Mariam Tawfeeq is one of the few women who work as plumbers in Jordan.

Mariam Tawfeeq is one of the few women who work as plumbers in Jordan. She joined one of Oxfam’s projects to support her family. Photo: Abbie Trayler-Smith/Oxfam

A small country with a population of 10.2 million, Jordan has for decades been a haven for refugees. The kingdom has absorbed waves of people fleeing regional crises since 1948 ­— including Palestinians, Iraqis and Syrians, among others. Jordan has few natural resources and is among the driest countries in the world; severe water scarcity is a challenge to development and makes Jordan highly sensitive to climate change. 

The influx of Syrian refugees over the past decade has compounded existing challenges, including high unemployment and a burgeoning youth population. Currently, around 1.3 million Syrians live in Jordan, mostly in cities, increasing the demand for energy, education and health services and the pressure on infrastructure and resources.

Unemployment surged during the COVID-19 pandemic among youth and women, a worrying deterioration in a country where female labour force participation was already among the lowest in the world. Rates of gender-based violence rose during strict lockdowns. Women in Jordan face barriers in accessing protection and justice, and they have less access than men to income and resources.

Despite these challenges, Jordan has shown remarkable resilience, continuing to embody tolerance and stability in a turbulent region.

Oxfam in Jordan

Oxfam has been in Jordan since the 1990s. We work with local partners for a future where everyone can reach their full potential, especially women and young people. We provide essential humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees as well as vulnerable Jordanians, while promoting longer term sustainable solutions to challenges facing Jordan.

Our work in Jordan focuses on three areas: economic justice; gender justice; and emergency water, sanitation and hygiene and water governance. Working with a one program approach, we use the evidence our projects generate to inform our influencing work – from seeking to change behaviours to laws and policies in close coordination with other actors including the UN, local civil society and local authorities.

Economic justice

Alongside our partners, we help Jordanians and refugees in all parts of the Kingdom to access jobs, start businesses and become entrepreneurs, especially women and young people. We do this through mentoring and vocational and technical training, and by improving access to information about economic opportunities. We also help businesses create jobs by providing incubation, technical assistance and access to finance.

Through our research and advocacy work, we push for policies that are inclusive of refugees, women and people living with disabilities, and for decent, safe work and a living wage.  

During the prolonged COVID-19 lockdown, Oxfam provided cash to help the poorest Jordanians and refugees buy food and other basic needs, using digital technology.


Over the past five years, more than 7,000 people have been employed because of Oxfam’s activities, nearly half of them female.


We’ve trained hundreds of women in soft and vocational skills and helped more than 100 women to start businesses.


We’ve supported more than 300 enterprises, including 51 social enterprises who received 1.4 million euros in grants.

Gender justice

Women are at the heart of everything we do at Oxfam. With our Jordanian partners, we work for a future where all women can realize their life choices and enjoy their rights freely, without violence or fear. Areas of focus include unpaid care work and the provision of legal aid.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we worked to make sure women at risk of violence could still access health and protection services. We supported shelters and hotlines run by our partners and provided cash to women at risk of violence to help them meet their basic needs.

Oxfam also works to improve and advocate for better access to Sexual and Reproductive Health services. We support local organizations to address harmful norms and behaviours that prevent women and other vulnerable groups from realising their rights and we advocate with stakeholders for better laws, policies and services to protect and empower women. 

Emergency water, sanitation and hygiene, and water governance

Oxfam works to make sure everyone in Jordan can meet their basic water and sanitation needs. We seek sustainable solutions to challenges in Jordanian communities by supporting water conservation, helping to improve management of waste and promoting hygiene.

We operate recycling centres in Mafraq governorate and in Zaatari refugee camp, reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills and helping to keep the environment clean. This initiative provides work opportunities for vulnerable Jordanians and Syrian refugees, who collect and sort the waste. Oxfam is one of the largest employers of Syrian refugees in Zaatari refugee camp.

We also look for innovative ways to conserve water in Jordan. We set up systems in Zaatari refugee camp to reuse household water for toilet flushing and gardening, helping to reduce overall demand for water.

We engage communities in our work and we campaign to encourage people to reduce, reuse and recycle their waste.