Najdeh Association was founded in 1976, and registered as an independent social organisation in 1978. Its name means ‘relief’ in Palestinian dialect.
Najdeh’s vision is to promote the development of a Palestinian community enjoying national and human rights, social justice and equality. Equality means empowering women, and Najdeh applies this concept to its work. Around 80 percent of its staff are women from the Palestinian refugee community, and the administrative board has an equal gender composition.
It is a member in the Palestinian NGO Forum, Emergency Hospitalization Committee, Arab Women NGO Forum and the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children in the United States of America.
The Embroidery Project was Najdeh's first project. It was able to reach self sufficiency and is now considered as a successful economic empowerment project for women. Najdeh's embroidery project, AL Badia, includes two embroidery workshops in Ein El Helweh (Sidon, South) and Rashidiyeh (Tyre, South) camps. In addition, there are small working groups of embroiderers in other camps (Baddawi in Tripoli in the North; Shatila in Beirut; Mieh Mieh in Sidon and Borj El Shemali & Buss in Tyre). Al Badia has two local marketing outlets (shops) in Beirut and an international outlet (individuals/solidarity groups) in Europe, USA and Canada.
|Najdeh operates 34 centres in and around nine official Palestinian refugee camps and three gatherings in Lebanon. They offer vocational training, psychological support and preschool activities, as well as domestic violence prevention and intervention, in addition to awareness against drug addictions. They also provide information and background on resolution 1325 and other international resolutions defending women's rights.|
With Palestinians unable by law to work in Lebanon in many professions in the formal labor sector, some of Najdeh's programmes focus on vocational training, helping beneficiaries to acquire skills in specific fields such as graphic design, installation and maintenance of internet networks.
The association's coordination with private Lebanese technical institutes enables graduates to get officially recognized certificates. UNRWA Employment Centers have helped provide them with proper jobs. 58 percent of the participants in 2014 have since been employed, with 35 percent of them working outside the camps.
Najdeh has also established a committee of refugees affected by Lebanese law on Palestinian ownership, and offered legal assistance. The association has worked for years with other Palestinian and Lebanese organisations conducting research on the effects of the law on the Palestinian community. It held several meetings with Lebanese politicians and parties, religious figures and civil society activists.
Nahr el Bared advocacy committee
Nahr el Bared camp in Nothern Lebanon witnessed fierce battles in mid 2007 between fundamentalist armed militias and the Lebanese Army. As a result, around 27,000 Palestine refugees were displaced from the camp and its adjacent areas.
The camp was hit with heavy artillery and aerial bombardments during the three-month siege. An estimated 95 percent of all buildings and infrastructure were either destroyed or damaged beyond repair, forcing residents to flee to nearby Beddawi camp.
The reconstruction remains very slow; in more than ten years, only 60 percent of the camp has been reconstructed. Moreover, one thousand refugee families, both Syrian and Palestinians from Syria, have settled there. Najdeh's volunteers help paint the walls and plant trees and encourage the community to take part in conflict resolution and social leadership courses.
Najdeh runs a kindergarten in Nahr el Bared. It provides preschool learning to children from 3 to 5 years old, and summer activities for others from 6 to 14 years old with the participation of families. This project is offering 135 disadvantaged children a creative and safe learning environment while affording their mothers the necessary time to seek work and assume a productive role within the family.
Two Najdeh staff participated as members in the advocacy committee for these and other issues. It includes engineers, doctors and local organisations to follow up with the UNRWA emergency plan. Among other organizations, Najdeh is leading a campaign to support UNRWA facing its biggest financial crisis in its history, and highlight its importance for the Palestinian community in Lebanon.
Syria emergency activities
Najdeh has also worked to mitigate the impact of the Syrian conflict. Since the beginning of the crisis, Palestinian camps in Lebanon have witnessed incidents including clashes, assassinations, and explosions.
The rising numbers of the inhabitants in the camps due to the influx of Syrians and displaced Palestinians from Syria has left its impact on the economic and social situation on the host families. The abundance of cheap labour has caused many workers to lose their jobs, and educational and health services have deteriorated.
The Syrians and displaced Palestinians from Syria face legal restrictions in Lebanon which Najdeh's volunteers help them overcome to get legal residencies, also to register their newborns, as well as any new marriages and deaths in the families of refugees.
Najdeh launched food voucher distribution campaigns in refugee camps and unofficial gatherings in Sidon in Southern Lebanon, and other campaigns offering winter clothes and heaters as part of its emergency relief strategy. It offers psychological support to women and children refugees, and individual therapy when needed to deal with the trauma of the war. Workshops on violence, discrimination, sexual harassment were organised to help female refugees and younger ones.
The projects also addressed the needs of the vulnerable hosting communities in order to minimize risks of tension.