Syria: Equipping Women to Earn a Living

July 15, 2021

An IOCC-supported workshop in Rural Damascus, Syria, is helping local returnee women learn new skills and earn income by preparing, processing, and selling traditional food. Updates and repairs to the building (left) and the outdoor space (right) will support expanded production and sales.

“Working [here] has helped me regain my life after the harsh experience of displacement,” said Nour (pseudonym). “I can now support my family and afford medication for my parents, who are both ill. I have also gained a great deal of experience in food processing.”

Nour is a Syrian returnee who is part of an IOCC-supported food-processing workshop in a village of Rural Damascus, Syria. In the workshop, local women train to produce and sell traditional food, acquire marketing skills, and earn incomes to help support their families.

The conflict in Syria overtook Nour’s village and led many of its residents to flee. Several years later, some are returning to slowly rebuild their lives. This food-processing workshop has been part of that revival.

At local women’s request, IOCC partner the St. Ephrem Patriarchal Development Committee (EPDC) set up the workshop, equipping it with the basics and initially employing eight women. IOCC recently helped expand the workshop, renovating the space for more efficient production and adding essential new equipment, including a refrigerator and freezers. These changes will allow the women to produce, store, and sell a wider range of foods, including traditional dairy products like cheese and labneh. IOCC funding also helped repair the workshop’s outdoor area, turning it into a cafeteria where visitors can enjoy the village’s traditional food and buy food prepared in the workshop. Some 25 women now work there, and their products are sold both on-site and in two nearby shops, as well as in the old city of Damascus. In addition, the workshop is helping revive the area’s economy by purchasing produce and other raw materials locally and from surrounding villages.

With growing production, increasing sales, and bright prospects, this modest workshop is a hopeful sign as Nour and her neighbors work for a brighter tomorrow.