The Women’s Program Association/Soufra
WPA is bringing new economic opportunities to women in Lebanon's Burj al Barajneh refugee camp.
According to the UN Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), two out of three Palestinian refugees in Lebanon live in poverty. Some 56 percent of refugees are unemployed and the jobs they do have are often unskilled positions that offer little job security.
The Women’s Program Association (WPA) serves nine out of 12 Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, including the Burj al Barajneh Camp where the organisation provides education and vocational skills training for women as well as offering microloans to members of the community.
Alfanar initially helped WPA to set up a new catering unit, called Soufra (meaning 'feast' in Arabic), to subsidise its social impact activities and provide employment to women in the camp. The unit has already recovered all its start-up costs, improved its offering and is working to make a name for itself in Lebanon's highly competitive catering market.
In December 2015 we ran a successful crowdfunding campaign to buy Soufra's first food truck, to help it generate a steady stream of income. After coming to the attention of acclaimed filmmaker Thomas Morgan and executive producer Susan Sarandon, the inspiring Soufra story has since become an award-winning feature length documentary. SOUFRA was released in 2017 to critical acclaim; watch the trailer here.
WPA started providing microloans to women in the camp in 1998 with an initial donation from UNRWA. With Alfanar’s investment, WPA’s microloan activity has grown steadily and has become open to the growing population of women refugees in the camp. Additionally, WPA is actively running a social fund group to encourage a smaller group of women to develop sound savings and loan behaviour amongst one another. Both activities are steadily helping women increase their household incomes.
Child Care Centre
Following the community's request, Alfanar is now supporting WPA to set up a Child Care Centre in the Burj el Barajneh refugee camp. This will not only provide the next generation of refugees in the camp with high quality early-childhood education, but will also allow more women to pursue employment and financial self-sufficiency.