Writing by Patrick Keddie
As the fourth anniversary of the Syrian uprising passes, reduced support is pushing some Syrian families in Egypt towards dangerous choices.
CAIRO – “This place was full of life,” says Jan Abaza, coordinator of the Souriyat Association, as she walked through the empty rooms of the social centre for female Syrian refugees in Heliopolis, Cairo. Until last week Souriyat’s centre echoed with the sounds of playing children, while many rooms were full of women learning skills, attending psychological support sessions, or socialising.
Yet, because the centre’s funding from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) – via the umbrella organisation the Arab Organisation for Human Rights (AOHR) – was slashed, the services they used to offer have been cut almost to the bone.
The centre is only seven months old and there are few social centres like this for Syrian refugee women in Cairo. Souriyat runs vocational training projects, aimed at the most vulnerable women – often those with children and without husbands, who have a limited education and were unable to find work – to teach them skills. The funding cut has meant that small hairdressing and Syrian cookery projects have been scrapped. A sewing and embroidery project – which pays the participants a small salary to make bags and purses which are then sold at bazaars – was supporting 22 women; now the project has been cut to three, on a much-reduced salary.
Nour*, 41, has three children and lost her husband in the war. “Before coming here I had a lot of difficulties meeting people – Syrians or Egyptians,” she says. “I felt depressed at being a refugee and coming to the centre encouraged me to face life and helped me to cope and work.” Nour learned how to embroider and sew, and was making a small salary for her family. Now she no longer receives an income. Although she will keep sewing at home, it will be difficult without the material, social and psychological support from the centre. “I have lost my sense of stability,” says Nour.
[Read the rest of the article published by Middle East Eye here]