Proud in Blue: Farah AlSadi

Meet some of the staff working for UNHCR Jordan. On International Women’s Day, Farah AlSadi explains why women’s empowerment is so important for protecting the environment in Jordan.

I joined UNHCR Jordan in 2016 and since then have worked across the organization in different units such as Registration, Protection, CBP, and currently, External Relations. Being based in Mafraq and Irbid, two cities in the north of Jordan that have large Syrian refugee populations, I get to hear people’s stories everyday and raise awareness of the needs of the refugee community.

Personally, I first heard about climate change ten years ago. I was interested in learning more about the effect it has on our lives. I was shocked.

As a Jordanian, I come from the second poorest country in the world in terms of water resources. And this problem is only increasing because of the high temperatures and droughts caused by climate change. It is clear we all need to work to protect the resources that we have.

Learning these things prompted me to change some of my behaviors, to be more friendly with the environment, buy clothes from second hand shops and minimize using plastic; which I can tell you is not that easy in Jordan.  I also committed myself to raising awareness about the importance of protecting the environment among my family, friends and at work.

The importance of women’s leadership is critical for environmental sustainability.

In Mafraq, Irbid and Zaatari Camp there are almost a quarter of a million refugees. Half of them are women who are often the ones in charge of running their houses and managing the available resources. Targeting women to increase awareness about climate change and the importance of recycling is also important to pass on environmental messages to their children and the next generation.

Zaatari Camp is also home to the largest solar power plant in a refugee camp in the world. It provides refugees with clean energy up to 14 hours per day. Through publicizing the importance of clean energy among the refugee community through our stories and videos, we are now seeing some refugees build their own solar power plants within their shelters and encourage each other to do so.

The same can be said for encouraging refugees on how to use grey water in watering their gardens and plants at home. When there are recycling campaigns or clean-up initiatives happening in the camp, I always try and participate and document it to raise awareness on the importance of the environment.

Over the ten years of the Syria crisis, I believe the mentality and knowledge of refugees about the importance of preserving and maintaining their environment has changed significantly. There is still work to do, as well as within the Jordanian community, but we shouldn’t take these things for granted.

At UNHCR itself, there are many initiatives to go green. We are switching to electrical vehicles and implementing more environmentally friendly practices, such as water recycling and more efficient AC’s. In the Irbid field office, we have also set up an initiative with the wider municipality to encourage recycling. The Irbid waste sorting plant is a great example of this, where waste is converted to positive energy such as through cardboard recycling and composting. Refugees themselves have been able to find jobs as a result of these initiatives.

One of the aspects of our work which I find most interesting is hydroponics. The hydroponic system, allows you to grow plants without soil and uses 75 percent less water than traditional agriculture.

Many refugees in Jordan come from a farming background. Syria is a green country, and the Syrian people are used to farming plants in their houses. In contrast, Zaatari Camp is in the middle of the desert, so it’s difficult for plants to grow.

Hydroponic projects, therefore, have been established in the camp, in cooperation with Sheffield University, to give refugees the opportunity to grow fruit and vegetables at home. The hope is that these can eventually be scaled-up to a stage where the community will even be able to sell and make an income from the produce that they grow.

Because of all of this, I am pleased that the theme of International Women’s Day this year is “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.” Women play an important role in calling for climate action. This is even more evident among the refugee women who I have filmed and interviewed during my time working with UNHCR Jordan.

There are a wealth of actions we can all take to foster equality and build a greener world and refugee response.

It just needs a small push to start with small things to grow into something much much bigger.