Ever since the beginning of COVID-19 crisis, civil society sprang into action. Response was swift and women leaders active in different fields stepped up to the plate, showing leadership and activism, particularly those from organizations that had been working, before the start of the crisis, to activate Jordan’s national action plan regarding UNSCR 1325 on women, peace and security (JONAP), which aims at protecting women in times of crises, and activate their important role in addressing the needs of their communities and ensuring they are included in the decision-making process at all times.
Women have been working to ensure that their communities’ needs and capabilities are properly represented, building on previously acquired knowledge and mechanisms to coordinate the efforts of all parties concerned, in order to provide direct relief services to the communities most affected by the consequences of the lockdown, spread awareness about the crisis and mitigate its consequences, ensure that the gender parity is observed, work to combat violence against women, participate in dialogues with a view to monitoring government efforts and seeking to contribute to policies and decisions taken to protect them and their communities.
In the Baqaa refugee camp, for example, Amal Abu Hatab of the Amal Association for Social Development, worked to empower women to respond to this crisis; she started by launching the Sleep well, my neighbor” initiative to encourage community solidarity, in addition to distributing relief aid, in the form of food and health parcels, and financial aid, with the support of several parties, to those most affected in the camp.
In the border town of Al-Rafid, Widad Obeidat, the president of Al-Rafid Women’s Agricultural Society, worked to spread awareness about the importance of solidarity and reaching self-sufficiency, and organized awareness campaigns about COVID-19. Her organization also provided produce from the town’s gardens, bought flour and distributed it to the most affected, taught women how to bake bread, and came to the support of the vulnerable by buying and distributing medicine.
Director of the Madaba Cultural Forum for Childhood, Dr. Heba Haddadin’s initiatives contributed to spreading awareness about the way to deal with the crisis. She also contributed, along with many JON NGOs Forum (JONAF) members, to distributing cash assistance to the most affected families in Madaba.
Khatwat Amal Association Director Mai Abu Adad, whose organization is a JONAF member, with the Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development (ARDD), to coordinate the official authorities’ efforts and thus ensure that aid reaches 4,000 families in Irbid during the lockdown.
The Women Supporting Women Network, whose director is Nuha Muhreiz, shared messages promoting cooperation in the family, prevent domestic violence, raise awareness on the important role both men and women play in nurturing their families during the crisis.
These initiatives and many others within the JONAF Coalition were led by women who devoted their efforts to helping their societies and ensuring their security by translating UNSCR 1325 on women, peace and security, and Jordan National Action Plan (JONAP), into practice taking into account the gender dimension of their interventions.
Their efforts are in line with a two-year project titled “Strengthening the capacities of women-led CSOs on evidence-based advocacy and women peace, and security agenda”, funded by UN Women and implemented by ARDD.
As part of this project, ARDD conducted between February and March 2020 a mapping study assessing 39 women-led organizations, based on four main areas: strategy and management, program implementation, external relations and finance. The mapping helped identify 19 women-led CSOs in 11 governorates. All these CSOs became members in the JONAF coalition in order to contribute to further supporting the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and work in line with JONAP.
The women in the study emphasized the importance of initiatives aimed at empowering women to make decisions and at encouraging organizations led by women to implement them, and demanded that efforts be exerted to strengthen coordination among civil society organizations to ensure that they play a role in enhancing the protection and security of societies.
For, as A. Fatima Al-Masaeed, president of Al-Yusr Charitable Society from Al-Mafraq, said: “Empowering women means empowering societies.”
In partnership with JONAF members, ARDD developed an emergency response plan to address the immediate-, medium- and long-term phases of dealing with the impact of COVID-19 in Jordan, activating women-led organizations to implement initiatives and enhancing coordination among them, and providing economic support to families and women in the communities most affected by the crisis. As part of this plan, the role of the media in highlighting societal issues and promoting the role of women in security and peace was acknowledged.
ARDD, in partnership with the Community Media Network, created 40 episodes of the program “Together we will defeat the Coronavirus” and hosted more than 60 women from women-led JONAF member organizations to highlight their communities’ issues, important family issues related to the protection of women and children, human rights and labor, while also addressing refugee issues and the needs of the most affected groups, such as PWDs, day laborers and women-led households.
ARDD also launched two campaigns acknowledging the accomplishments of women leaders and singling out those who were first to respond to the crisis thus disseminating women’s success stories and initiatives taken in response to the pandemic.
The organization developed a training plan aimed at building the capacity of civil society women leaders to respond to emergencies, with the support of UN-Women, which was implemented over two weeks in April 2020 to support the coalition members’ effort to respond to the crisis and to Security Council Resolution 1325, 11 short training sessions were held on the Internet, covering such topics] as principles of “Sphere” (common principles and universal minimum standards in humanitarian response), “communication in times of crisis”, “safeguarding principles” and “gender dynamics in times of crisis”, among others, in which 36 organizations participated, including 20 led by women. A total of 114 individuals took part in these sessions, of which 85 were women.
In addition to developing an M&E plan for JONAF efforts, to support women-led civil society organizations and to contribute to strengthening advocacy efforts of women leaders on the frontlines, ARDD also developed a database for JONAF to engage in participatory efforts. The database was developed to enable exchange of knowledge and skills among all members and build their capabilities, which will positively reflect on the designed and implemented intervention programs, in line with JONAP.
As part of the same project, ARDD celebrated International Women’s Day, honoring women leaders from the civil society, security, military and media institutions, and shedding light on the most important achievement on the women’s rights agenda in Jordan: Jordan’s National Action Plan for UNSCR 1325 on Women, Security and Peace.
Women proved to be worthy leaders in social work and civil society sectors. Their achievements need to be documented, built upon and utilized to create international and national mechanisms that institutionalize a more effective women participation. Efforts toward that end need to be unified in a professional framework in order to determine public action priorities and the role of women’s organizations and of organizations led by women in times of crises and beyond.
Hence, ARDD, together with JONAF, urge all stakeholder to shed light on the essential role of women in public life and their ability to empower their societies, protect them in crises, and not neglect the demand of reform and development efforts necessary to invest in women’s contributions to development, security and peace.