Teenage businesswoman turns a profit in Jerash

06 April 2011

March 2011
Jerash refugee camp, Jordan

“I was a very shy person,” says Hiba, “but after attending the training sessions on preparedness for employability, which I used to attend after school hours in the UNRWA-affiliated women’s programme centre, I now know what I want, how I want it, and most importantly I am not shy anymore.”

Hiba lives in a closed community in Gaza Camp, also known as Jerash Palestinian refugee camp, which has a total population of more than 24,000 living in 750,000 square metres. The camp is located in the northern part of Jordan about 50 kilometres north of the capital Amman. The camp is said to be one of the most deprived camps with an unemployment rate of 39 per cent.

Hiba is one of many adolescents in the Gaza Camp who dreams of getting a good job in the future. UNICEF, in cooperation with UNRWA and Save the Children, have supported a project called Mustaqbali (“my future”) on preparedness for employability, which exposes adolescents to the real demands of the labour market, and helps them strengthen essential skills to compete and adapt to the changes in the economy.

Training sesssions

The programme educates students between the ages of 14 and 16 on critical issues related to taking proper academic and career decisions through different thematic components, such as career counselling, youth livelihood mapping, internships and financial and market literacy sessions.

Through these training sessions, Hiba was able to identify her weak and positive points. “When she first came she was very shy and kept to herself,” said her trainer, Ms Tadamor Abu Soud.

The sessions allow the adolescents to identify their strengths and weaknesses, and through peer-to-peer talks turn those weaknesses into strengths. Also, it allowed the adolescents to discover their own interests and skills, map existing employment opportunities in their communities and participate in short-term internships that placed them in a workplace of their interest.

Raised confidence

Ms Abu Soud said: “This raised Hiba’s confidence and she began sharing her thoughts in the sessions.” Hiba added: “Before, even though I had views on some subject matters, I used to hide my head so that no one would ask me. Now I say what I think and feel.” Hiba wants to become a community health worker and in order to achieve this she started her own business with her aunt while still at school, a boutique shop for women and young children.

She had to use her techniques in persuasion to convince her father, and he approved. The boutique currently brings profit which Hiba gives to her parents since she does not need the funds at this time. She will use it once she needs it to continue with her goal of becoming a community health worker after she graduates from school. Having three sisters and four brothers, and being the third after her two elder sisters who are working, currently like their father, in the tailor business, she is very proud to pursue the community health work path.

She is also delighted because now that she has completed the internship programme at the refugee camp health centre – which is part of the preparedness for employability programme – she is able to provide some advice on health related issues to her family members. One of the family members, who noticed the positive change in Hiba’s personality and aspirations, her 14-year-old brother, wants to join these sessions once they become available again.

Achieving goals

“The boutique is a means for me to reach my objective and it is not what I want to end up doing, but it is there in case I need it in the future. This is what we have learned, that we should explore all possibilities which can help us in reaching our goals, and doing some business on the side to generate some funds to support my goal is a very good way of progressing,” she said.

Although the preparedness for employability programme has been funded by UNICEF in partnership with Save the Children and UNRWA, the project has built on the resources in the community where a group of volunteers and service providers from the community were trained to become trainers on career counselling. This contributes to the sustainability of the project and the continuation of the provision of training through the existing structures. A second round of sessions on preparedness for employability started in the summer of 2010 with minimal support from UNICEF.

Safe space

UNICEF Jordan continues to support similar projects in different areas of the country as part of its adolescents programme, which focuses on creating safe spaces for adolescents to learn, develop and participate. In addition to the preparedness for employability component, the safe spaces provide life skills learning, sexual and reproductive health education and empowerment of adolescents by planning and designing small scale community development projects.

The preparedness for employability project started in 2009 and has reached approximately 250 adolescents, of which 50 per cent are girls. Based on the lessons learned from this programme, discussions are ongoing with UNRWA and the governmental partners to scale-up the programme.

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Story courtesy of UN in Jordan newsletter, March 2011

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