Disability No Barrier To Work For Refugees
Shaikha leaves her home in Zaatari refugee camp at six o'clock each morning to catch a bus to her place of work at a nearby industrial zone. She works long hours behind a sewing machine producing clothing items for a Jordanian garment factory. She has been employed at the factory for almost a year, and says she couldn’t be happier. “I like my job and I cry if I miss a day of work.” Shaikha’s life has been marred by conflict, displacement and a physical disability. A few years ago, she began to suffer from hearing loss, which has worsened over time. She was also forced to flee her village of Elma on the outskirts of the Syrian city of Daraa after her house was destroyed during the fighting.
Since moving to Jordan in 2011, the 55-year-old has been determined to find work in order to gain a sense of independence and some income to support herself and her elderly husband. “I got a hearing aid when I moved to Jordan. I don’t understand anything without my hearing aid,” said Shaikha. “I have to buy batteries for my hearing aid, and they are expensive.”
She completed a six-month sewing course run by an international NGO in the hope of finding work. But she says that her age, disability and refugee status made it difficult for her to find employment. “There was no work available for me at the camp,” said Shaikha. “I would sign my name up in different places but I never heard back from anyone.”
Finally, in November 2018, ILO employment centres helped Shaikha find work at a garment factory. Situated in the Zaatari refugee camp and the Al Hassan Industrial Zone, the centres are part of thirteen Employment Service Centres (ESCs) set up across Jordan by the ILO, in close partnership with the Ministry of Labour, to facilitate career guidance, training opportunities and job matching services for both Jordanians and Syrian refugees in various sectors.
“I registered at the employment centre and I got a call from them a month later, saying there was work available at a factory,” Shaikha explained.
For Shaikha, travelling a total of 40 kilometres each day to the industrial zone and back was a challenge. She was delighted when the ILO partnered with “Straight Line for Apparel Co,” her employer, to provide a free bus service for camp residents to the factory. The service, which is available to another 21 refugees employed at the same factory, works in conjunction with factory-run buses which meet workers at the gates of the camp, and transports them to their place of work and back daily.
“Without this bus, I wouldn’t be able to go to work.”
The ILO has been setting up similar bus services to help residents in the camp reach other factories. It has also been supporting workers by providing them with transportation from inside the camp to its gates, where they can then access factory buses.
“These services are vital to ensure that workers can get to their place of work on time and without having to worry about additional costs or other complications,” said Maha Kattaa, the ILO’s Regional Resilience and Crisis Response Specialist. “We are proud of the progress made by Shaikha and many others like her who are determined to improve their lives through work, and we want to ensure that they continue to receive such support through our centres that promote better working conditions and quality of life.”
“We are proud of the progress made by Shaikha and many others like her.... we want to ensure that they continue to receive such support through our centres that promote better working conditions and quality of life."
For Shaikha, working at the factory and receiving a monthly wage has helped her gain a sense of empowerment. “I want to continue working… Maybe one day I will be able to rebuild my house in Syria.”