March 6, 2024

Refugee women-led business scales from home-based to startup

Aya Emad, a Syrian refugee in Jordan since 2015, turned her passion for art into a business to sustain her family and contribute to her community. Facing challenges common to refugees, she found support through programmes like SPARK, enhancing her skills and accessing markets.

Aya Emad is a refugee from the war that has overwhelmed Syriains since 2011. In 2015, she settled in Amman, Jordan and made the decision to transform her love of art into a business venture. Aya felt driven to secure a source of income for herself and her family, while also contributing to the community where she resides. “We have skills. It’s important that we utilise them to sustain ourselves and contribute positively. Rather than being dependent, we can be valuable assets.”

Aya creates a range of distinctive designs, including hand-embroidered goods, woolen clothes and other items tailored to customer needs. Her pieces, crafted from various fabrics such as velvet, linen, leather and wool. She also sells hand-embroidered items, recycled goods, bags, home decor and more.

In Jordan, there are over 1.4 million Syrian refugees, with roughly half registered and half unregistered. Many, like Aya, have been in the country for an extended period. While some reside in camps on the outskirts of Jordanian cities, the majority, including 85% of Syrians, live in towns and cities throughout the Kingdom. Like Aya, their aim is to integrate into Jordanian society.

Many refugee women in Jordan begin with home-based businesses initially. However, transitioning from a home-based small scale enterprise into a scalable, formalised company requires different technical skills and resources. From enhancing the capacity to produce goods, access to new customers, markets and finance, as well as navigating registration and other legalities. As Aya explains, “Funding for refugee women is scarce. We do not prefer loans, but technical skills are essential as they help to seize opportunities.”

Aya joined one of SPARK’s programmes in Jordan for the second time, having previously participated in a project that facilitated her entry into the e-commerce platform, Souq Fann. Enrolling in the Skills, Training and Education Programme, financed by the Islamic Development Bank and Abdul Aziz al Ghurair Refugee Education Fund, provided her with specialised technical sessions in project management, digital marketing and financial management. “Starting as a home project, I lacked local market experience and customer reach, plus management knowledge. The sessions were vital for growth,” Aya explained.  

Aya is proud to have found a community of entrepreneurial minded women in Jordan and advocates for increased investment in women-led enterprises. “It was a long journey…but here we have a women-led business and we proved that we are equal with men and we complete each other.”