Female Activism in Jordan
Dr. Nicola Pratt of the University of Warwick has been studying women in Jordan and the MENA region for many years and on May 19th she gave a lecture examining women’s activism from national independence in 1946 until the onset of political liberalization in 1989. The lecture highlighted the largely unacknowledged contributions of women to the development and success of the Jordanian State.
For most women, this recognition occurred in the areas that were deemed appropriate for them to be involved with such as voluntary and charitable activities especially in times of humanitarian crises. Additionally many women have made contributions to national struggles against colonialism and for women’s rights and democracy.
As is still evident today, a limited number of women have been involved in politics. Dr. Pratt challenged this notion-while saying that yes women are not always actively involved in political life, they still participated as early as the 1950s. These women had an integral part of a variety of political movements including Jordan’s communist party. However, support for women’s involvement in Jordanian politics and state-building has also been largely characterized by projects of modernity, Dr. Pratt emphasized that steps such as Jordan allowing women to vote in 1974, occurred at times that promoted Jordan’s image internationally and did not aim to promote meaningful participation of women.
In spite of gradual developments which led to women in Jordan having an increased role in politics, male politicians generally do not recognize the role that women have played in nation-building and women are still marginalized in the political arena, in particular within political parties. One female Member of Parliament interviewed by Dr Pratt stated that she feels that she is not taken seriously by her male peers. As a result she now watches how she dresses, speaks and the way that she shows her emotions while working.
Dr. Pratt also discussed how little Jordan is studied when it comes to women’s activism in the post-colonial period. She emphasized that in order to effectively understand women’s activism, it is necessary to historicize women’s public work in relation to national and regional dynamics. Overall, Dr. Nicola Pratt emphasized that women activists came from urban middle-class and elite backgrounds. Those from rural areas have generally been limited to be at the receiving end of charity-based work. Throughout Jordan’s history women’s involvement and activism has been increased during times of crisis which have enabled women to have more meaningful participation, for example the Arab-Israeli war of 1948 and 1967.
Dr. Pratt’s lecture directly mirrored the reality that ARDD-Legal Aid sees on the ground when implementing programs. In our projects, we work to increase meaningful participation and to move beyond traditional spaces for women’s involvement. In Karak, ARDD-Legal Aid’s Ead b’Ead project addresses the current gap between institutional initiatives and reforms aiming at providing women with opportunities for political participation at the municipal and governorate level and the realities on the ground that voids women’s participation of meaningful significance. Additionally, the organization’s ‘Lana’ Project, implemented in Zarqa and Amman, focuses on how women can enhance their participation in the way decisions are made in their homes, the community and wider society (i.e. the public and private sphere) with the aim of promoting gender equality.
ARDD-Legal Aid admires Dr. Pratt’s documentation of women’s activism in Jordan. As an organization, increasing women’s meaningful participation in the public, private and economic spheres is an objective of all of the work that we do. Through work such as Dr. Pratt’s we can highlight women who have been successful in doing this and show women the impact and importance this has had in Jordan. Understanding work such as Dr. Pratt’s can help organizations such as ARDD-Legal Aid recognize the impact that women have had in state-building as well as helping to identify how we move forward to increase meaningful political participation.