When Fatima first arrived in Za’atari Camp, she felt that she was carrying a sadness that she could not escape. Even spending time with her friends couldn’t bring relief. They would reminisce about life in Syria, but these memories only filled her heart with grief. It was affecting every aspect of her life, even the time she spent with her children. 

But today, Fatima isn’t dwelling on the past. Rather, she shares her story to help illustrate the difference between where she was two years ago, and where she is now. 

Standing behind a large cutting table in one of the three tailoring caravans located in the Women and Girls Oasis in Za’atari Camp, Fatima holds up a tiny blue sweater adorned with a bright red collar. It is one of the 21 pieces of clothing included in the “baby kits” that the women produce in the workshop and which are then distributed to women who give birth in the camp; and it’s her favourite. In addition to clothing, the kits include other essentials like warm blankets, and even an insulated baby basinet. To date, they have produced over such 4000 baby kits. 

“I visit the women in the hospital and I see the happiness on their faces. Seeing that, it makes me happy,” says Fatima. “We are meeting a very real need for these women.” 

Across the Oasis in another caravan, this one fitted out as a hairdressing salon, a young woman also named Fatima is diligently applying henna to a repeat customer, Isra.  The women are friends from Syria, and Isra can’t help but praise her friend’s talents: “She was the best in Syria, now, she’s the best in Za’atari!” 

The tailoring workshop and the salon are but two of the many cash-for-work projects that the Oasis operates in the camp – which is also Za’atari’s largest female-focused such programme -  alongside other initiatives that aim to empower Syrian  women  refugees through  increased  access  to  economic opportunities  and  meaningful  engagement in  community  life.

Other offerings of the Oasis include language classes, information and protection referrals on key issues such as registration, hygiene, health, and sexual  and  gender-based violence. There is also a day care centre in each Oasis to allow women working at the Oasis to stay with their kids throughout the day, and to provide after school support to children enrolled in education.  

Back in the tailoring workshop, Fatima is explaining how her life has changed  since getting involved with the Oasis: “I am so busy now, I see my children less,” she says “but the time I spend with them is of better quality, because I am no longer burdened by the sadness.” 

Thanks to UNWOMEN for organizing a field visit for this story.


Sector: Social Protection
Project Name:  Enhancing the well-being of Syrian women refugees in Za’atari Camp
JRP Specific Objective: REF 2: Families and communities are strengthened, engaged and empowered in order to contribute to their own protection solutions, while the most vulnerable women, girls, boys and men are identified and their needs addressed through appropriate services and interventions.
JRP Project Title: REF 2.2 Support to community participation and self-management
Project Budget: USD 1 million
Project Duration: 12 months
Financing Agency: Government of Finland, Government of Italy, and the Government of Japan
Implementing Partner: UN Women
Local Partner: Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development – Legal Aid