UN Secretary-General visits UN Women centre in Za’atari refugee camp, his first stop on his visit to Jordan
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres visited the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan on Tuesday morning, 28 March 2017. Coming ahead of his participation at the Arab Summit (Dead Sea, 23-29 March 2017), this is the first official visit of Mr. Guterres to Jordan and the region in his capacity as UN Secretary-General.
During the visit, he interacted directly with Syrian refugee women and girls residing in Jordan. The Secretary-General first stopped by one of the women’s centres run by UN Women, known as the “Oases”, and learned about the importance of cash-for-work opportunities for women refugees in the camp. “We no longer feel helpless, our work makes us feel productive and empowered,” explained Nahed Abdalla, the head tailor in one of the workshops at the Oasis.
In his exchange with the women, Secretary-General Guterres reiterated the need to restore peace in Syria: “I hope one day these women can go back home and, when they return, they will have the chance to go back to their jobs and lives.”
During his visit, the Secretary-General also had a meeting with six women representing the Women’s Committee at the Oasis, who serve as interlocutors between the community, service providers and camp decision-makers. “We want more job opportunities to be made available to women in the camp so we can provide for our families,” shared Najah Mohammad Al Salim, a member of the committee. Syrian women shared their personal stories and discussed with the Secretary-General about the key challenges experienced as refugees, including the issue of family displacement and reunification, access to livelihood opportunities and protection concerns.
“Running the largest cash-for-work programme for women in the camp, UN Women seeks to address the immediate needs of Syrian refugees, while building their skills and providing support services, such as day care facilities, education programmes and protection referrals on issues of sexual and gender-based violence. The centre also provides a space for women to come together, share their experiences and collectively rebuild a daily routine in the camp,” explained Ziad Sheikh, UN Women Jordan Representative. The UN Women-managed centre serves 16,000 refugees per year, who are often among the most vulnerable.
At the end of his visit, the Secretary-General received a mosaic made by Syrian women refugees. The mosaic was handed over by Manar Al Nabulsi, a young refugee woman working at the centre. Through her work in the Oasis, Manar has secured a scholarship to study at the University of Zarqa.
Emerging from conflict, economic empowerment and decent work opportunities remain critical needs of Syrian women refugees. UN Women recently launched an innovative programme in the camp to enable women who have completed the cash-for-work programme to access resilience-focused opportunities through the creation of a business incubator. The programme will assist women refugees in developing their own micro-businesses. UN Women’s work in the Za’atari refugee camp is generously supported by the Governments of Finland, Italy and Japan.
From where I stand: “With every thread I wove…I was weaving away my sorrows”