Sewing the seeds of friendship

Refugee and Jordanian women embark on tailoring course with support from UNHCR

The sound of laughter echoes from the downstairs hall of Nuzha Community Centre in East Amman. A group of women, among them Syrians, Iraqis and Sudanese nationalities are gathered amid a sea of fabric, tape measures and sewing machines. They are participants in a six-week training course to teach them sewing basics.  

Sawsan, a Jordanian tailor, standing at the front of the class, shares her expertise to the women, many of whom are refugees registered with UNHCR. She calls up Aseel, an Iraqi refugee who has lived in Amman for seven years, to present the work she has done since the last session; a new pattern design for a girls’ dress.  

“The origin of the training stemmed from requests we received from the community,” explains Linda, a Jordanian national who volunteers as part of UNHCR’s Community Support Committee (CSC) which determines which activities take place at the centre.  

In total, UNHCR Jordan operates 22 community centres across Jordan in partnership with Jordanian Hashemite Fund for Human Development (JOHUD) bringing refugee and host communities together. Each centre is advised by the CSC in order to reflect the needs of the surrounding community. CSC members also act as a bridge between UNHCR and refugee populations, referring cases that need support or communicating challenges.  

For Suaad, a 27-year-old Sudanese refugee who fled her home in Darfur to Amman four years ago, the centre and now the sewing course has been life-changing.  

“Psychologically we are tired. We have suffered a lot. In Sudan I didn’t complete my education. I barely know how to read. I want to learn something and make something of my life, that’s why I came here.” 

Educational, vocational, and training opportunities form the basis of many activities that are run at Nuzha Community Centre. But more importantly, it also provides a space where different communities can meet, and friendships can be formed.  

Suaad says coming to Nuzha has been transformational. “Before I was isolated. I only spent time with my husband and children. But here I have made friends. Not only other Sudanese people but also Yemenis and Jordanians.” 

Suaad’s experiences are echoed by many of the other women on the sewing course. For the last two weeks they have been coming together twice a week to learn new skills and meet new people. Mona, a Jordanian, says it has been nice to learn about other cultures, traditions and develop a different perspective about what refugees who are living in Jordan have gone through.  

Most of the women enrolled in the sewing course hope that at the end of the six-week program they might be able to set up their own small businesses and projects from home, tailoring and mending clothes for friends and neighbors.  

Suaad though, has even bigger dreams. “I want to open a shop and employ others one day. Jordan has given me everything. As refugees we are guests here, but if there are opportunities, we can do much more.”