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Jewellery designer finds golden opportunity in women plumbers

By Sarah Al Arshani - Nov 05,2019 - Last updated at Nov 06,2019

Safaa Sukkariah runs a training academy for women, training them in the skill of plumbing (Photo courtesy of PlumbingJO Facebook page)

AMMAN — A misunderstanding that turned into an opportunity led an Irbid woman to establish a training academy for women plumbers, filling a gap in Jordan’s workforce. 

After moving to her husband’s hometown of Irbid from Syria more than five years ago, Safaa Sukkariah, signed up for what she thought would be a jewellery-making class. She had been a jewellery designer in Syria and wanted to continue her craft, but was surprised when she and a group of friends realised they had come to a plumbing class. 

She then discovered that the Arabic word “sabaka” for gold-casting was used for plumbing in Jordan. 

She saw an opportunity to learn, and stayed for the course. 

“I didn’t want to stay, but I felt that I could benefit,” Safaa told The Jordan Times on Monday. 

Realising the usefulness of these skills, Safaa began holding classes for women all across the country. Almost five years later, she had trained over 100 Jordanian and refugee women. Of those women, more than a third have since used their plumbing skills to earn a living. 

In 2018, Safaa opened her own plumbing academy for women in Irbid to help them learn the beneficial skill, eventually employing a few of them. 

She saw this as an opportunity for women to learn a skill that they could use at home, or to fill a need in the market. In February of this year, the academy was able to grant certificates to women who complete the course. It also helps women find jobs. 

“I’m positive they will benefit from it,” Safaa said. “Even if a woman doesn’t want to work, she can still solve her own problems at home.” 

The jewellery designer-turned-plumber explained that women in Jordan “may not always feel comfortable” with having a male plumber do repairs, or would have to wait till their husbands or male family members are at home to address plumbing concerns. 

Women plumbers could solve these problems and also earn a wage for themselves or their families. 

However, despite the popularity of her academy and the attention it has garnered, mostly from foreign media, Safaa says that she and the women she trains “still need more employment opportunities and support”. 

She explained that, while she may receive several calls for work on one day, she could go without any work for a week. 

The money the women receive from the jobs they do goes towards the upkeep of the company, but “a lot more is needed” for the organisation to grow. 

“We need people who call us for work,” Safaa said. 

With limited funds, she added, it is hard to create better channels for advertisement, such as an app or website, and the group mainly relies on word-of-mouth referrals. 

“It’s just the beginning of the road,” Safaa said. “It’s hard for people to start something new. But we’re trying.” 

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