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[Photo Story] Jobs Changing Lives of Refugees and Locals in Sarhan, Jordan

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Jun 19, 2018 / 0 Comments

With the attendance of a committed group of 45 local governments’ representatives from Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, Turkey and Afghanistan, the Center for Mediterranean Integration (CMI) organized a training workshop for the Host Municipalities Learning Network (HMLN) on strategic planning for local economic development. As part of the program the CMI Refugees and Host Communities Program team arranged a special field visit to the small municipality of Sarhan with 26,000 inhabitants out of which 6,000 (nearly one quarter of the population) are refugees. This formerly active trading town - 2km across from the Syrian border with a shared special economic zone - is suffering from the border closure as much as the many Syrian villages on the other side.


This small municipality undertook amazing efforts to attract the private sector to invest and create jobs. It offers a good example to develop a more diversified local economy that provides job opportunities, including for women and youth in the forced displacement context. To get there, it established partnerships with the private sector to benefit from the presence of skilled Syrian refugees and to respond to the sharp rise in unemployment and poverty. A garment sewing factory and a pickles factory providing jobs for women have already been established. As a result - 750 jobs for Jordanian and Syrian people, mainly women were created.


This ongoing initiative with a focus on local economic development is being implemented through partnerships between the municipality, the private sector, donors and the central government. In the future, the Municipality of Sarhan is planning to create a craft area to host craftsmen that will attract more private investment and create jobs. A vocational training center will also be established within the craft area, to train and upgrade the skills of youth to work in the various businesses working in the area.


The project is undergoing the following steps:

  • Preliminary studies by the municipality to design the project scope and nature.
  • Consultations with the local community (citizens and refugees) to ensure their acceptance and support to the project.
  • Communication with the necessary public authorities to request approvals to proceed with the project.
  • Financing: the municipality reached out to donor agencies and organizations to finance the project (including under the World Bank-Administered Municipal Services and Social Resilience Project (P161982)).
  • Creation of a garments sewing factory (satellite factory for an international company) through partnership with the private sector and with support from the World Bank-administered Emergency Services and Social Resilience Project (P147689), and a pickles factory by selling municipal land to a Syrian investor.
  • A craft area for doing business and a vocational center are currently under construction on 15,000 m2.


This photo story shows Sarhan’s commitment to improving the Local Economic Development (LED) environment, and creating jobs in a forced displacement context.



In Sarhan, refugees make up about 23% of the population.

Concerned about the lack of job opportunities in the town, Sarhan municipality rose up to the challenge by adopting a proactive approach in attracting private investors.

This resulted in the creation of jobs for both Syrians and Jordanians.



One example is that of Mr. Al Qatari, a Syrian businessman who fled his country where he owned a pickles factory. He relocated his family and business to Sarhan.



Sarhan Municipality, sold a land lot to Al Qatari, allowing him to re-establish his factory and pursue his business.



Al Qatari’s son, Mohammed, insists on accompanying his father everywhere.



Alia and her friends work in Al Qatari’s pickles factory in Sarhan together with other Syrian refugees. “We are happy here”, she says, “we earn 220 JOD per month” (the minimum wage in Jordan).



Alia and her friends.



The factory produces all kinds of pickles, olives, and sauces.



Thanks to the initiative of Al Qatari and to the help of Sarhan municipality, 200 women and men, Jordanians and Syrians, now have jobs.



Hiba [nickname] fled Syria when the war broke out. Her husband is paralyzed with serious lung disease.

She is now the sole breadwinner of her family and the caregiver for five children “After three years in the Zaatari refugee camp”, she says, “I met Mr. Al Qatari.

He paid my house rent for two years, and after that, I started working for the first time in my life”.



An employee of the pickles factory, poses for a picture.



Another example of Sarhan’s municipality efforts to promote local economic development, is this garment sewing factory established by the municipality with the support of the World Bank and other international donors.



The factory run by the private sector created more than 200 jobs for Jordanian women, in addition to 100 indirect jobs.



Employees are on average women between 19 and 30 years old and they work 8 hours per day. Their monthly salary is 220 JOD (the minimum wage in Jordan).



Sherihan, 29, is a young Jordanian woman who has a job now thanks to the garments sewing factory.



Sherihan’s friend also insisted for a picture.



Hadeel, 23, also works in the garment sewing factory.



Khalaf Alassem, Mayor of Sarhan, is very glad of the partnerships with private investors from Jordan, Syria, and beyond.

He has an ambitious plan for creating more jobs through partnerships with the private sector. A complex is currently under construction and will host a crafts area for arts and craftsmen and a training center for young people.

In addition, the municipality has already identified land assets to rent to potential investors for further job creation.



More information about the CMI Refugees and Host Communities Program 

More information about the CMI Host Municipalities Learning Network

More information about the Municipal Services and Social Resilience Project 

Gilda Borriello

Gilda joined the CMI in September 2016 working for the Refugees and Host Community Program, where she supports the Host Municipalities Network’s activities and conducts research on the economic and social integration of refugees in host countries. Prior to that, she interned for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (anti-discrimination section) in Geneva, Switzerland, and volunteered in an asylum seekers’ reception center in Rixensart, Belgium. Passionate about migration issues and the Middle East, she holds a Bachelor degree in International Relations with a minor in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Naples “L’Orientale”, a Summer School degree in International Politics from the London School of Economics, and a Master Degree in Development Studies from the University of Bologna, where she defended a thesis on the economic integration of the Mediterranean region through migration. Gilda is fluent in Italian, English, and French, and has a basic knowledge of Arabic and Spanish.

Janette Uhlmann

Janette Uhlmann is the Senior Operations Officer of the Center for Mediterranean Integration since December 2013. She currently leads the Mediterranean Refugees and Host Communities Knowledge Action Program and works on fragility questions. Prior this assignment, Janette worked as Senior Country Officer in the Middle East Department, and Central Africa Department at the World Bank for 6 years. Janette started her career with the German Technical Cooperation on a regional program promoting good governance in North Africa. Janette holds an M.A. in International Relations and completed a Postgraduate Program in International Affairs with a focus on the Middle East. Her Ph.D. in International Comparative Politics discussed tradeoffs for European donors in Algeria’s democratic transition process. 

Thalia Rahme

Thalia is part of CMI communication’s team since January 2018. Prior to joining CMI, she constantly switched between journalism, communication and management of humanitarian or development related projects. In addition to that, she worked as a freelance liaison interpreter for refugees in Beirut. Thalia is fluent in Arabic, French and English but also working on improving her Spanish and Turkish. She holds a BA in Sociology and Anthropology and an MA in Information and Communication. She has a keen interest in citizen journalism and new medias. 


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