Women refugees pull their families out of poverty

08 March 2011

March 2011
Baqa’a camp, Amman, Jordan

“I heard about UNRWA loans from my neighbour. She told me that I can take a loan to start my own business”, explains Amneh Abu Salim. Amneh, better known as Um Hussein, is a 60 year old mother of 12 living in Baqa’a camp in Jordan. The advice given by her neighbour was life-changing; a loan from UNRWA has helped Em Hussein to build a business of her own.

Em Hussein came to the world of business out of necessity, when her husband, the sole bread winner of the family, fell ill and became bedridden, she had to take on full financial responsibility for the family. “When my husband couldn’t work any more, I felt that life had closed all doors in my face. I had children to raise and a household to keep but no income”, Remembers Em Hussein. “UNRWA was a ray of hope. Before I took the loan from the Agency, I thought that only men can take on financial commitments.”

People with spirit

The loan from UNRWA’s micro-credit initiative allowed Um Hussein to turn her small business idea, buying and selling fabric from her home, into a thriving fabric shop which is successful enough to support her family. She is far from the only woman to have been helped by the micro-credit community support programme in Baqa’a camp. About 5,000 women have taken out loans since the programme was established in 1992.

The micro-credit programme targets women in particular, as well as other vulnerable groups, as they often lack access to formal financial resources and therefore, like Um Hussein, have few other options of escaping poverty. The programme aims to help families, who find themselves in financial difficulties, become self-reliant. Up to date, the programme has granted nearly 7,500 loans to refugees, 80% of which were given to women.
Um Hussein hopes that she will be able to continue supporting her two youngest children, who will take their Tawjihi (final school exams) this year, and pay for them to go to university. She feels a sense of pride at her achievements, her neighbours agree. “My neighbours think very highly of me for having the guts to work at my age. They say to me it is never too late for people with spirit”.

More Refugee women tell their stories: here

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