Make it, distribute it, sell it!
Young people in Rural Damascus make affordable detergents to support their community
“This initiative was like a spark that showed me a new way in life,”
Syria, Rural Damascus, June 2021 - “I always receive positive feedback from clients on my products,” said 21-year-old Zein Eddin, proudly, from his shop in the village of Shebaa, rural Damascus. At the shop, Zein makes and sells affordable detergents and hygiene products, a business he started eagerly after learning the profession during a youth-led initiative in the nearby city of Jaramana, rural Damascus.
The idea of training young people on making detergents came up as an initiative that followed a life-skills training at a UNICEF-supported youth center in Jaramana, rural Damascus. “Participants were discussing current problems in the community and were brainstorming to find solutions,” said Elias, a UNICEF-supported life-skills trainer at the center. During the discussion, the problem of less than optimal hygienic conditions at schools and the unaffordability of detergents and hygiene products came up. Gradually, that topic became central to the discussion and the group felt determined to do something about it.
“with COVID-19 still spreading, people need these products more than ever to protect themselves.”
“The group proposed receiving training on making those products themselves and distributing them to schools in the area,” added Elias, who arranged for the course right away. The training course, a first part of the youth-led initiative, attracted 180 adolescents and young people, who attend the UNICEF-supported youth center for life-skills and vocational training courses. Ali, a specialist in making hygiene products, was hired to teach the enthusiastic group how to make soap, alcohol and multipurpose cleaning liquids among other products. “Students are so eager to learn all about this profession,” commented Ali during one of the sessions.
“It’s not only the new knowledge that I’m excited about,” said Rahaf, 20 years old, as she filled antiseptic disinfectant liquid of her making in a little plastic bottle. “It also feels great that I’m learning this to help people in need,” she added. Aysar, 20 years old participant, said “with COVID-19 still spreading, people need these products more than ever to protect themselves.”
In addition to the social contribution of this initiative, many of the participants also recognize its importance for creating income generation opportunities. That was what it meant to Ina’am, 24 years old, who has been the sole breadwinner for her family since she lost her husband five years ago during the conflict in East Ghouta, rural Damascus. “I take vocational courses to help me make a living for my two children and my elderly father,” she said before adding, “this course has opened a new door for me.”
It is similar for Abdullah, 17 years old, who saw in learning how to make detergent products an opportunity to help ease the financial hardships his family had been suffering from since they fled their home in Deir-ez-Zor five years ago due to the violence. “My parents would be thrilled to know that they would not need to buy those expensive products anymore.”
In the second phase of the initiative, the group collaborated with fellow participants from the graphic design course at the UNICEF-supported centre, to produce hygiene awareness-raising posters. A part of the initiative’s fund was used to buy soap pumps, anti-lice shampoos and recreational kits. UNICEF also provided the initiative with reusable facemasks, all of which were distributed to schools alongside the youth-produced detergents. “This initiative was like a spark that showed me a new way in life,” concluded Zein Eddin as he welcomed a new client to his cozy shop.
Since November 2020, thanks to a generous contribution from Germany, more than 1,600 adolescents and young people have been benefitting from UNICEF’s life-skills training in Jaramana, rural Damascus. Over 900 of them led and participated in civic engagement initiatives.