The Arab Nahda (renaissance) is a common intellectual and societal act and comes as a result of equal participation of women in the project of the aspired human civilizational renaissance. ARDD’s initiatives and programs seek to achieve more equal participation socially, economically, politically and civically to empower women and girls to contribute to building a more just and prosperous Arab region for all.
In this feature, we shine a light on the inspiring and ambitious women we met in our journey to achieve the legal and economic reinforcement of women in Jordan through the economic empowerment training provided by ARDD in Maqha Al Nahda*. We share their stories with among others, in the hope that these stories inspire other women to pursue their own dreams and aspirations.
Money was not the only motivation for Manal Nashash and the other women named in this feature to start their own work, in a country where women’s economic participation reached 15% during the first quarter of 2019 – according to the Jordanian Department of Statistics – there was a personal wish that added another factor to Manal’s desire to launch her business.
The beginning and the start
Manal launched her own work in the form of “Al-Adeem Arts and Crafts” Foundation, in the year (2007), after years of experience as an employee in the field of ceramics. Because of the low salaries, Manal decided to quit her regular work and start her own business from home, between (2005-2007).
Manal had artistic and creative talents, a Ceramic training course advertisement in the newspaper encouraged her to participate in it and which the lead her to join the Jordanian Hashemite Fund “JOHUD” and to be one of the founders of “Al-Bawadi House for Ceramic”, and eventually becoming the Head of Quality and Design Department.
Manal honed her artistic skills by learning the arts of Arabic calligraphy, specializing in ceramic arts, and setting up personal exhibitions, she then began working for her own in two directions, the first of which was through the establishment of art exhibitions, and the other, in heritage and for use works, where pieces of ceramics were developed handicrafts for different sectors such as tourism and pharmaceutical companies in the form of tools used for some office and promotional purposes as well.
Manal also obtained specialized TOT training, thus starting a the process of transferring her knowledge to others through training with government agencies and various non-profit organizations in Jordan, in the fields of management, business development, products and others.
She also founded ‘Fu noon’- arts initiative, which is directed to school students with the aim of rejecting violence and promoting positive behavior through art. It also aims to empower housewives and small business owners, and artisan and social societies technically and socially, and empower them to start their own project, in addition to providing them with a view of the market needs to guide these small businesses to the areas and markets that are best suited to them.
The desire to increase income and more innovation in the design and implementation of ceramic products has heightened Manal’s desire to launch her own business. Manal starts her day after Fajr prayer, she does her house shores, where she lives with her mother and brother, and then begins her own work in the evening or before her family wakes up in the morning, preparing for training, or her ceramic work and client’s orders.
As for the Syrian Fatima Knifati, who works in hand embroidery, a craft she learned, to support her family after taking refuge in Jordan, she knew the basics of sewing, and then learnt embroidery through different courses. Maysar Saad Al-Din, another Syrian refugee started working in making traditional foods, pastries, and pickles, because she needed to support her family. Maysar began to send samples of her traditional pickled Aubergine “Makdus” to her neighbors, until her name became known to many and orders began to flow.
The desire to generate income to teach her children – especially girls – in universities, prompted Intisar Tayim’s vice to take part in any free course to learn skills in embroidery, accessories, and crafts.
Rushka Tayim’s separation from her husband and the need to support her children, drove her to work in preparing foods such as pickles, and sweets to be able to generate income. Like all the women whose stories are told in this article, Rushka has participated in various courses such as accessories, sewing, pickles and the productive kitchen till she found the right match for it. She decided for the food sector as each season has its own food, which guarantees continues production.
Wedad Damrah started her career studying fashion design, and then worked in the Ministry of Culture as a fashion designer. Meanwhile, Widad discovered that her own work was more rewarding than the job, so she decided to leave it after five years, to focus on her work in cloths and embroidery.
Challenges in Common
Manal believes that “multiple references” is one of the problems experienced by workers in crafts sector in general. The large number of legal licenses and the authorities from which approvals must be obtained, with little benefit from them, delaying their work process. Also, the resort of some tourist exhibitions to the cheapest option, which is importing from China at the expense of selling local products which businessmen consider to be expensive. Thus, affecting the gain handcrafts artists could generate and the local or national product. The lack of an effective mechanism protect design rights from reproduction of the ceramic piece at lower prices is something that cannot be underestimated.
Manal also points to the problem of lack of competencies due to the lack of professional trainers in this sector, leading to the repetitive production of the same styles that are not distinguished nor innovative in a relatively small market full of competition.
“The lack of capital was a dilemma for most of the women we talked with“.
The lack of capital was a dilemma for most of the women we talked with. Fatima – who embroidery work takes about 80% of her day and after her children go to school and finishing her house shores – confirmed that capital represents an obstacle to her desire to establish her own shop, and therefore focus her efforts in the meantime on meeting orders received through acquaintances, her Facebook page while facing challenges in marketing and promotion. As for material prices, Fatima asks her customers to secure the materials before starting work for which she only gets her hand fare, and bypasses the marketing hurdle by participating in different bazaars and exhibitions, and to get to know as much new people as possible. The same challenge was faced by the Syrian Maiser, who dreams of establishing her own productive kitchen, but non-existent capital is an obstacle in her path, which prevented her from creating a Facebook page, for example, so that she would not receive requests that she could not meet.
This capital problem has also affected Maysar’s ability to provide the tools needed to meet the needs of her customers sometimes, as she was unable to accept orders that were large due to her inability to obtain such tools. Maysar also suffered from the fact that here oven was slow and small at the beginning of her work, but later she was able to buy another oven that fast and has “strong fire”, she said. Maysar resorted to borrowing from her neighbors to manage her work and pay back later upon receiving the fees for her work, her daughter and neighbor help her with the work, so she can be able to devote herself to finish cooking and help her children study after they return from school.
Widad reaffirm the fact stated by Roshka, as according to her the embroidery market witnesses recession at the end of the summer and tourist season, so Wedad sews what suits the local market, such as women’s prayer sets. This market is also very competitive, and therefore extra effort and intelligence are required in order to compete with the imported cheaper Chinese products.
The inability to provide the price of raw materials initially, led Intisar to resort to saving money with friends and to allocate her turn to get the savings to finance her own work, in addition to borrowing and paying the borrowed amounts later.
Intisar faced family opposition to work, and the time she spent at courses and work – as she started giving professional courses such as balloons formation courses for other women in cooperation with the associations – led to her absence from home for long hours sometimes.
Time management helped Intisar to overcome this opposition, in addition to the support of her daughters give her to fulfill orders such as flags and beadwork, which she starts on working after her afternoon cup of coffee, before she tends to her family members once they get back home.
According to Rushka, ensuring that everything is hygenic and orderly is one of her most important priorities, she works with a group of women and is keen to achieve cooperation between them to meet the demands and achieve benefit to all. Rushka overcame the hindrance of transportation and distance by developing relationships with women in other locations, she said, “If I have a request for ARDD, why would I ask the girls to come to me? We go to one of the girls who live nearby and work there. Like Maysar, Rushka suffered from the primacy of the tools available, and because she is a community activist and a councilwoman, self-promotion contributed directly to her work, and helped her achieve remarkable success in the northern Jordan Valley.
Opportunities for advancement, how do women develop from themselves?
Manal stressed her constant keenness to follow up on everything new in the field of ceramics in terms of the continuous addition of products,
also Intisar stresses the same idea, as she participates in various training courses to advance her work and keep it “special” as she put it, because of the intense competition, as well as following up on new market trends. Sometimes Rushka feels a certain weakness in her work, which leads her to join new training courses to advance her work and learn new information.
Training and skill building
The women mentioned have one thing in common, their love for self-development and skills acquisition. Fatima, for example, had taken the initiative to search for courses and trainings close to her to learn the skill of embroidery, and her first destination was the Jordanian Women’s Union. As for Maysar, she enrolled in a course at Princess Basma Center in the field of food industries, such as jams, using the platform also to introduce her work and products.
Roshka reports that the courses in which she participated ranged from those related to food production to English, accounting and self-development courses. She also benefited from the economics courses in allocating sums of profits for reinvesting the project’s development, while sometimes resorting to renting tools without the need to spend sums on their purchase. Capacity building and business management were among the topics that greatly added to her skillset.
Also, all women whom we spoke to never stop joining any new course, love of knowledge is important for them even if it is in simple subjects, with their attempt to bridge their shortcoming in certain areas such as legal knowledge, for example, outreach and communication skills. Also, they all seek to promote their small businesses and networking with other women to integrate their skills with each other and find opportunities that bring benefits to all.
For example, Wedad change the pricing of her products based on the methods she had learned in a course, which lead to more profit.
“The legal awareness session, for example, encouraged Rochka, to start taking serious steps towards preparing her productive kitchen to comply with the requirements of a home license – which allows the practice of certain professions from home“
For Manal, the training program provided by ARDD in Maqha Al-Nahda * was comprehensive, as it included financial and practical parts, and the most important for her was the legal part – which is at the heart of the ARDD’s objectives in terms of promoting legal awareness – such as dealing with registration, tax and work regulations.
The legal awareness session, for example, encouraged Rushka, to start taking serious steps towards preparing her productive kitchen to comply with the requirements of a home license – which allows the practice of certain professions from home – in terms of sanitation and storage, in preparation for the official licensing of her work.
Despite Intisar’s experience in sewing and embroidery, she confirms that ARDD’s course in which she participated, introduced her to the method of optimal finishing for her work, in addition to learning about contracts conditions and the basics of home based professions licensing.
“We did not know the Jordanian embroidery stitch, but through ARDD’s training we finally got to know a woman who was good at it, so we learned from her.” Some ladies say.
Some, such as Fatima, also focused on the importance of the self-introduction and promotion and business management part of training more than the technical part of the training.
Another purpose of the trainings was networking and expanding their outreach, all the women use personal introduction to get to know each other.
Future Hopes and Ambitions
Al Nashash seeks for its ceramic products to reach the world as national brand name in cooperation with the women who work with them from all over Jordan. Fatima’s ambition is focused on producing her own creations and raise the capital to launch and promote optimally. Intisar aims to get a grant and license her own workshop where she would apply her professional expertise and craftsmanship and everything she learned. The current economic situation does not allow Wedad to produce under her own brand name, however she plans to hold her art gallery during the coming year, perhaps!
Maysar expresses her desire to establish her own productive kitchen so that she won’t have to work from her private home and to provide her children with a peaceful home environment, but she is not convinced of the loans that need to be repaid with interest, she also resorted to the organizations requesting small grants, but she was not successful yet.
Al Nashash believes that every woman who wants to start her own business must focus on setting her mark and adding her distinct identity to her product and setting her goals in this work in terms of growth and expansion and creating opportunities for others.
Fatima advises every woman to learn what benefits her while ensuring quality and perfection in her work, as no one knows “what the days hold”, Mayssar shares the same advice as she urges women to rely on themselves so they don’t have to need anyone.
Managing financial matters is one of the most important things that women should pay attention to in Rushka’s opinion, so an amount must be allocated for re-employment in the project to achieve its success. Also, intelligence in assessing market needs achieves better results.”Do not despair with life.” with this sentence Intisar emphasizes the importance of persistence and perseverance, in her opinion if women wants to achieve something no obstacle can stand in her way.
As for Wedad she says that woman’s development comes from within. She is the one who’s capable of solving her own problems by herself.
“As for Wedad she says that woman’s development comes from within. She is the one who’s capable of solving her own problems by herself “
Ultimately ARDD joins the women, as they strive to succeed in their lives and work, reaffirming the importance of setting a goal and taking all measures to achieve success. ARDD confirms its commitment to providing all the support and advice needed to empower them throughout their journey.
* Maqha Al Nahda, a cultural cafe and a pioneer project launched in 2019, by ARDD in cooperation with Al Zumurood Company for Orientals. Located between the first and second circles in the Jordanian capital of Amman, It represents a model for partnership between civil society organizations and the private sector, which seeks to activate the developmental role of local investors in the framework of social responsibility, and help national civil society organizations to find self-sources of income and funding that reduce their reliance on donor funds to ensure sustainability and independence.