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By: Shara Jazzar

Stemming from its belief in the power of youth in advocating for gender equality, mobilizing local communities and networking with decision-makers, Drabzeen - in partnership with Hivos - used Café Talks as a tool to advocate for women public participation and create change in the perception of females in leadership positions in Jordan. A platform that gathers youth and decision-makers from communities across the country, the Café Talks offers them discussion and dialogue opportunities on the needs of women in their communities.

Training

Prior to participating in the Café Talks session, youth participants were trained on a variety of skills such as communication, networking and gender, in addition to data collection. Furthermore, they acquired knowledge on local laws in Jordan as well as global conventions – such as CEDAW and Beijing – through intensive training using a participatory approach to enhance and build the ownership of local community issues.

As a general rule, participants discuss during the Café Talks the causes and roots of the identified problems, according to the inputs from the local community. Then, they determine solutions to be implemented, based on the available resources.

Ajloun Café Talk

One of the sessions took place in Ajloun. Based on the need assessment conducted by the local Ambassador, the topic chosen was ‘financial independence as a way to reach leadership positions.’ This Café Talk gathered youth as well as elected women from the local councils.

Photo by Shara Jazzar

Identified obstacles

The participants addressed what they identified as the major obstacles that hinder women active participation in their community and their ability to reach leadership positions. These include the lack of needed skills – such as communication, marketing, social media and negotiation – which result in the inability of females to apply to jobs that require such qualifications. Furthermore, in the Ajloun area, there is a lack of work opportunities in general; thus, more jobs should be created in order for females to be able to have opportunities.

Challenges

In parallel, there is the issue of patriarchal mentalities that affects women’s access to the job market in Ajloun. This conservative society needs to accept the idea of working women; and, in addition, that of females in leadership positions such as managers of companies to which men have to report.

If no work opportunities are created and if perceptions of working women are not changed, females in Ajloun will not be able to achieve financial independence and become economically empowered; hence, recognized in public life. Additionally, in order to be more present in the public sphere, women need to be more independent inside the private sphere – their houses and families – and receive support from their husbands or parents. This can be translated into being able to return home ‘after sunset’ and dividing household chores with their partners or other family members living in the house so that they can use their energy and time on more productive activities.

What can be achieved

Given that Jordan is mostly a traditional and conservative society, in particular in rural areas such Ajloun, the general situation of the country should be taken into consideration when trying to advocate for change.

Therefore, we should seek change at the small level and address daily challenges first. For instance, the lack of proper transportation discourages women from pursuing their education or working. If this issue is solved, females will be able to commute more easily; thus, become more economically active. Additionally, mothers have more situations to solve, such as finding childcare and being granted their breastfeeding hour as per the law. Consequently, companies and organizations should be encouraged to open nurseries and daycares within their facilities. This shall enable working mothers to remain in their positions, while knowing that their children are properly taken care of and being able to breastfeed their youngest ones.

Relevance of Café Talks

Finally, at the end of the session, participants presented different projects – such as a fund for increasing women’s participation in the job market, a platform for marketing their projects or products and developing and improving transportation. The importance of the Café Talks lays in enabling local leaderships as well as citizens to network and mobilize in order to support women leadership, and increase the recognition and support of females in leadership positions. This will make a change with a long-term impact.