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Jun 15, 2016

Fattoum, a Syrian Refugee, Shares Her Story

As the Syrian crisis enters its fifth year, millions of refugees continue to seek safety and a better future for their families in Jordan and Lebanon. Jordan hosts more than 600,000 Syrian refugees and in Lebanon, Syrian refugees now constitute 25 percent of the population. 

Out of necessity, women in many conflict and post-conflict areas find themselves as earners for the first time in order to support their families.

Take Fattoum, a 35-year-old woman who fled Syria with her family to Lebanon. “We left everything behind, we came here with nothing.” Her husband does not have a job, and together they have four children—one with cancer.

“Putting a meal on the table is a continuous challenge, the amount of money we spend on rent and medicine leaves us almost nothing for food.”

With NEF’s help, Fattoum is receiving training in small home-based business development and urban agriculture so that she can grow fruits and vegetables at home.                  

“I am an illiterate Syrian refugee woman. This program empowers me as a woman to become more productive and self-reliant. Our living situation is in dire need of such projects to lift us out of the extremely bad situations we are facing.” 

“Growing vegetables at home will help us save some money that can be spent on other things like medicine. NEF’s trainings will help me stand on my feet.” 

Women’s participation in the labor market continues to be necessary for helping reduce poverty and drive the economy as a whole. NEF assists Syrian and Iraqi refugees, and vulnerable members of their host communities, to achieve self-reliance through urban agriculture, small business development trainings, peer support networks, and savings and loan associations.

“NEF’s trainings provide us with a platform to meet new Syrian and Lebanese woman. The program gives us hope that we can provide a better life for our family.”

With diminishing humanitarian aid, we need your support now more than ever. Thank you for your continued support of the Near East Foundation, and for helping women like Fattoum and her family find safe and sustainable solutions to achieve food and financial security!


Apr 11, 2016

Empowering women in Armenia to achieve their dreams

In partnership with the Gegharkunik Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) and four community-based organizations (CBOs), NEF has made great strides in improving the protection, gender equality, agency, and economic independence for women survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) in Armenia. NEF’s work to empower survivors of GBV is becoming increasingly evident in the lives of our beneficiaries.

In a recent interview, Mary—a wife and mother who lives in Syunik Province—spoke to us about her own personal transformation as a result of participating in NEF’s project. For many years Mary was subjected to psychological and economic abuse, lacking economic and decision-making power in the household. She regretted not working and earning money after she married.

“It was my dream to be a hairdresser and earn money for myself,” she recalled. “My husband and his mother always thought it would be best if I focused my efforts on household chores alone. I eventually began to believe them, but now I see that if a woman stays at home all day, her relationships, professional networks, and worldviews will become limited even if she has skills or knowledge to offer. I am glad I chose to become involved in this programme, and develop my own business plan. Soon I will be able to get equipment and materials through the support of the project, which will enable me to pursue what I love while contributing to my family’s budget.”

NEF’s program, currently funded by the European Union, in Armenia equips survivors like Mary with the knowledge, skills, and support structures needed to start their own business or find sustained employment. Thus far, 59 women survivors across Yerevan and the Lori and Syunik regions have signed up to participate in the business development stream. Forty-eight have developed business plans and will receive support to start their small businesses in the near future. Fifty-seven women are enrolled in the employment development stream and will learn valuable skills needed to meet employer qualifications. Most of the women also receive vocational training in preparation for their new profession.

“My decision to participate has also gradually begun to change my family's view of me,” Mary explained. “They are starting to believe in my abilities and capacity to make decisions—to be more than just a housewife. This is a significant achievement for me. I don’t remember the last time I felt I could initiate something and succeed.’’

Thank you for continuing to support our work in Armenia—helping to make stories like Mary’s the rule and not the exception!


The names have been changed in this publication to protect the privacy and security of the individuals involved.

Mar 16, 2016

Syrian Refugees' Urban Gardens Thrive

Bourj Hammoud, a densely populated and diverse city on the outskirts of Beirut, Lebanon, is home to over 94,000 people from several ethnicities, nationalities, and religions. Living conditions in this suburb are very crowded and substandard. Commonly known through the years as the “hub for refugees”, Bourj Hammoud is now home to over 18,000 Syrians who have fled to Lebanon for a better life.

Most refugees have little to no source of sustainable income as their savings have been depleted—pushing them into risky coping strategies like child labor and exploitative, illegal, or demeaning work. With an aim to improve access to food and increase the economic resilience of at least 150 poor Syrian and Lebanese families over the coming months, NEF is focused on cost-effective solutions to achieve self-reliance through urban agriculture, small business development, financial literacy, and group savings.

NEF is working with the American University of Beirut (AUB) and the YMCA-Lebanon to help vulnerable families grow fresh fruits and vegetables at home by providing training and start-up materials for container gardening, vertical gardening, and/or rooftop gardening.

The very first woman to welcome the idea of urban agriculture into her home is Araxi. Araxi is a Syrian refugee who escaped the war three years ago. Like most Syrian refugees in Lebanon, she is struggling with insufficient financial resources as she and her husband try to put their two children through school, pay rent, and put food on the table.

After installation in early October, Araxi is already benefitting from the vertical garden which will yield enough onions, garlic, thyme, marjoram, and mint to use in her kitchen—reducing expenses she would otherwise incur purchasing these vegetables elsewhere.

“The kit was just recently installed, but the onion leaves are shooting, and my aunt and I already ate from them. On another note, the week I harvested the green onion leaves, I did not go to the supermarket to purchase onions or green onion leaves. In the long run, this will make a lot of difference.”

With diminishing humanitarian aid, your support is appreciated more than ever. Thank you for your continued support of the Near East Foundation, and for helping women like Araxi and her family find safe and sustainable solutions to achieve food and financial security!


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