Skills stories

Supporting employment and vocational training for Syrian refugees and host communities

An ILO project financed by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, BMZ, through KfW Development Bank provides skills through vocational training for Syrian refugees and Jordanians in host communities.

Feature | 10 February 2022
“I never thought I would achieve this, that I would have my own business. I love this job.”

Enas Al-Dweikat has always been energetic, creative, and good with her hands. As a child, she would climb trees and fall out of them – much to the chagrin of her parents, who were, naturally, afraid of her getting hurt. But she was like a butterfly, flitting from one place to another; she could not be contained. She used to make shapes out of clay, spent afternoons collecting leaves and arranging them in artful patterns.

Today, Enas is a mosaic artist.

An ILO project financed by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, BMZ, through KfW Development Bank, looked to the country’s rich history to simultaneously celebrate culture and create decent jobs. The ILO defines decent work as “productive work for women and men in conditions of freedom, equity, security, and human dignity.” In general, work is considered to be decent when it pays a fair income and guarantees a secure form of employment and safe working conditions.

The project is an employment intensive infrastructure project and emphasizes short-term job creation. Enas benefited from the intensive employment program, which enabled her to apply for vocational training courses. Although the majority of the project training courses focused on infrastructure, like highway and road maintenance and construction, two courses trained women in mosaic art in partnership with YWCA Amman.

The project began in 2016 and is currently in its fifth phase. It aims to provide skills through vocational training for Syrian refugees and Jordanians in host communities.

Skills development is part of Jordan’s Decent Work Country Programme, and vocational training is a sustainable way to achieve it. In 2021, the project successfully trained more than 453 workers.

Enas was a proud participant in one of those courses.

Enas’ daily life

“I’m using my skills to make products. That, combined with the money I’m making – I feel so much happiness.”

Enas is a 32-year-old mosaic artist who lives in Irbid, Jordan. She is married and has two sons and a daughter. Every day she wakes up at 5:30 a.m., prepares her kids for school, and takes some time to pray. Then, she catches two buses to get to her first job. The ride is 45 minutes in total. She works in a nursery for plants – a seasonal job that she started just a few weeks ago.

She works from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and then commutes back home. More praying, more cooking, and then her children come home from school. Enas is their teacher for the afternoon, from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. She prays again, plays with her kids, and helps them with their homework.

After dinner, she carves out a few hours to work on her mosaic art.

Enas’ childhood

As a young girl, Enas was the “fixer” in her house. Dextrous and smart, she was the one the family would call on to repair everything from electronics to fabrics. She’s good with her hands – always has been.

She is also passionate about sports. Whether playing or watching, she likes them all: handball, tennis, football, you name it. However, her parents discouraged her from pursuing sports as a career. Her second choice was science, but she couldn’t afford the textbooks. She studied English, instead.

Undeterred, she graduated from high school and went on to complete a degree in English literature and languages in university.

Enas and the mosaic course

“The money was good, the environment was good, and the management by the ILO was good. All things considered, it was better than teaching at a private school.”

Enas was not particularly interested in mosaics. However, when the ILO offered her a spot in a handicraft training course as part of a vocational training project, she decided that the opportunity was too good to pass up. She felt that the ILO’s multi-month programme would give her sufficient time to acquire new skills and complete proper follow-up to her training.

Despite having a university degree, she did not make enough money to support her family as a teacher in a private school. So, she said yes to the training course.

The bus rides to the training institution amounted to an hour and a half of travel. But, for Enas, the trip was worth it. For two months, for each day of attendance, she received a transportation allowance to get to the training centre, learn a new trade and prepare for a career in mosaic-making.

“I thank the ILO for selecting such a patient and professional trainer who started from scratch with us.”

After the theoretical, textbook-style part of the training, each participant received gloves, tools, and clothing so they could start making their own art. Enas picked up on the new skills quickly. She and her classmates were tasked with cutting mosaic stones in simple shapes, like triangles and squares, and then progressively moved on to more difficult designs. They spent hours cutting, gluing, and building.

Participants also studied the local market – supply, demand, and how to create the most coveted shapes and sizes. Their trainer helped them make connections with local shops where they could sell their mosaic art.

Enas and her current job

“I gave the first piece that I made to a friend as a gift. Then she asked me to make another one.”

Today, Enas has her own business. She has a certificate from the training course and a license to design and sell her own mosaics.

Following her graduation from the course, Enas took all her materials and knowledge and set out to work, especially during those elusive evening hours that she saves for herself. She gave away her first mosaic as a gift to a friend. Then, demand soared.

She decided to make an online shop on a popular e-commerce website. At the same time, she began approaching local shop owners to ask if they would like to stock her work. The project provided a list of mosaic stores in the area to all course participants, of which she took full advantage.

Of course, she faced difficulties. She had never marketed anything before, her business was brand new, and she was among many other female entrepreneurs who faced gender-related bias regarding women’s participation in the labour force. Despite all of the factors working against her, Enas found a way to make her gig work for her.

“This course opened my eyes to a lot of things.”
For Enas, having her own money changed her life. She finally has a job for which she is qualified and properly compensated. It’s a freeing feeling. Now financially independent, she can buy things for herself and for her children, as well as help pay the rent.

While she is still working part-time at the nursery, she looks forward to the day when mosaic making fully supports her livelihood. The nursery is temporary, seasonal; mosaics are her passion.

“My ambition is to grow a big company, become a trainer, and train other women.”
After the pandemic, wage employment was disrupted in Jordan. This project provided hope and practical training to improve self-employment prospects for Jordanians and Syrian refugees alike. Enas is a model for successful skills training and today has a renewed hope for a brighter future. Her drive, passion, and ambition, not to mention her impressive achievements in a short period of time, have set her up for success, no matter where life takes her next.