Images: Freya Dowson for Action Against Hunger
Finding Friendship in Irbid
Celebrating World Friendship Day 2018
Jul 24 2018
Today, we are celebrating Friendship Day. This day gives us a chance to reflect on the emotional aspects of our programmes around the world. In the Jordanian border town of Irbid, Syrian and Jordanian women have found friendship through Action Against Hunger’s cash for work programme and have been able to share their experiences of being a refugee and living in a host community.
Over 1.3 million Syrian refugees have fled to Jordan, with 79 percent living in urban or rural communities and the remaining 21 percent in camps. The ongoing influx of refugees, especially from Syria, is putting the Jordanian economy and infrastructure under pressure.
Present in Jordan since 2013, our teams have designed programmes to increase livelihood opportunities for Syrian refugees and vulnerable Jordanians living in Irbid. The project focuses on upcycling by making bags and home accessories from plastic, newspaper and other waste materials to sell. For many Syrian refugees, this was the first time they had an opportunity to earn money.
FRIENDSHIP THROUGH WORK
Beyond the financial aspect of the programme, this project is also an opportunity for the Syrian refugees and the Jordanian host community to come together and integrate, to empower women and to create friendships.
Syrian refugee Suha Sheimat said “I didn’t know anyone when I came here, I had to make friends. The project was not only for cash, but it took us out of the depression that we had in our houses. We met together, we made friends.”
Through this programme, women from Jordan and Syria created meaningful friendships and established links between the two communities.
Amnah Turkmani and her daughter
Amnah Turkmani has been living with her family in Jordan for six years with her five children. She took part in Action Against Hunger’s waste management project in May 2017, receiving a 50-day contract to collect waste in Irbid. Amnah shared with us that she does not feel “like a stranger in this country” thanks to the programme and has many Jordanian friends.
Hana Muhser, is part of the Jordanian host community. She takes part in this project and told us how the Jordanian ans Syrian women have become “like sisters, we're working together. It was like a big family. I have a friend who is Syrian and we talk all the time.”
EMPOWERMENT THROUGH FRIENDSHIP
Some of the women taking part in the project lost their husbands and became the main breadwinner of their family. Going against cultural norms and breaking down the gender barriers, these women have had no choice but to work for their families’ survival.
Amnah Turkmani, who lost her husband, explained that in Syria she did not work as she was busy raising her five children, so at first she was unsure about the offer of employment. “It was hard at the beginning to accept the idea of collecting waste but I decided to do it so that I could get clothes for the children and put money towards rent, food and electricity and medicine for my mother,” she said. “As a woman, I was not used to this kind of job, bending down and picking up waste. But seeing other women do it took the shame away.”
Samara Shloul (far left) and friends
By sharing their culture and becoming friends, many women were empowered to not only work but also get an education. Samara Shloul said “In Syria they let girls marry at a really young age, sometimes even just 14 years old. But this isn’t common in Jordan, in Jordan the girl has to get an education and a degree and then she can marry someone. Syrians started to change when they first came here, at first they were letting their daughters go with their husbands but now they have to get a degree first.”
The project in Irbid not only helps families financially but it also instils hope in communities that have experienced so much trauma. Through friendships these women have come together to build a brighter future for their children.
Help save lives in Jordan & around the world