Empowered through heritage conservation

23-05-2022 12:23 PM

Ammon News - By Dana Almasri, UNESCO Jordan

Fatima used to be a math teacher in Syria. She lost her job during the war and eventually moved to Jordan with her husband and three children in 2013. She has been living in Irbid, north Jordan ever since.

Despite multiple attempts, Fatima was unable to find a job to support her family, with rising unemployment rates in Jordan and the COVID-19 pandemic which heavily impacted the livelihoods of Syrian refugees.

In October 2021, Fatima and other Syrian refugees were employed by UNESCO and ILO under the EU-funded MADAD project. The joint project provides short-term job opportunities to vulnerable Jordanians and Syrian refugees, orienting them to undertake maintenance, rehabilitation and small-scale conservation works at 6 heritage sites in the northern Governorates of Mafraq and Irbid.

Fatima’s tasks included cleaning the Roman street from invasive vegetation and developing trails to provide tourists with alternative routes within the site. To mitigate the impact of heavy rains on the monuments and trails, she also helped to construct drainage systems across the site.

During the pandemic, Fatima felt that her opportunities were limited as she had no job and was mostly at home taking care of her children. Though she had no previous experience in the cultural heritage field, Fatima’s involvement in the MADAD project helped her gain new skills and to explore her potential.

For the first time since her arrival in Jordan, Fatima regained her self-confidence. “I felt like aproductive and hard-working womanbecause of this opportunity to work in my host country. I paid off some of my accumulated debts and bought a tablet and e-learning cards to help my son attend online classes during the COVID-19 pandemic,” explained Fatima.

At the ancient Hellenistic-Roman site of Umm Qais, 187 Jordanians and 66 Syrians including Fatima were recruited to clean, stabilize and reconstruct some walls, fence the area, preserve the mosaic floors, construct resting areas as well as drainage pathways and create trails to make the site more accessible to tourists.

“I came to Jordan in 2013, but this is the first time I feel like a part of the community”, says Fatima.


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