Making Soap Gives Refugee Women A Fresh Start In Jordan

May 2017

I’m a freelance reporter and I have a story in which you might be interested. I’ve previously been published in Middle East EyeAl-Monitor and The National, amongst other publications.

Most historians believe that soap originated in the Levant, travelling to Europe via the Romans. In this region, there are two cities famed above all others for their production of soap – Aleppo, Syria and Nablus, Palestine. In Jordan, female refugees from Syria and Palestine are reclaiming these traditions as a way to earn their own living.

Many of the women involved in these soap-making collectives are the sole earners in their families, which is where their stories diverge from tradition into the 21st century world of displacement, poverty and camps. In Zarqa, we meet Najwa, better known as Umm Mahmoud. She calls herself a mother of two, but her son, from whose name she takes her moniker, was killed by regime forces in the first year of the Syrian revolution. Her husband was later arrested for inquiring into Mahmoud’s death. The injuries he incurred from four months in prison leave him still unable to work.

So Umm Mahmoud has taken the helm of the family, alongside her friend Wafa, whose soap-making is a lifeline for her family, plagued by chronic illness. In a Gaza refugee camp in Jerash, we meet Palestinian women whose stories of finding independence through soap are not so different from the Syrians in Zarqa.

I look forward to hearing back from you. I hope this story is something Women and Girls Hub would be interested in.