Women In Zaatari: An Oasis Away From Home

It’s been almost five years since the Syria crisis started, one that has claimed the lives of many innocent people and left hundreds of thousands of women fighting a lone battle for survival. Many of these women have suffered unthinkable trauma. Many have crumbled under the pressure. But in a warehouse located in the heart of Jordan’s Zaatari camp for Syrian refugees, a group of women have decided to show us how to break the cycle of despair and transform tragedy into opportunity for personal growth. 

Oasis for creativity

Realizing the key role Syrian women and girls play in their country’s future, WFP has decided to partner with UN Women to launch the third women’s centre in Zaatari camp, Oasis, that aims to empower Syrian refugee women in the camp by giving them the opportunity to provide for their families’ growing needs. Visitors can treat themselves to a variety of special handmade artefacts and jewellery made by the women using recycled products such as plastic shopping bags. 

Photo: WFP/Shada Moghraby

Opportunity for self-growth

Prior to joining Oasis, most of the women working in the centre were housewives who relied on their husbands to put food on the table back in Syria. Despite the challenges that come with being the sole breadwinners for their families, the women of Oasis see their new career as a positive turning point in their lives. “I cannot imagine myself not working and relying on someone for money again. Even if I go back to Syria I will continue to work. Who knows, maybe I’m better off staying in Jordan,” one woman said.   

Photo: WFP/Shada Moghraby

Transforming passion into beautiful art  

Eight-year-old Odai proudly shows off a necklace made by his mother, one of the women working in the UN Women/WFP Oasis centre. The pendant is made out of recycled date stones. Other products used to make jewellery include coloured paper and broken pieces of tile and mirrors. 

Photo: WFP/Shada Moghraby

Turning waste into treasure 

If you think that plastic bags are only useful for carrying your groceries, think again! At Oasis, these bags are used to create an array of beautiful, unique and eco-friendly products such as fruit bowls, plates, vases, lamp shades and even baby kits for new born babies in Zaatari. 

Photo: WFP/Shada Moghraby

Home is where the kitchen is

Food is a central aspect in the lives of Syrian refugees, and is one that is often managed by women. Syrian women take immense pride in their cuisine, but most of them do not believe it is a relevant skill outside their homes. In a plan to capitalize on that pride and empower Syrian women at the same time, WFP plans to fund a kitchen that will allow women to put their culinary skills into practice and sell traditional homemade recipes to customers in both the centre and WFP shops. 

Photo: WFP/Shada Moghraby

An Oasis with the little ones in mind 

Apart from the artefacts workshop, the centre is also the site of a nursery for the children of the mothers who work at Oasis. Children are taught the alphabet and how to draw using educational material made by the women themselves.   

Photo: WFP/Shada Moghraby

Read more about WFP operations inside and outside Syria