Boost Juice founder connects with Syrian refugee women.
There is sometimes this misconception people have when they look at refugees, thinking of them as ‘others’. But I couldn’t help but see myself in them, as both a mother and as a businesswoman.
- Janine Allis, Leading Women Fund Ambassador and Founder of Boost Juice
My recent visit to Jordan to meet women whose lives have been changed by the Leading Women Fund community was incredibly inspiring. COVID stalled our plans to travel there after the Fund was created two years ago and it was amazing to see how much has been achieved in the meantime.
The women I met once lived dynamic lives in Syria, only to have their world turned on its head by a conflict out of their control. They are women who were forced to leave behind everything and rebuild their families’ lives as refugees in another country.
The challenges of doing so are immense. Without a secure livelihood, refugee women and their children have been known to resort to survival strategies that place them at risk of exploitation, gender-based violence, early marriage and child labour.
In Jordan there are 700,000 refugees registered with UNHCR. Among those I had the pleasure of meeting were Malak and Fatima.
47-year-old Malak is a highly educated teacher who started providing psychological aid to children when the war broke out in Syria. She fled the country after having to run past snipers on the way to and from school every day. Now in Jordan, she is struggling to find any work as she looks after her 88-year-old mother, who is very ill.
The cash assistance provided by the Leading Women Fund is her only chance of having any sort of semblance of a life. But it’s not just money that’s making a difference. Malak was extremely moved as she explained how building relationships with Australian women through the Connecting Worlds app lifted her up during a very dark time.
And then there was Fatima, a 53-year-old mother of four. With the help of UNHCR, Fatima established a successful cooking business out of her home, and dreams of expanding into supermarkets across Jordan and into other countries.
For Fatima, it was a fridge which was a game changer. She was suddenly able to expand and take on more customers and even staff – giving employment opportunities to other women.
As Fatima says, being able to work makes a person feel valued in society. The income has also helped her give her daughter an education. Just like me, these are women who are driven to give their children the best possible opportunities.
The situation for refugees living in Jordan is no longer considered a humanitarian crisis, and the focus for UNHCR has shifted to connecting people with economic opportunities. Even small things are making a huge difference.
It’s taking innovation, encouragement and the generosity of donors like you to make this happen, to shatter the glass ceiling for women who didn’t think they could do this. The looks on their faces says it all: “I can do this, I can have a skill, I can be self-sufficient.”
It was incredibly powerful to see and makes me even more determined to help these women on their path towards greater confidence, self-reliance and financial freedom.
The majority of funds raised by Australia for UNHCR are directed to UNHCR’s emergency operations, providing the ready funds and resources to respond quickly and effectively in situations of crisis and disaster.