Self-Help Groups bring Irbid Women Closer,

Self-Help Groups bring Irbid Women Closer, ‘Stronger Together’

 AMMAN — Some 450 Jordanian and Syrian women have been coming together in Irbid, as part of local self-help groups where they learned how to establish their own businesses, while developing strong social bonds and friendships.

 Launched in 2017 by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), the 25 self-help groups aim to “provide local women with livelihood opportunities through income generating activities such as catering, gardening, handicrafts, etc.”, LWF programme coordinator in Jordan Rosanna Rosengren-Klitgaard told The Jordan Times in an interview on Monday.

 “These groups, which have been met with tremendous success by the Irbid community, serve a twofold purpose, which is not only restricted to economic empowerment. Indeed, as they come together, Jordanian and Syrian women get to create friendships and gain a sense of solidarity that makes them feel empowered both socially and individually,” Klitgaard highlighted.

 Noor is one of the self-help groups’ participants, who has always faced hardships everyday, with a smile and a positive mind. The mother of four, whose husband is currently unemployed, relies heavily on the income she makes from “Nashmiat Urduniat”, the local group she joined a couple of years ago. 

 “Each group member established a home garden to grow her own fruits, vegetables and herbs. Some are also raising rabbits and chickens, which provides the eggs and meat necessary for our catering activity, while others are producing olive oil, yogurt and soaps,” Noor explained, noting that these quality homemade products are one of the biggest strengths of “Nashmiat Urduniat”. 

 “We provided these women with training on group organisation, marketing, business plan development and various other skills needed to sustain their small businesses, all in collaboration with stakeholders including local community based organisations,” LWF programme support officer Malak Mahmoud told The Jordan Times on Monday, noting that, so far, “one of our most popular activities is catering, with some of our beneficiaries having established highly successful projects”.

 Noor said she especially learned from the marketing training, which helped the entire group better market and sell their homemade  produce. 

 “I participated in the two bazaars organised by the project, which was an enriching experience and a great opportunity to increase our group’s visibility,” she highlighted, underlining that the various training and bazaars were also a chance to “discuss with women from other self-help groups and learn from them”.

 “Being part of the group is a real chance to meet women from different cultures and backgrounds, exchange experiences and skills and develop strong friendships,” the Irbid resident continued, stating that “the group members are now like sisters: I know I can always share everything with them and find support whenever I need some”. 

 Previously funded by the European Regional Development and Protection Programme for the Middle East, the project is now looking for additional funding “to ensure that this much needed activity can continue”, Klitgaard pointed out, noting that over 315 Syrian and 135 Jordanian women have already benefited from these self-help groups.

 Established in Jordan in 2012, LWF works in three main areas — education, protection and livelihood — both in refugee camps and host communities, and has already provided assistance to more than 200,000 refugees and vulnerable people in Jordan, according to its website.