A Women's Oasis

by Bethanie Mitchell Zaatari refugee camp is home to 80,000 refugees from Syria and according to UN Women, 80% are women and children. UN Women, the organization supporting women’s rights, arrived in 2013 over a year after the camp came to fruition. Prior to their arrival, no one had focused on women’s issues. At first, they focused on the basic necessities, but now they host programs that support and empower Syrian refugee women. This is accomplished by hosting women’s committees with regular meetings to serve as interlocutors between the community, service providers and camp decision-makers. (UN Women). The three Oasis centers for women and girls, originally was farm land, but now is rented to Zaatari UNHCR through the Jordanian government. The Oasis centers provide economic opportunity and a community life for the women of Zaatari camp. Here they are ensured safety and continuation of their rights. Most of the women in the camp who were married had never worked outside of the home. At the Women’s Oasis, they either gained skills or used skills they previously had in order to make a better living for their families through cash for work programs. In addition, these working mothers have access to the Oasis childcare center. While skill training workshops and employment are offered, they also have the option to take courses in English, Arabic literacy, and computer classes. There are sewing programs which produce baby clothes and many other useful wares. The full service beauty salon trains women to do hair and makeup. They are then given employment on a rotating schedule, so all women accessing UN Women’s services get a chance to use their skills and benefit from work. Programs such as these, empower women and are helping to reduce family pressures created by displacement. The Syrian conflict has created economic struggles and loss of family members; putting intense pressure on the home life of many refugees inside the camp. These pressures are sometimes played out through domestic violence, child labor, early marriage and high rates of individuals and families returning to Syria. Women and children have found themselves more vulnerable to poor conditions and family violence since the beginning of the conflict in 2011. When UN Women arrived they began creating Safe Spaces for Syrian women where they can access protection referral services on issues from sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). They also involve boys and men in awareness-raising programs engaging them to take action in domestic violence response and prevention. Community based meetings and awareness such as this help to promote gender equality and solidarity; achievements that the UN Women initiated international campaign HeForShe is addressing. Though UN Women provides Sexual and Gender based violence (SGBV) protection and referral services, the organization believes the number of sexual and gender based violence cases in the camp is much higher than reported, because so few women actually come forward, due to the fear Jordanian authorities will deport the men back to Syria. Culturally, gender-based violence is a very difficult situation to address and few women will even speak to their close friends about such abuse if it occurs. A significant population of women accessing services through UN Women’s Oasis centers did come to Zaatari with their husbands and children, but many others lost their husbands in the Syrian conflict. Also, some husbands remained in Syria or others left to find work outside of the camp leaving many women in a position to manage their family’s future. The resources that the UN Women’s Oasis Centers are providing continue to create valuable life experiences for Syrian women and their children: encouraging them to be leaders in their family and community.

Journalism, Photojournalism, Writing
A Syrian woman in Zaatari Refugee Camp's Women’s Oasis beauty salon preps herself in the mirror.  The salon serves as a job training center and also an active place of employment for the refugee women of Zaatari.  Zaatari refugee camp is home to 80,000 refugees from Syria and 80% of them are women and children.  Since the camps inception in late 2012 UN Women has created programs that support and empower Syrian refugee women.
A Syrian refugee works at the daycare center in Zaatari Camp’s Women’s Oasis.  Zaatari refugee camp is home to 80,000 refugees from Syria and 80% of them are women and children.  Since the camps inception in late 2012 UN Women has created programs that support and empower Syrian refugee women.
A Syrian refugee who works at the Women’s Oasis child care center plays with a young boy on the basketball court.  Community involvement through activities benefit many Syrian refugee women and children.  Zaatari refugee camp is home to 80,000 refugees from Syria and 80% of them are women and children.  Since the camps inception in late 2012 UN Women has created programs that support and empower Syrian refugee women.
Syrian refugee seamstresses at the sewing workshop, which serves as a training center and also a cash for work program at the Oasis for Women.  Zaatari refugee camp is home to 80,000 refugees from Syria and 80% of them are women and children.  Since the camps inception in late 2012, UN Women has created programs that support and empower Syrian refugee women.
Syrian women at a hairdressing workshop that UN Women runs as a training center and also a cash for work program at the Women's Oasis inside Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan. Zaatari refugee camp is home to 80,000 refugees from Syria, and 80 percent are women and children. The Oasis for women and girls provides skill building, economic opportunities, and a community life for the women of Zaatari.
Beauticians from Syria prepare henna at a beauty salon that UN Women runs as a training center and also a cash for work program in Zaatari refugee camp’s Women’s Oasis.  Zaatari refugee camp is home to 80,000 refugees from Syria and 80% of them are women and children.  Since the camps inception in late 2012 UN Women has created programs that support and empower Syrian refugee women.
Senior camp assistant Jinan (left) helps Syrian refugee women at the administrative office of UN Women’s office in Zaatari Camp.  
Since the camps inception in late 2012, UN Women has created programs that support and empower Syrian refugee women. The Oasis for Women and Girls provides economic opportunity and a community life for Zaatari camps women, ensuring safety and a continuation of their rights.