Irbid—According to the World Bank, women’s participation in the workforce is only 20 percent in Jordan. Women control fewer assets, have less autonomous income, and less control over household decisions compared to their male counterparts.
“The living situation and general income of women can be somewhat limited.” said Leila, an NEF beneficiary, from Irbid. “We have ideas, and we would love to develop these ideas!”
The Near East Foundation (NEF), with support from Medair, is strengthening the economic resilience of vulnerable Jordanian families through business training, coaching, and start-up grants for women entrepreneurs in Irbid and Al-Mafraq. Both cities lie approximately 10 miles from the Syrian border and host close to 140,000 and 75,000 Syrian refugees respectively. The Syrian refugee crisis has affected poor Jordanian communities, increasing competition over housing and food.
Ibtisaam, a participant in NEF’s project, said “With the recent economic crisis, continuing my clothes making shop had become more difficult. As a result of joining NEF’s program I have bought machines and a work space and developed skills to improve my clothing business.”
In three-months, NEF has trained 91 women and of those, 87 have developed business plans, and 65 have received grants to start their own businesses. Last month, NEF and it’s local partner, the Jordanian National Forum for Women (JNFW), hosted a closing ceremony in Irbid to celebrate these women’s achievements and present them with their grants.
At the ceremony, her Excellency May Abu Al Samen, Senator of JNFW, addressed the women gathered. “A Jordanian women is persistent, patient, and creative. Every woman here today is someone who is full of hope and ambition, and keeps the promise to be a productive member of society.”
She continued, “NEF believes that woman can transform their communities.” Her remarks rendered an audible reaction as women began to stand up and speak about their experiences.
Hanan, a participant from Irbid, said “We are Jordanian women, we all have ambition, after the training we had more ambition. At the start we were hopeful, but now we are more hopeful. We will show how we can succeed.”
Jamella, a widow from Al-Mafraq with eight children, was cooking and selling food to other families during the holiday season to provide for her family. After participating in NEF’s trainings, Jamella owns a retail shop for women’s clothes where she sees more potential for profit. “We love that there are people who wish to support us. We like that we train on things we didn’t know about, like business planning. Thanks to NEF for the support. You are going to see in the near future our new businesses.” Another women jumped up: “Our goal is not only to get financial support but emotional support. NEF made us feel like we are a part of society; that we can also contribute. Now I help my family. I hope all mothers never feel hopeless.”
NEF believes that women’s entrepreneurship is an effective vehicle for promoting women’s participation in local economies; it can drive economic growth and opportunity that is inclusive of women while lifting poor families out of poverty. She continued, “We had experience, we needed guidance, NEF showed us the path to make our business ideas successful.”