New skills for a brighter future - Soumaya's story

Ten months ago, Syrian Soumaya Mohammed found work at a garment factory with the help of the Azraq Centre for Employment (ACE). She tells the ILO in her own words what it’s like to have regular work, an income and a new profession.

Comment | 16 March 2020
Soumaya Mohammed

I came to Jordan in 2014 not only because the situation in Syria was dangerous, but because I hadn’t seen my daughter, who was only 8 years old at the time, for almost two years.

She was living in Jordan with my former husband and his family. I was able to reunite with my daughter and bring her to live with me in Azraq refugee camp, where we still live today.

When I first moved to Jordan, it was difficult for me to find work. My education is limited which means the jobs available are also limited.

It was difficult for us to live on the assistance that we were getting. My daughter would ask me for things and I would feel sad because I couldn’t provide for her.

I was able to find work at a medical centre but after sometime, I found myself without work, relying on assistance again.

Azraq Centre for Employment
The Azraq Centre for Employment told me that they were working with factories outside of the camp to help camp residents find employment. They said that there were opportunities available at garment factories, so I signed up and a few weeks later, I got a call from the centre saying that they had found an opportunity for me.

I started working at the factory. At first I was nervous because I wasn’t used to sewing on modernized machinery. The management at the factory was great; they taught us how to use the machines and were very patient with us. The training lasted around three months and during that time, we were receiving a salary, which was great.

Now, I feel that I can operate several machines at the factory with full confidence. This job has helped me learn a new skill; a new profession which is allowing me to contribute to society in a productive way.

Soumaya and her daughter
When I got my first salary I was so happy. I wanted to buy my daughter everything she wanted. It was winter so I bought her winter clothes and other things that she really wanted. I wanted to make sure that her needs were met before anything else.

The employment centre still checks up on us and on our progress. They came to visit us at the factory and asked us if we are happy with the work and the conditions.

I am happy.

Being able to work here is not just about receiving a salary. I feel that the new skills I have learnt will help me develop further in the future. Maybe one day I can set up my own sewing business and maybe my daughter, once she completes her education, will be able to manage the business for me.
The centre was set up in 2018 by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR, with the support of the Dutch government to help camp residents apply for work permits and find employment in different sectors across Jordan.

Soumaya's quotes are excerpts taken from an interview conducted with her by the ILO in November 2019.