In Jordan, entrepreneurship skills help weather the economic storm

Female participant for entrepreneurial skills scheme
Amira Rizk Abu Bqeira is one of 60 participants in a scheme that taught her entrepreneurial skills, as part of several livelihood and income-generating programmes. Photo: UNDP/Jordan

Refurbishing damaged diapers from a nearby factory may not be everyone’s cup of tea — but for Amira Rizk Abu Bqeira and members of her community, who have begun to feel the strain of an influx of refugees from Syria, cloth nappies are proving to be a business niche that may protect them from sinking into poverty.

Highlights

  • 80 businesses will have been funded and set up by the end of the year
  • 60 Jordanians trained so far, with US $6.85 million to support the training and funding of potential entrepreneurs
  • Implemented with the Government of Jordan, NGO partners Ruwwad For Development, Ruwwad Micro-Venture Fund, Jordan Career Education Foundation, ACTED and REACH, as well as the Centre for Strategic Studies/Jordan University and Yarmouk University

As thousands of refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria continue to pour into Jordan, life for 38-year-old Amira and her husband has become difficult. With four children to support, they, like many Jordanians, face overcrowded conditions, unaffordable accommodation, and a strain on local resources and infrastructure. To make matters worse, the refugee influx is causing investment to flee, prices to rise and increased competition for local jobs.  

However, since UNDP selected Amira, along with 60 other participants for a scheme that taught her entrepreneurial skills, she is on her way to becoming the local queen of diaper repair.

As part of several livelihood and income generating programmes, the course covers such subjects as financial planning, marketing, product sales, environmental sustainability and social impact. The project is helping Amira take advantage of a business idea she had some time ago. With 6,000 JOD (approximately US $8,500) that she received at the end of the training course, she is setting up a business that obtains defective diapers from a local factory at low cost, repairs and repackages them, and sells them at a fraction of the cost of well-known brands.

“This training is an opportunity for housewives who did not have professional experience to enter the labour market,” Amira says. “The challenging economic situation pushed me to enroll, so I can help my husband, who is unemployed, and the families in my community lead a better life.”

Since April 2013, UNDP has been providing support to vulnerable host communities affected by the influx of Syrian refugees in the two northern governorates of Irbid and Mafraq.

“Syrian refugees now make up approximately 10 percent of Jordan’s population,” says Nadia Al Awamleh from UNDP. “This influx could change the demographic balance in host communities, stoke social tensions and increase competition for already scarce resources across the region. To prevent the conflict from causing more instability, UNDP is helping countries affected by the crisis by assisting local authorities and host communities to build resilience, earn more money and escape poverty."

Once the 60 participants, of whom roughly 40 percent are women, complete their training, 16 of the most promising micro-business ideas receive 6,000 JOD in funding. Those who did not receive funding are given help in soliciting money from other potential funding institutions. The project will establish and fund a total of 80 micro-businesses across Mafraq, Ramtha and Irbid by December 2014.

"Now I am familiar with marketing production and I know how to run my business. I can also employ people surrounding me, including my family,” Amira says. Part of her business plan involves employing those who need it the most. “I also plan to employ women who are facing very difficult life conditions, such as divorced or unemployed women and widows. This way they can help their families and kids improve their living conditions.”

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