one skill at a time

Refurbishing an antique nightstand or resetting a tripped circuit breaker are seemingly straightforward household tasks, yet many of us turn to a trustworthy handyperson for help.

Not Fadwa. The 45-year-old mother of 5 from Syria prefers to take things in her own hands, debunking gender stereotypes and leading as an example of what women empowerment means in practice.

“When something breaks down in the house, like an electric plug, I fix it myself. When something breaks down and requires drilling, like a chair or a table, I do it myself. I don’t wait until my husband returns or ask anyone to fix it for me.”

Fawda, like many other female refugees living in Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp, has learnt basic carpentry and electricity maintenance skills at the EU-funded safe space for women and girls run by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

We met with her earlier this year to get to know more.

Photo of Fadwa, in the bacground part of the camp she lives in.

Since the start of the Syrian crisis in 2011, Jordan has become a haven for people forced to flee their homes. Most refugees have found shelter in cities (82%), while others, like Fadwa, continue to live in camps (18%).

© European Union, 2023 (photographer: Salah Malkawi)

View of the camp, in front 2 bicycles.

Zaatari refugee camp is the world’s largest camp for Syrian refugees. It hosts over 80,000 people, and around half of them are women.

© European Union, 2023 (photographer: Salah Malkawi)

2 women leaving a safe space gate.

The camp’s safe spaces for women and girls, like this one funded by EU humanitarian aid and run by UNFPA, offer services from psychosocial support for gender-based violence survivors to recreational activities such as Zumba or henna design classes.

© European Union, 2023 (photographer: Salah Malkawi)

View of a tent, several people sitting along the sides while a teacher shows and explains.

Basic carpentry and electricity maintenance are among the centre’s most popular activities. A typical class starts with theory and a presentation by the facilitator, followed by hands-on practical exercises for the participants.

© European Union, 2023 (photographer: Salah Malkawi)

Seham wearing work gloves and protective glasses.

41-year-old Seham, a refugee herself, is one of the facilitators. She is committed to empowering women through skills development. “It’s a win-win initiative, both the participants and I benefit,” Seham says.

© European Union, 2023 (photographer: Salah Malkawi)

2 women working on a table.

Often, women bring old wooden furniture from the house, and work together with the trainer to recycle it into a new coffee table, a bookshelf, or Quran stand holder. The newly made objects are both decorative and practical.

© European Union, 2023 (photographer: Salah Malkawi)

An aid worker seen from the back talking to Fadwa in her kitchen.

Fadwa has lived in Zaatari refugee camp for over a decade. She welcomed us with freshly prepared tea in her home, a humble yet private and well-equipped caravan. We spoke about the positive impact the UNFPA safe space has made in her life.

© European Union, 2023 (photographer: Salah Malkawi)

2 hands holding a cup of thea and a plate.

“I feel safe with them,” Fadwa told us, adding that there is much more to the recreational activities than gaining practical knowledge and skills – it is also about spending quality time with people you can trust and taking a weight off your mind.

© European Union, 2023 (photographer: Salah Malkawi)

Fadwa moving a low table in her house.

Fadwa takes great pride in the furniture she has designed and built. It brings charm to her living space, while making the rooms more functional. Above all, it serves as a constant reminder that she can achieve anything she sets her mind to.

© European Union, 2023 (photographer: Salah Malkawi)

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