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Tech-based initiatives seek to empower Syrian refugees, local communities

By Dana Al Emam - Mar 16,2017 - Last updated at Mar 16,2017

Participants attend a pitching event as part of a tech-based initiative implemented by Tech Tribes and the UK-based International Alert in Amman on Thursday (Photo by Dana Al Emam)

AMMAN — Seeking to mitigate the repercussions of the Syrian crisis on local communities, a new project is helping young Jordanians and Syrian refugees through tech-based initiatives.

Implemented by Tech Tribes and the UK-based International Alert, the project has engaged 15 young men and women between the ages of 17-22, from Irbid and Mafraq governorates, as well as the Zaatari Refugee camp.

The project offered a platform for participants to discuss priority needs in their war-affected communities, as well as ways to enhance social cohesion and peacefulness, in light of the increasing social and economic pressures their communities are facing, Tech Tribes Executive Director Khaled Hijab said on Thursday, at an event marking the graduation of participants.

“It is important to acknowledge that peace-building in not exclusive to wars… it is a necessary everyday life skill,” he said.

Participants, who lack previous knowledge or experience in business development, were engaged in a boot camp to generate ideas, followed by a two-month training and mentorship programme to develop  initiatives addressing their social challenges, and design a social environment more tolerant to diversity.

“While participants form an understanding of why everyday challenges are on the rise in their own communities, we come to expose them to possible innovative solutions that could help mitigate their impact. In this process, they get to meet likeminded professionals and social innovators,” said Hijab. 

Participants on Thursday pitched their ideas to potential investors and donors.

One project, developed by three participants from Mafraq, seeks to create a safe tech-supported learning and working space for women in the governorate, as they tend to face difficulties in accessing Internet-equipped facilities.

Another project seeks to develop a mobile application for users with moderate  intellectual disabilities, which would help stimulate their mental capacities through games.

A third initiative aims to provide “constructive” media content through an online streaming television, as an alternative channel to outlets that broadcast hate content.

The pitching event was an opportunity for participants to network with potential investors, who will support participants in developing their ideas and coming up with their income-generating plans, Hijab told The Jordan Times.

He noted that 60 to 70 per cent of participants were Syrians who may have fears of entering the job market due to their nationality, adding that developing such projects will help them integrate into the labour market.

For her part, Ruth Simpson, senior programme design and assessment officer at International Alert, highlighted the role of technology in bringing about social change and developing social cohesion.

Project Specialist at Oasis500 Raya Omari, commented on project ideas she witnessed at the event, noting that life in a less-served governorate did not hinder young people’s potentials.

She noted that participants have shown remarkable progress over a two-month training period, stressing that they have taken the first step on the ladder to success.

 Tech Tribes is an organisation that helps non-profits and cause-driven groups in architecting low-cost and replicable interactive tech solutions, to help them solve community issues, and enhance public participation, according to its website.

 

International Alert is an international organisation working with communities to develop alternatives to violence through supporting community resilience and helping people find non-violent solutions to conflicts and tensions, its website said.

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