Story of Mays El Reem

After years of living in the Zaatari refugee camp, Mays El Reem had high hopes of gaining the knowledge, certification, and financial independence to become a productive member of society. “Women can be professional makeup artists; women can be anything they want, as long as they set their mind to it,” she says.

Mays El Reem Al Bakir is a 26-year-old Syrian refugee who was displaced from her hometown at 16. When the conflict broke out in 2011, she had no choice but to adapt to the new challenges facing her and her family.

“I was in denial at first. I was still processing that our home was demolished, and we had nowhere to go! I had to leave my family and friends behind. We had to adjust to life in the Zaatari refugee camp in northern Jordan. It was not an easy chapter in my life”, says Mays El Reem.

After years of living in the Zaatari refugee camp, Mays El Reem hoped to become a productive community member. She wanted to develop the knowledge and skills that would lead to a certification and help her to find work and financial independence. The Qudra 2 programme supported her with a scholarship that provided her with that opportunity.

Mays El Reem heard about the Qudra 2 programme scholarships from her friend in 2020. She applied without hesitation and was accepted. “I chose the beauty programme, as I wanted to be part of something new and challenging”, Mays El Reem said, adding, “women can be professional makeup artists, women can be anything they want as long as they set their minds to it”.

The training course she applied to was provided by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), supported by Enabel, a partner in the Qudra 2 programme.

Along with the training courses in Jordan, Qudra 2 promotes the Work-Based Learning (WBL) methodology to help beneficiaries acquire new competencies based on today’s labour market needs. The WBL methodology connects participants with workplaces to ensure the experience of a real-life dynamic work environment.

Though she chose marriage over completing her secondary education, Mays El Reem remained determined to develop her skills at every opportunity. Her story continues, “My husband was my rock: he promised to support me to continue my education once we had settled in our own home. When we did, he bought me all the books and stationery to prepare me for the big exam. Months later, I sat the secondary examinations again and obtained my certificate despite the challenges and the fact that I had a 5-month-old daughter to take care of”.

Mays El Reem also benefitted from a life skills course, which helped her set priorities and long-term goals and use her time effectively. “This course made me a better person and a self-motivated thinker. I became more positive and improved my mental health”.

After completing the course, Mays El Reem received funds from a UN organisation, which allowed her to open her own beauty salon. “I learned a lot by working independently. People around the refugee camp started trusting me and referring to me as their first resource for any beauty tip”.

After finishing her scholarship with the Qudra 2 programme, Mays El Reem was asked to train beneficiaries of the beauty programme at the NRC training centre in the Zaatari refugee camp. “When I received that phone call from the NRC team announcing the good news, I felt this was the start of a new phase in my life”.

“My second milestone is to sign up for higher-level training programmes in the beauty and makeup domain. I want to build my capacity further and stay on top of the latest international trends. I usually watch makeup and beauty tutorials online when I put the kids to sleep to keep up to date with the latest styles in the industry. I need to stay looped in to make it to the top, fingers crossed,” concluded Mays El Reem.

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