From where I stand: “I am a female Community Leader raising women’s awareness and advocating for their rights.”

Azraq Refugee Camp is home to 35,709 Syrian refugees, with one in four households headed by women. Torfah Ahmad utilizes her position as a female Community Leader to advocate for women’s issues and the rights of Syrian refugees. In 2016, UNHCR set up women’s committees within the four villages of Azraq Camp, Ahmad is one of six female Community leaders and has been successfully re-elected by her district for the past three years. She has taken leadership, capacity building and awareness sessions within the UN Women Oasis to enhance her position as Community Leader. She is now encouraging other women to run for Community Leadership positions during the election period every six months and balances her work as a Community Leader with her position as a Supervisor in the UN Women Oasis Centre, which builds women’s resilience and empowers them as leaders, workers and entrepreneurs.

Date: Monday, July 29, 2019

Torfah Ahmad, 46, utilizes the skills she learned as a Supervisor in the UN Women Oasis to fulfil her duties as a Community Leader for her district, in Azraq Refugee Camp. Photo: UN Women/Lauren Rooney

QuoteI am a female Community Leader raising women’s awareness and advocating for their rights in Azraq refugee camp. I am proud of the position that I am in today, but it has taken tragedy and war to get here.

My journey in life over the past five years has not been pleasant. My family and I ran in terror from one city to another. The distance of our beloved home and memories became obscure from the destruction of war. Until this day, I still have nightmares about what we witnessed.

In 2016, I made it to Jordan with my six children and my husband. We had become refugees. It was hard to adjust to this new life in the beginning. Then, I recognized that I had a beautiful community forming around me.

It was not long before I developed a bond with my surrounding neighbours. We would discuss our issues together. I would help them get through what they were going through and, in turn, they helped me.

The Women’s Committee and Community Leadership Initiative was set up in the camp as a way to bring issues to the camp management from the refugees themselves. To my surprise, I was elected by my neighbours and district to become the female Community Leader.

It is now coming up to three years holding the position of a Community Leader. My duties include: holding weekly district meetings, attending camp management discussions and learning from awareness sessions for knowledge distribution in my district.

I support 15 families within my neighbourhood and attend regular community meetings within my district. Every week I set a time for all of the women in my neighbourhood to come and meet in my caravan to either give an awareness session or to discuss pending issues.

The most prevalent obstacles women address at present are the lack of transportation and jobs available for them in the camp setting. I make it my duty to advocate for these in all of the meetings that I attend.

My job as a Supervisor at UN Women has supported me in my success as a Community Leader. The awareness sessions that I have been able to attend here have continually enhanced my capacity and growth to speak to women about sensitive issues and allow them to learn too.

The Oasis has become my second community, which I look after. The women here are extremely important to me and if I can help them to face issues in their districts, I try my best to do so.

It is incredibly important to have women in these positions. Women understand other women and what they are going through. They can talk about issues that they never could with a man. There are often oversights from men when it comes to women’s issues.

I am excited about the future and the possibilities of creating one which fosters women and their capabilities. I recommend more women to come forward for these positions because you can truly make a difference for women, their rights and their future.”

SDG 5: Gender equality
SDG 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions

Torfah Ahmad, 46, is a Syrian refugee living in the Azraq camp in Jordan, where she benefitted from the leadership and capacity building skills she has learned at the UN Women-run “Oasis Centre for Resilience and Empowerment of Women and Girls”. In turn, she is trying to engage other women to run for Community Leader positions. The programme has received generous funding from the Governments of Finland, France, Iceland, and Italy  as well as Zonta International Foundation and UN Women National Committees. Ahmad’s story relates to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16, which promotes peace and security, as well as SDG 5 on gender equality and women’s empowerment.