I already posted about Rena Effendi and her project Pipe Dreams. She is definitely a photographer to follow, with many great projects behind her.
One of them is The Women of Zaatari Refugee Camp.
“Of the 124,000 people living in Zaatari, Jordan, the world’s second largest refugee camp, 54% are women and 42% of the families there are headed by women. The life of Syrian women in Zaatari is harsh and potentially dangerous – harassment is a reality and rape a nighttime possibility. The refugee women I encountered there told stories of death, deprivation, suffering and sacrifice. All of them went through major trauma of losing their homes and family members in the war. However, they refused to be portrayed as victims. As they struggle with the stigma of being refugees and cope with a loss of place and belonging these women showed remarkable resilience, definite dignity and an astounding ability to hope. They each had different ways to achieve some sort of normalcy in an inhumane situation – some by opening businesses, others by serving their community while always supporting each other. One woman I met there had even recreated – to the best of her ability – her kitchen from Syria in a small shipping container, where she lived in cramped spaces. It was the act of remembering that gave her the strength to survive.”
Schoolteacher Amal Hourani, 28 in Zatari refugee camp in Jordan. Hourani turned her volunteer teacher position into a paid job and now earns $310 a month. The first thing she bought with her paycheck was a washing machine.
Zeinab Dagher, 20. “I came here with my family, there are six of us. I used to study, to read, then I stopped and started doing this work.” She works in a tailor workshop from 8am to 6pm, five days a week. She gets paid $4 a day. “I didn’t want to do this in my life, I wanted to just continue reading and studying… Our house was hit 3 days after we left it. I wish I brought so many things with me, I wish I brought everything. I left everything behind and came here.”
Hadiyee Malak, 27, sits in a beauty salon, waiting to have her eyebrows threaded. She used to be a hairdresser in Syria but is not working in Zaatari. “It takes a lot of money to set a place like this up,” Malak says, explaining why she isn’t working in her trade. “It’s for financial reasons, to be honest with you.”
Em Odai, the owner of a beauty salon in the camp, with her two-year-old son, Odai. “Here, there is nothing,” she says. “We try and recreate some things from our past, we try, but it can’t be done. It is not the same. It’s just that when you remember, when you think back to Syria, everything about it is better, even its air. That’s enough for me – just to breathe its air again.”
Asil, 22, Nada, 22, and Siba, 24. The friends are Syrians who have been living in Jordan for years. They are university students, part of a group of 90, who are helping Syrian refugees living outside Zaatari adjust to their new lives. They rely on donations from family friends, and they also contribute $10 a month from their own pockets. They offer rent assistance to some families, gather and donate clothes, blankets and other essentials, as well as organize day trips for children to parks.
// all photos © Rena Effendi/INSTITUTE //
For more on this project, go to the INSTITUTE.
For more on Effendi and her work, go to her official website.