A Step Towards Empowerment for displaced Mothers

64 per cent of internally displaced families have no sources of income

UNICEF Yemen
Empowerment for displaced Mothers
UNICEF/UN0591167/ALfilastini
03 March 2022

“If I work well, I’ll become a famous tailor, a professional one. More and more people will want to buy the clothes I make”, says Haneen Yahya, 25, who was displaced from Al Hudaydah to Aden in Yemen. Haneen is one of the participants in a UNICEF-supported workshop in Al-Sha’ab Camp no. 1 in Al Buraiqeh, Aden, where mothers are taught how to sew to gain a source of income.

Although she looks very confident when saying this, sewing was never a natural part of her life before moving here with her husband, her children and disabled mother. “My mother is a tailor. She can sew well. She used to tell me to learn sewing when I was younger, but I never thought about it. I used to live comfortably in my hometown”, she explains with a spark of melancholy in her eyes.

When she heard about the workshop in the camp, it took Haneen a few months to sign up. “I used to come and see the workshop, but I did not feel like joining it. I had no idea about sewing, and I did not even know how to put a thread in a needle. I thought sewing was tough,” she says. But life caught up with her. “Then life got tough, and my mother became disabled. I had to learn sewing here; I have children to provide for. My husband is a daily laborer. He works when he gets a chance to provide for us and our children,” she says. But that is not enough. "Life in the camp is harsh. On some days, we cannot put bread on the table,” she adds.

“Now, I can sew curtains, pillowcases, and robes. I can also sew Indian suits, pajamas, dresses, and baby clothes. I learned so many things!”, she says happily. “I feel like I am taking a step toward improving my everyday life. I am no longer helpless,” she adds with smiling eyes.

After personal efforts were put into initiating this project, UNICEF supported the workshop with six sewing machines, and a lighting system powered by solar energy. These sewing machines have become the main source of income for many displaced mothers and their families.

Empowerment for displaced Mothers
UNICEF/UN0591182/ALfilastini
UNICEF provided a Mother-to-Mother club in Alshaab IDP camp in Aden with sewing machines to help mothers support their families through learning a craft

The sewing workshop is not only a place where mothers meet to learn sewing, but also a venue where a Mother-to-Mother club conducts awareness-raising sessions. This club educates participants on health and hygiene issues. By promoting positive health practices, it aims at changing behaviors.

Nusaiba Abdel-Baqi is the supervisor of the Mother-to-Mother club and the director of the IDP Women Development Centre. She is also a displaced woman from Taizz Governorate. "We work on raising awareness of several key messages to change health behaviors of displaced persons and help save their lives from any health risks they may face. We also educate them on the importance of giving primary vaccinations to their children, on COVID-19 in general and its vaccine,” she explains.

“I am overjoyed by the workshop’s success because it gives women the ability to be self-reliant. I am convinced that developing their skills will allow women to get a more optimistic outlook on their future,” says Nuseiba.

Empowerment for displaced Mothers
UNICEF/UN0591170/ALfilastini
Nusaiba works in the C4D program and also teaches mothers to sew as part of the training courses provided at Al Shaab Camp 1 in Aden Governorate

Because of the conflict, many Yemenis have fled their hometowns seeking safety in sites for internally displaced persons (IDP). Not only are they facing dire living conditions but also a severe lack of services to meet their basic needs. According to an assessment conducted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 64 per cent of internally displaced families have no sources of income. As a result, two out of three internally displaced families resort to negative coping mechanisms to survive, including limiting food intakes, skipping meals, pulling their children out of school, or neglecting their health. Some of them may end up street begging.

Haneen concludes on a positive note: “My living conditions are slightly better than before and coming here is better than staying at home doing nothing. I have learned skills I can work with”.