In March, we launched our Mother’s Day Appeal to raise funds for Syrian refugee women to participate in a new micro-business scheme – and many Leading Women Fund donors responded generously.

Last month, UNHCR’s external relations officer, Lilly Carlisle, attended a workshop in Irbid to discover more about the lives of the women taking part.

The micro-business training pilot was run by UNHCR’s local NGO partner, Blumont, in five Jordanian cities. The course ran for a number of days and Syrian refugee women and Jordanians had the chance to learn more about running a viable business, from financial planning and strategy, to sales and marketing.

“There was a really engaged atmosphere,” says Lilly, who attended a training session in Irbid. “There were lots of questions to the trainer and discussion among the participants about the different things they were doing individually to grow their businesses.”

 

“I want to be my own boss”

In 2012, Umama fled her hometown and completed her high-school education in the border town of Ramtha, where she lives with her mum and five sisters. She had hoped to attend university, but didn’t secure a scholarship; instead, she has been building a business selling jewellery, which she has been making since childhood.

After taking some online courses to improve her jewellery-making skills, Umama signed up to the micro-business training pilot to learn more about the administrative side of running a business. At the moment she just sells to friends and neighbours, but wants to expand her customer base beyond Ramtha, with the idea of earning enough money to fund herself through university, studying English language.

“My priority is to be independent and create stability for my family,” she says. “I hope to achieve this through my work and future education. I don’t want to rely on assistance from others for the rest of my life. I want to be my own boss.”

 

Syrian refugee Umama, 22, holds her hand made jewellery

Umama, 22, is originally from Damascus and signed up to the training course to help build her jewellery business. © UNHCR

Enas, a Jordanian woman who lives in Irbid. © UNHCR

“I’d like to grow my business”

Enas’ mosaics are largely inspired by Islamic heritage and religious texts. She learnt her craft through YouTube and now sells her designs to restaurants and other businesses in the city, but wants to diversify into souvenirs for tourists.

“When I sold my first design, the reaction was, ‘Wow, did you really make this?’” she says. “This inspired me to continue to try to improve my craft.”

 

“I believe I can make something of myself”

A chemical engineer by trade, Hind was forced to stop working following a car accident, which left her with a disability in her left foot. She had always loved art, and now makes small wooden items and furniture, which she paints with intricate designs. For the last year, Hind’s customers have mainly been university students who buy her items as gifts for friends, but through the micro-business training she hopes that she can put a plan in place to develop her business into something more.

“After my accident I found it hard to think about the future. But now thanks to the belief that others have had in me, I believe that maybe I can make something of myself,” she says.

 

Former engineer and artist, Hind, holds a small wooden frame.

Hind is a former engineer and artist who has plans to develop her business. © UNHCR

Angela, 38, is from Homs and wants to open a shop to sell her clothing. © UNHCR

“My dream is to have my own shop”

Until now, life has been hugely busy for Angela, who fled Homs with her husband and four young children in 2013. But now that her youngest child has turned 13, she has the time to focus on growing her clothing business, which she started during lockdown last year.

A talented seamstress, Angela sells about 10 pieces of sports clothing each week to shop-owners at the market, but expects demand to increase as children head back to school next month. This isn’t her first business – she also trained as a plumber while in Jordan – but she can see potential in sports clothing and uniforms for children.

“My dream is to have my own shop in the market where I sell my sports clothes, rather than relying on other stall owners to sell my products,” she says. “If I was able to do this, it would hopefully mean I could employ other women to help make more clothes. This micro-business training has shown to me that this is possible.”

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