Participation Week at Mutah University
“The vulnerability of women is women. If women believe themselves to be qualified, we will have more female leaders and decision-makers and narrow the gender gap.” This sentiment was shared on a radio segment during the recently completed “Participation Week” at Mutah University of Karak, Jordan.
Fourteen female and male students from Mutah University and four members of Community Based Organizations (CBOs) hosted the “Participation Week” from December 27 – 31, 2015 in an effort to multiply the number of beneficiaries of the Arab Renaissance for Development and Democracy (ARDD) – Legal Aid’s Ead b’Ead (Hand in Hand) project. During the “Participation Week,” 14 initiatives were completed to educate the university community and broader community of the Karak governorate about women’s rights and existing protections for women.
Each of the participants had been beneficiaries of the “Know Her Rights” training program which provided education about the frameworks for international and domestic laws which impact women, advocacy skills, and how to engage women in social and political participation. The initiatives were developed at the “Challenges and Opportunities for Women’s Political Participation” conference which hosted men and women from CBOs, male and female community activists, and government representatives from the Karak Governorate and the Ministry of Political and Parliamentary Affairs in addition to the students. This conference intended to create networking cohesion amongst the actors working towards women’s empowerment.
During the conference, five groups of 5 to 8 people were created to develop the “Participation Week” initiatives so as to target at least 15 community members outside of the Ead b’Ead beneficiares to raise awareness about women’s rights and empower women to engage in civic and political participation. Two groups focused on the community while the other three focused on the university community, work and employment sector, and the Karak Governorate.
As a part of the “Participation Week,” three roundtable discussions were hosted. The first on December 27 at Mutah University with 18 student-Ead b’Ead beneficiaries to discuss challenges for women in society, specifically at the university, and the social differences between men and women. The second discussion was hosted on December 30 at Rakeen Association in Karak to discuss social gender issues and the obstacles women face in the local community. There were 18 participants in total and many agreed that legal awareness is difficult due to the rapid changes in laws and tribal law in the context of Karak creates vulnerability for women. The third and final discussion occurred on December 31 at the ARDD-Legal Aid Karak office with 18 participants to discuss the difference between ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ as well as the traditional roles of men and women in society.
To support the initiatives, a total of 10 radio segments were led by Ead b’Ead beneficiaries on the “Sawt Al Karak” (Voice of Karak) radio station. The radio segments covered a variety of topics from introducing the Ead b’Ead project to listeners; a discussion of social obstacles for women in Karak and Jordan; sharing examples of women who have broken barriers, such as Dr. Sabah Alnoaiseh and the women in leadership positions in Independent Election Commission (IEC) of Jordan.
During the radio show on December 31, 2015, one Ead b’Ead student beneficiary Manar Alaqralh stated, “I'm working [at Sawt Al Karak] as a volunteer with the encouragement of my family, because I like it and I want to do. Many parents have come to the station and ask how their daughter could join the team.” This was in contrast to how many reacted to women working at the station at its inception in 2009 and the result of seeing positive examples and role models.
During a separate segment on December 31, 2015, Maha Lafraah and Ala’a Alkfawin discussed their discussion initiative which aimed to open dialogue regarding the definition of gender and the role of social norms for women. Maha noted that “We as a people of Karak appreciate and are proud of women, but events and extreme thoughts have created negative perceptions of women and worked against women.”
The final initiative was a blog, “Women’s participation in political work,” was written by Moa’astem Khliefat and posted by Jordan media outlet Falaq Newson on December 29, 2015. Khleifat discussed how in recent decades, women in Jordanian society have witnessed a growing recognition for their important role in society and society has become more aware of the need for women's participation in the political process, decision-making and leadership positions.
The activities during “Participation Week” were covered by five active beneficiaries on the Ead b’Ead Facebook page to expand the dialogue and highlight events for those who may have been unaware. Al Bawaba and Al Siasi also posted articles highlighting the success of “Participation Week.”
The Ead b’Ead project aims to bring back women and women’s rights to the public sphere in the governorate of Karak.