Exchanging More Than Knowledge

May 10, 2017

Al-Zeina, Maha, Islam and Hanadi are four ladies who have met through UNDP’s Skills Exchange project in Al-Mafraq governorate which is funded by the European Regional Development and Protection Programme and soon became close friends. Their friendship; fuelled by knowledge-sharing and personal interactions has paved the way for a promising business partnership between them.

They have so many things in common; albeit not all were positive as the four ladies suffered from isolation and idleness. Maha (Um Ghassan) and Hanadi (Um Zaid) who are Syrian overcame their depression, “I used to cry everyday, and when I joined the project I was still feeling lonely and depressed. But that has changed after a few days thanks to the personal development sessions I attended and the kindness of the participants” says Maha.


 “The project has helped me gain the neighbourhood’s trust.”

Maha Tilawi is from Homs — Syria. She is 51 years old with 35 years of experience in making all kinds of clothes. She has lost one of her sons in the war and is now the sole provider for her family of 8.

“The project has helped me gain the neighbourhood’s trust. No one came to me for tailoring jobs before but after they heard about my participation in UNDP’s Skills Exchange project as a mentor they started to approach me for complicated tailoring jobs”.

About her experience as a Syrian refugee in Jordan; Maha says: “There’s the good and the bad. When I first joined the training I was very nervous about dealing with Jordanians due to some negative past experiences but a few days later I started to make friends.”

She also learned a lot as part of the training program is brushing up on the mentors’ technical skills.


“This is my dream”

Maha is Al-Zeina Salem’s mentor. Zeina is Jordanian, she’s in her early twenties. She is passionate about fashion and used to make clothes as a hobby at home. About fashion she says “this is my dream; to open a clothes workshop and to expand our one-door shop into two”. The tailor shop was made possible by the monetary incentives Zeina and her partner received for their participation in the project.

Al-Zeina has met Islam Zu’bi, another Jordanian beneficiary through the Skills Exchange project. They soon hit it off and started to encourage each other to become more confident. “Zeina would poke me to get up and represent our group because she was very shy” says Islam laughing. “But that was only in the first week; I changed a lot after that” adds Zeina.

The four of them were extremely shy especially that they found themselves in a mixed classroom (men and women) for the first time in their life.


“I wished to have a sewing machine so that all those ideas in my mind would turn into reality”

Islam Zu’bi is married for 12 years without kids. She has always loved making her own clothes and wished to own a sewing machine one day. “I wished to have a sewing machine so that all those ideas in my mind would turn into reality” she says.

About her experience at the project; she says that “all the Syrian trainers were very cooperative; when my mentor was busy everyone was ready to help me.” she adds “we became one family, there was no Jordanian and Syrian, we were one.”


“It feels great to be able to provide for my kids”

Hanadi Ahmed is a Syrian married to a Jordanian for 16 years and have 3 kids. She has moved to Jordan after the Syrian crisis. Though married to Jordanian she felt like an outsider; “I limited myself to the house and would go out only for necessary things as I felt like a stranger all the time.” says Hanadi.

Participating in the project has changed her outlook on life and motivated her to do something beyond her domestic duties. She says “It feels great to be able to provide for my kids. I’m proud to have an income of my own to spend. I stopped worrying whenever my kids ask me for anything or when I need to take one of them to the doctor.”

All the mothers participating in the Skills Exchange project were paid a day care allowance that helped them put their kids in community day care during the training hours.

Hanadi’s personality also changed; “I have experienced a great personal development thanks to the soft skills training I attended. It helped me overcome my shyness; I used to never leave the house without my husband before unless it’s urgent, but now I’m confident in my abilities and I have my husband’s full support” she adds that her husband is now considering buying her a nearby shop to start her own business.

Islam and Zeina are determined to work with their mentors once their project kicks off. “I will never let go of Um Ghassan, she has so much experience besides we’re very good friends now” Says Zeina.

Their mentors, Maha (Um Ghassan) and Hanadi (Um Zaid) have full trust in their skills too, and they admire their passion for making high quality, fashionable clothes.

Al-Zeina, Islam, Maha and Hanadi, They all started unsure of themselves and lonely but their resilience meant they would never lose the will nor the hope for a better future.

UNDP’s project “Skills Exchange Between Jordanians and Syrian Refugees in Mafraq Governorate” is funded by tEuropean Regional Development and Protection Programme (RDPP) in collaboration with the World Food Programme (WFP) and the National Microfinance Bank. UNDP is implementing this project’s activities with the support of the Business Development Center (BDC).



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