Empowering Adam’s Rib
“Woman was taken out of man; not out of his head to top him, nor out of his feet to be trampled underfoot; but out of his side to be equal to him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be loved.” This famous historical quote reminds us that when Eve came into the world from Adam’s rib, she underlined what many societies are nowadays forgetting about women: their equal position, by men’s side.
The Arab region is far from being an exception in this general amnesia on gender parity. Indeed, many of us can relate to the experience of being an ambitious and independent Arab woman living in a society that does not always work to empower us. Though many Arab countries’ constitutions call for equality among men and women, this reality has not yet been fully realized in the public and domestic spheres.
As we work towards this equality here in Jordan, a fundamental piece of the puzzle is in ensuring that women have access to justice. Amidst all the injustices and harmful treatment of women, it is often the case that women who are victims or at risk of becoming victims of such inequality are simply unaware of their rights and unaware of the means to reclaim them. Obstacles ranging from fear of being shamed to incredibly high lawyers’ fees are just some of the issues many marginalized women face in the struggle of reclaiming their equal rights.
Accordingly, in order to create permanent shifts in this destructive paradigm, women must be empowered and given the tools, education and awareness that will enable them to gain justice. Among the many projects and hard work being implemented by various organizations and NGOs in the fight for gender equality is Women’s Access to Justice (WAJ). A partnership project between Oxfam GB, the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and Jordanian NGO-- ARDD-Legal Aid, Women’s Access to Justice “aims to make women’s access to justice and legal rights more accessible, affordable and accountable for marginalized women”.
As a result of the WAJ project, across the Arab World in Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, women have felt empowered with new knowledge of their rights. In total 3,022 women and men have been targeted through 227 awareness sessions and 1595 women were provided with direct legal empowerment. 106 community leaders (religious and tribal leaders, “mukhtars”, educators, physicians, social workers and civil society actors) also received awareness raising sessions to advocate women’s rights. This angle of action follows a global trend known as “He for She” that aims to include men’s efforts in solving women’s rights issues.
Finally, education remains a key point to challenge age-old patriarchal traditions and attitudes, as well as family and social pressures. It is essential in breaking down the existing confining structures to make space for new positive systemic change. For our women will not hide behind their fig leaf anymore; they will not remain the weaker sex.