SEP Jordan was founded in 2013 with a positive social impact objective. It was the first Jordanian private company to set up in the Jerash ‘Gaza’ Camp in Jordan. Their core business is hand-embroidery, employing over 500 refugees in the camp. The camp is found in the North of Jordan and opened in 1968, hosting four generations of refugees. Although the authorities stopped counting years ago, there would be around 50,000 residents living there, in which more than half are under the age of eighteen and most live under the poverty line.

In Jordanian culture, embroidery is a tradition that is passed on from mother to daughter. Still, a two-month training course is compulsory to get hired by SEP in which the skills of the women are brought back to the level of that in the 1800s – ensuring that all the artists they work with are at the highest level of international standards. The training takes place at the SEP-Tamari Foundation Academy at the camp, founded in 2015. Before 1967, refugees moving to Jordan would be granted Jordanian nationality. When the government realized that by doing so would mean that there would be more ‘non-Jordanians’ than Jordanians, they stopped. Being a refugee in Jordan has many limitations, the most notable being that refugees can’t take advantage of the government sector. Public schools are not available to refugees, forcing them to either attend United Nations’ schools or, if financially able, attend a private school. Refugees are educationally handicapped because high schools supported by the UN don’t supply them with the required years to then be able to move on to university. Jobs are also limited. Refugees can not work in the government sector and aren’t granted government health care. One’s status does mean a lot in countries like Jordan and not much can be done about it. A stable income can offset many issues though, which come with a refugee status – although it still means living in the camp, workers can live in homes and provide their family with a higher standard of living.

Founder and CEO of SEP Jordan, Roberta Ventura says: ”Unlike other brands which are trying to adapt to sustainability goals and trends, we were created with a specific mission to bring thousands of refugees above the poverty line” As of 2020, SEP Jordan is a Certified B Corporation, certifying that they put purpose over profit. “The vision is that the consumer becomes aware of the impact, whether environmental or social, of their purchases“, explained Ventura. “A company like ours, which has a social impact mission at its core, is likely to be addressing the new and growing needs of more and more consumers“.One of the aims of SEP is to steer clear from aid. The best way to do this is by recognizing the refugees as artists rather than recipients of aid.”After more than 50 years of existence, the refugees who live in this camp, like in any other camp, tend to become addicted to aid – they depend on it”, said Ventura. ”They find it harder and harder to find a job because they don’t know how to write a curriculum or even know how to deal with working hours. It becomes the default choice among different generations, to go to the NGOs and ask for blankets, food, donations and more. This mirrors begging and by not doing anything about it, we are implicitly accomplices in turning millions of people into beggars. There are over 80 million refugees and if no one is willing to work with them, then we are about to see 80 million people become beggars for life. It is humiliating and wrong“. Employing the refugees, rather than supplying them with constant aid, helps them to grow as people and collecting a continuous stream of income for themselves and their family.


Styling: Miriam Iacopino
Photography: Lorenzo Sampaolesi