June 20th is World Refugee Day. For those who don’t know, World Refugee Day was declared on June 20, 2000 by the UN to commemorate the upcoming 50-year anniversary of the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. This day is important because it is used to highlight the hardships of displacement as well as signal to world leaders that the global community stands with refugees. Before the 2016 World Refugee Day, the UN published a petition urging world governments to: 1. Ensure every refugee child gets an education, 2. Ensure every refugee family has somewhere safe to live. 3. Ensure every refugee can work or learn new skills to make a positive contribution to their community. My fellowship this summer focuses on that last point.
Why does it matter that refugees be able to work or learn skills? In Jordan, refugees are barred from seeking formal employment. This causes a number of problems. Refugees can become wholly dependent on aid, which is unreliable due to changes in funding or donor engagement. Refugees, desperate to support themselves and feed their families, can begin to work informally which can be exploitative and dangerous. Based on my conversations with the men in the support group at CRP, the lack of work can be extremely disempowering for those who were breadwinners and felt defined by their careers.
This can be the case for women as well, who feel like they have no options to put food on the table for their families. Plus, allowing refugees to work integrates them into society. They will be able to produce and contribute to the countries they are now living in, which lessens animosity and gives them purpose.
Collateral Repair Project does amazing and important work. A lot of that is aid based- they distribute fans, coats, school supplies, and more. Beyond this, they provide services like after-school clubs for children, barber training for men, and acupressure for women. Their psychosocial programming is so important because it gives the community a place where they belong, especially when most are unemployed. The Hope Workshop is an example of one of their most inspiring and successful programs and it is where I am volunteering most of my time.
The Hope Workshop is a women’s handicraft co-operative, aimed at building skills and empowering its members. Through dedicated volunteers like Gwen and Bev, the women learn marketable skills such as card-making, sewing, and crochet. They are taught to make beautiful products which are then sold in Amman and abroad.Then (the most important part in my opinion), the volunteers teach the women themselves to lead each group. This includes planning the creation of each item, taking attendance, executing the product, assigning homework, bookkeeping, and more. This makes the program sustainable and empowers the women by giving them ownership of their lives and their new skills.The women have been hugely successful selling cards, gnomes, pillows, blankets, and hats. From last summer to this summer, the Hope Workshop has grown from 12 women to nearly 50, with over 20 still on the waiting list.
The Advocacy Project is partnering with the Hope Workshop to introduce an embroidery program to their already successful handicraft co-operative. This will involve even more women in the Hope Workshop, giving them more opportunities for income generation and leadership.
By donating on June 20th, World Refugee Day, you will be able to help with the all-important startup phase of a project like this. We are trying to raise enough money to start this new program, grow the Hope Workshop to include more women, and transform it into a trusted and established brand. With your generosity and these women’s commitment and skills, the Hope Workshop will certainly be a sustainable way to empower female refugees in Jordan.
Even more exciting is that your donation will be matched IN FULL on June 20th, so please mark your calendars and inform your network. You have the chance to make a difference in the life of a woman who left everything behind to save herself and her family. Think for a moment how important that is and get involved on World Refugee Day.
Posted By Reina Sultan (Jordan)
Posted Jun 13th, 2017