RI Advocate, Izza Leghtas, speaks to a Syrian refugee in Jordan.

RI Advocate, Izza Leghtas, speaks to a Syrian refugee in Jordan.


In Jordan, one quarter of Syrian refugees are women who face particular challenges when it comes to accessing work, and many are heads of their households. Most refugees in Jordan live in urban settings where they face challenges accessing childcare and safe transportation and providing food and shelter for their families. They must work for a stable income.

To do so safely and care for their families, many Syrian women prefer to open their own home-based businesses.

Currently, only 5% of work permits granted to Syrian refugees in Jordan were given to women. One challenge is that until very recently, the Jordanian government required Syrians to have a partnership with a Jordanian national in order to open a home-based business.

Lara*, a Syrian entrepreneur I met in Amman last June, told me that this was a difficult requirement to meet.

Some Jordanians are afraid to do it because [of their fear that] the Syrian [partner] will go to another country, or be sent back to Syria, and leave the Jordanian with the business,” she said. “Some people ask for money to do it. And there are also Jordanians who took everything and left.
— Lara

On my mission to Jordan I saw this challenge play out for many of the women I met. Along with other advocacy organizations and institutional actors, we called for a change in the Jordanian policy that we identified is particularly important for women: Syrians must be allowed to operate businesses from home with the requirement of a Jordanian partner.

Soon after we recommended this change, the Jordanian government issued a decision allowing Syrians to operate home-based businesses without a Jordanian partner for the food processing, handicrafts, and tailoring sectors; areas of work that are particularly attractive to the Syrian women I met.

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RI Recommendation

Repeal the requirement for Syrians registering home-based businesses to have a Jordanian partner. This change would facilitate self-reliance and the participation of refugees, particularly women, in the formal labor market.

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Jordanian Government Decision

During a Ministerial Meeting held November 7, 2018, the Council of Ministers decided the following with regards to Syrian home-based businesses…Outside Refugee Camps: Allow Syrians to operate home-based businesses in the following sectors: food processing, handicrafts and tailoring based on the licensing regulations of home-based businesses professions within Greater Amman Municipality and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs.

We are delighted that this obstacle has been removed by the Jordanian government. The reality is that Syrian women, many of whom are heads of their households, need to make an income. The opportunity to work legally in areas that they know (food processing, handicrafts) helps them provide for themselves and their families without fearing that they are working illegally.

As Refugees International continues to advocate for the rights of refugees, particularly refugee women, Jordan has become an important example of positive change. We will continue to advocate for right-to-work policy changes and look forward to seeing how such changes transform the daily lives of refugee women around the world.

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*Names have been changed to protect privacy.