordanian women
Looking at the context, this is not surprising: Al-Husun is in Irbid, a governorate with a high presence of Syrian refugees. Even though 69% of households in Irbid are considered either extremely or very poor, Irbid hosts around 139, 900 Syrian refugees in its community. At the same time, the majority of Syrian refugees are still heavily dependent on international and national aid, especially the women, whose access to the labour market is restricted due to social and legal barriers.
The people in Irbid, whether Syrian or Jordanian, have to cope with food insecurity, unhygienic accommodation and a high unemployment rate. Although Irbid is known for its cheese, yoghurt and other dairy products, many producers – the majority of whom are Jordanian women – live below the Jordanian poverty line. Key inhibitors to more profitable businesses include their limited knowledge of more efficient production methods, marketing, and hygiene procedures. The dairy processing training provided by Caritas, which the women are about to attend, raises hopes for a better future.
The objective of the project, from which the women will benefit, is to improve the living conditions of refugee women and women from the host community and to strengthen their resilience. The promotion of milk processing aims to integrate the women in the labour market and enable them to develop a sustainable source of income for their families.
Sixty women from vulnerable and poor households participate in the project. They receive assistance with every step of their journey: They get access to material and infrastructure, acquire knowledge, and establish contacts to local markets to sell their products. They first participate in an intensive practical and theoretical training course. Each session is limited to training no more than twenty women, to ensure that everyone gets enough attention and that every woman can take an active part in the sessions. At the end, thirty of the sixty women receive equipment such as refrigerators, cookers or thermometers to develop or establish their home-based businesses. The other thirty trained women, who don’t have a home-based production and are less interested in setting up their own business, are supported by Caritas in finding work in the milk processing sector in the region.
Well-equipped for the future
The twenty women who on that Thursday were on their way to the training session were very happy at the end of the course. For one week, they had actively participated in the sessions, asking questions, working with their hands and helping one another. They were enthusiastic and stressed what an extraordinary opportunity the course offered: ‘We have learned a lot!’ one of them said. She continued: ‘I think now that with your help, I will be able to do something for myself as a woman and provide for my family at the same time’. Many women emphasised the importance of such a training programme and support system. ‘It is important’, they said, ‘to support the women in general, and the vulnerable in particular, to build a better future for them and their families’.
Caritas Switzerland and Caritas Jordan joined efforts with the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) to develop this project. It is implemented by Caritas Jordan in collaboration with the Young Women Christian Association.
Text and photos: May Haghour, Programme Officer for Syria, Caritas Switzerland, Amman, Jordan
What we do: Assistance for the victims of the war in Syria