ARDD learning event presents findings on women’s economic empowerment

ARDD

ARDD presented the findings of its fieldwork on women’s economic empowerment at the learning event hosted by JNCW. In collaboration with The Embassy of the Netherlands in Amman, ARDD introduced the main ideas of its forthcoming report, “Rethinking Women’s Economic Empowerment in Jordan,” to serve as a departing point for discussion among participants.

Based on research conducted by ARDD, the report provides a brief critical analysis of economic empowerment approaches adopted in the context of Jordan by introducing basic tenets of feminist economics and adopting a human rights-based approach to economic empowerment. The report provides pointers towards establishing a joint agenda for women’s economic empowerment that is based on the coordination among different economic and social sectors.

Conventional understanding of women’s economic empowerment holds that if women are provided the capital and/or skills, they can somehow, through a combination of ingenuity and entrepreneurship, transform financial and human capital into a successful money generating activity that will lift them out of their situation. Accordingly, most economic empowerment programs in Jordan are oriented towards  entrepreneurship and participation in the labor market. ARDD report argues that messages about the need for women “to be economically active” are contributing to make women feel as though their everyday work and care work provides very little value – if anything at all – to their households and society, while these programs provide limited means to address very complex living situations involving poverty.

As reminded by feminist economics, critical to any women’s economic empowerment is respect for the full range of work that caregivers provide in their households and to their communities. This work is informal, unpaid, labor-intensive and time consuming; nevertheless, it is largely ignored in mainstream discourse of economics, economic empowerment and poverty reduction, yet, care work stands at the core of our society’s well-being.

As is the case in many parts of the world, social conventions and norms in Jordan have assigned women and girls with the tasks associated with the home, including the provision of care to children, the elderly, and the disabled. The completion of these tasks, which are unevenly distributed among women and girls, is further complicated by limited social care and protection services in Jordan. As women, willingly or unwillingly, assume primary care for children, PWDs and the elderly, it is difficult for some to leave the home in pursuit of economic empowerment.

From a human rights perspective, as reminded by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, “the unequal and unfair burden placed on women (and girls) to provide care exposes them to rights abuses in the form of their inability to pursue an education, gainful employment or enjoy their right to leisure and rest.” (OHCHR, 2013)

The learning event gathered stakeholders from different fields and representatives from the Human Forum for Women’s Rights (NGO), and the Embassies of Britain and Spain, among other organizations. Most importantly, attendees agreed on the need to establishing a joint agenda for women’s economic empowerment to realize the full meaning of ‘empowerment.’

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