The Mohammadieh family fled Aleppo for Lebanon five years ago, when the Syrian war had just started to escalate.
It was the second time the family found themselves refugees—long ago they had come to Syria after being forced out of Palestine.
The Palestinian-Syrian refugee family settled in Burj El Barajneh camp in the suburbs of Beirut. They were lucky that all eight family members managed to escape the war.
Cultural differences in Lebanon posed challenges, however. “Back in Syria, I went to an all-girls’ school,” explains Fatima, their eldest daughter. “My parents were not comfortable enrolling me in a co-ed school in Lebanon.”
Fatima was only in the eighth grade when their lives were turned upside down and she left school. For five years, her education had completely stopped.
To respond to the injustice of Fatima’s plight, Anera has organized culturally sensitive gender-segregated courses at a local center in Burj El Barajneh camp. There Fatima has found girls just like her—out-of-school refugee youth, stuck in an unfair situation and trying to make the best of it.
“I really wanted to advance my skills,” says Fatima. “And I was even more excited when I learned there were courses in makeup and hairdressing.” She enrolled last April and a whole new world opened up to her.
Before joining the course, I couldn't leave my house. Now I go to classes and I've made new friends.
“The course includes theoretical and practical skills. The teacher explains and demonstrates how to do a specific style before we try it,” says Fatima. “We’ve also learned professional etiquette and how to deal properly with customers.”
Fatima’s course is part of Anera’s non-formal education and job skills program, which helps Syrian refugee youth get jobs in Lebanon. Courses offered include math, literacy, and a variety of vocational skills. The program is implemented in partnership with UNICEF and with funding from the German, British and Dutch governments. On the ground, Anera is also coordinating with hundreds of local partners in six different regions.
“Before joining this course, I couldn’t leave the house or to do any kind of activity. But now I go to classes and I’ve made new friends” says Fatima.
Fatima is one of almost 1,500 girls enrolled in Anera’s job skills courses. When the students complete their coursework, the top achievers will receive graduation starter kits including practical tools for the job. In Fatima’s case that would include items like hair dryers, brushes and makeup sets.
“I see this as an opportunity to independently support myself,” said Fatima. “Once I finish the course, I want to look for an internship that might eventually lead to a job.”