Rahaf Khalifa (39) From Exclusion to Empowerment (Originally from Syria, now in Zarqa, Jordan)

Sunday, February 18, 2018 - 12:38

Rahaf fled from Syria to Jordan with her seven children crossing the borders after a long journey to reach Jordan. Rahaf is now able to generate an income to cover her family expenses after participating in ActionAid Arab Region's Economic Empowerment and Community Based Social Protection project.

Everything was different when she and her family were living in Syria before the conflict, they were in their own home, she said: “living a daily life routine where  she was safe, her children were safe too”. Although her husband didn’t have a permanent job in Syria they were able to cope with life’s difficulties. She said: “life in Syria was much easier for my family

Everything changed dramatically when the conflict started in Damascus, after the shelling they directly left to Dar’a. They started their journey to Jordan from Dar’a after the massacre, she said: “we have seen enough and it was time to seek safety”. Their journey to Jordan was tiring; they stayed on the borders for four days before entering Al Zaatari camp in Mafraq. Rahaf says: “the life in camp was not good for us, we stayed there for 6 months and then we moved to Zarqa, Jordan.”

Rahaf now lives with her husband and seven children in a small rented house with her mother in law. Her husband and older son are sick and can’t work so she is the only one who can financially support the family. They live on small monthly cash assistance provided by UNHCR, Rahaf said: “we pay for the house rent with the money from the UNHCR, they will cut off the money soon and there is no other resources so I am looking for a job, because the house owner will kick us out if we don’t pay the rent.”

 

Rahaf is one of a group of women in the women’s circles that ActionAid has been working with through our Community Based Social Protection project working with Syrian refugees and host communities in Jordon and Lebanon. The project started in July 2016 in two locations in Jordan; Mafraq and Zarqa, and two locations in Lebanon; Jeb Janin and Baalbek. 20 Women Circles have been established with over 400 women regularly attending the meetings and activities. In each location we have separate groups for young and elderly women in order to address the specific needs of the different age groups. ActionAid is working with the women circles to support them to actively engage in decision-making and implementation of the project. Rahaf said: “I heard about the project through my children, because they regularly attend the Actionaid Community Centre in Zarqa.”

Through this project women are empowered and they have been developing their own income generating projects. Rahaf and her partner Lina, choose to develop a small enterprise in the cheeses and yogurt trade, they said: “We chose the cheese and yogurt trade because it was the right season and also we have a good relationship with neighbors because we live in a small community and we try to be helpful it terms of offering a good price for our products”.

Lina, Rahaf’s partner in their project is a 42-year-old Jordanian woman and is also a member of the women’s circles. She is a social activist and works with different organizations and she has attended many sessions in the community center. Lina said: “the women circles for me was an opportunity to meet new women with different background but within the same society, we got to know their traditions and cultural”.

Rahaf has said the incoming generating project for was a great transition for her as she was able to develop different skills in her personality, she said: “I was encouraged to look for a job, especially as the traditional concept of women working was not seen as acceptable.” She added: “ I need to find a job to pay for the rent and medicine for my husband, the idea of me working and earning money was developed and encouraged through the women’s circles I attend”.