Friday in Downtown Amman

Downtown Amman; lying between the hills of Jabal Amman, Jabal al-Weibdeh and Jabal al-Qal’ah, this area is like a boiling kettle of busy streets with its numerous clothing-, perfume-, spice-, and jewellery-shops, as well as juicebars, restaurants, markets, and people going in every direction. Everywhere in Downtown, someone has something to sell you for a good, or maybe not so good, price. Central in Downtown is the King Hussein mosque with its tall minarets, its spacious square in front and its location next to the foodmarket, the souq, where I buy most of my food. All day long, cars and trucks are passing in front of the mosque on a wide road that cuts through the area like a dull nerve. Emissions from the many cars lie thick in the air. Crowded and noisy, but always with a good atmosphere, the souq seems to be the epicentre of all Downtown activity. Primarily vegetables, but also other kinds of goods, are stacked up everywhere, there’s not an empty spot anywhere, and the salesmen are shouting their prices in a competition to get the most attention from the customers. The impressions you get here almost makes you feel the need of taking a deep breath before entering, but when you are standing under the white canopies, you love the vibrancy.


This is pretty much my impression of downtown Amman all week long, from day to night. Except from one day, Friday. In a couple of hours around noon all the usual hassle disappears and the usual volume is turned down to a minimum. What is happening?

Well, in Jordan and in the rest of the Arab world, Friday is holy and people are off from work. The Friday prayer is considered to be something special and actually the Arabic word for Friday – Al Jummah – comes from Al Jam, which means “gathering”. This still makes sense to this day when you witness the prayer at the King Hussein mosque. The last two weeks I’ve been in downtown just around the time of the prayer at noon, and the sight of the many men praying in congregation is something special. Everybody is standing in well-structured, straight lines in front of the mosque, each with their own small prayer rug and their shoes taken of. Because so many are showing up, people also stand in the middle of the road and on the sidewalks. The delightful consequence of this is that no cars are allowed to travel the road in front of the mosque. It’s a strange sight because the road is usually very busy and filled up with cars that you have to go between when you cross the street, because they don’t stop unless you go out in front of them. The result of this being peace and quiet in a part of the city that is usually filled with cars and the smell of their emission all day long. When the prayer begins, the atmosphere is peaceful and calmness surrounds the area. The ritual contains a number of different actions and movements, to put it very simple: the imam recites parts of the Qur’an and the men change from standing in upright position to bowing, prostration and sitting in different combinations while praying at the same time. Even though you’re not a part of the prayer yourself, you sense a feeling of cohesion among the praying men that inflicts on you when you walk by.

Afterwards the crowd splits up. Most visible is the pro-Palestinian demonstration that develops in the crowd in front of the mosque. It’s a weekly tradition following the Friday prayer, to see people gather to show their discontent with the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The Palestinian flag is waving and slogans are flying in the air, it’s mostly young men wearing the black and white keffiyeh who are participating in the demonstration. Even though Jordan is a peaceful country in general, and the atmosphere on Fridays makes it appear even more peaceful, the awareness about the political in Jordan’s neighbouring countries still manifests itself occasionally; mostly it’s in the daily discussions though. Especially the conflict in Palestine is present in Jordan, since approximately half of the country’s population is of Palestinian origin.

At the same time as the demonstration takes place, some men instead go to the souq to buy food, while others go to the juice shops along the streets and talk in small groups. A lot of people return home, since Friday is also devoted to spending time with family. Slowly, people go back to their daily business, many shops open again, and Downtown begin to return to its usual condition, chaotic and lovely as we know it.

IMG_0354By Anna


I am a 24 year old European. Born and raised in Germany, I’ve lived in Denmark for a lot of years, travelled to Central America, Southeast Asia, parts of Europe, and am currently working in the Middle East, more specifically Jordan. So it’s safe to say that I have used my right to free movement and my privilege of having a European passport. Because that is exactly what it is, a privilege, and this is becoming more and more clear to me during my time here in Jordan.

The other day I listened to a young Egyptian activist talking about what he perceived as the biggest challenge of the region of the Middle East and North Africa, and his words left a huge impression on me. He said that most of his friends would rather die in the attempt of crossing the Mediterranean Sea to get to Europe than stay in Egypt and risk getting shot by a random police officer because of some inexplainable reason. They would rather die trying to reach a place where they hope to find more possibilities, than stay in their home country, where they don’t see any future for themselves. And yes, they are risking their lives to do so. Because right now it is the only way.

So what is the difference between me and young people from the Middle East or Africa? That some of them are running away from war and persecution and I’m just going somewhere because I want to? That some are running from poverty and starvation and I’m still just leaving because I can? Or that they are running toward better possibilities and education and more job opportunities while I’m traveling to get more experience and to learn?

Looking at this, it seems strange to me that they have to risk their lives if they want to go to our part of the world due to these, in my eyes, fairly legit reasons, while I can go anywhere I want without even half of the acute and important reasons they have?

Let me just say now that many people will define the above as some romantic, humanitarian and unrealistic bullshit. And let me also say that this may be true. I am aware of that. I’m also aware that the questions I state in the above are big questions and that a world where everyone can go wherever they want is probably not realistic and may not even be the best solution. But this does not make these questions any less relevant in my opinion. It is not my intention to make anyone feel bad about their privilege or to indicate that it’s a given that everybody wants to come to Europe (I am very aware that this is not at all the case even though European media tries to convince us otherwise). However, it is my intention to make us all think a little more about how differently people are treated in this world of ours and how the way you are treated is simply based on luck – luck to be born into a certain society, a certain culture and a certain passport.

by Meta Bodenhagen

A day in Suf Camp

It is seven-thirty five, I hurry to put on my shoes, grab my bag and sprint down the stairs from the apartment. On the way to the First Circle I quickly peel the banana I managed to grab in the last moment before leaving, then I meet Kristina, Karolina and Anna, who wave excitedly to tell me that I should hurry up, while they already get on a taxi, which will take us to the bus station.

Once we made our way through the traffic jam we walk quickly to the right bus stop and wait; we just missed the earlier bus. Again. And now it is uncertain, if we will be in the classroom on time. But soon an empty vehicle stops and we get on, nevertheless the seats fill slowly and after checking my watch for the fourth time we start to look at each other impatiently. Does it still make sense to go to the camp? Finally the driver decides to start the engine and we head off to Jerash, where we have to change the bus after approximately one hour of listening to music, reading, looking at the notes from the Arabic class or out of the window and sleeping.

When we visited the Suf Camp for the first time I was surprised, that there are no borders, no fences or other markings showing that you just have entered the refugee Camp. It appears to be like a city, garages, shops which sell fruits, vegetables, bread and falafel, schools, a mosque. Everything looks worn down, there’s a lot of trash on the streets, it’s poor, and of course the people don’t look wealthy, too, but they also don’t look miserable. Coming to Suf for the first time I felt pity and was kind of shocked about the living conditions there. Meanwhile we got quite used to the surroundings, we have been there many times, got to know some people living there.

Children and teenagers shout “Welcome to Jordan!” or “What’s your name?” at us when we walk hurriedly to the school complex. It now is around nine-fifty, classes are supposed to start at ten. Actually Karolina and I have to teach two classes, but the four boys from the first class often don’t show up, so we wait in the office of the headmistress, where women and teachers gather, chat and drink tea. We are also always offered a glass of incredibly sweet black tea and sometimes even cake.

Then the first boys smile, wave and look through the door. Time for us to start the lesson. Around five or six of them are attending our class every time, the rest of the mostly ten to thirteen boys changes from lesson to lesson, what makes it really hard to teach with continuity, also their level of English is significantly different. Some of them understand most of what we say, some can’t speak a single word in the foreign language. In class we talk about basic things, family members, parts of the body, present simple. They all want to participate in exercises, a few pay more attention than others, who rather try to draw attention at themselves.

Luckily Karolina can translate some instructions, tasks or contents of the lesson, so teaching becomes way easier. Even if it perhaps isn’t right what I say, I try to communicate in Arabic, too, but I am lost, as soon as the students want to explain something to me. All I can do in such a case is to stare at them blankly and try to find a sense in their words and gestures. Sometimes the sixty minutes are over quite fast, sometimes time goes by slowly. And after we gave them a homework (which is done by maybe two or three of them) we take our bags and walk to the bus, driving to Jerash, then another one which takes us to “Bab Amman”, still in Jerash, where we finally get on the last bus on our way. The driver there jumps around panicky, shouting, yelling, that we should hurry up. Of course we think he’s about to leave any second, but when we enter the bus, it’s still empty. So we have some time, I take a book from my bag and put it back there, because I am concentrating not to throw up, while the driver now tries out a different strategy. He is driving mini-distances, driving, stopping, driving, stopping. After five meters he realizes, that he already is in the middle of the street, so he engages the reverse gear, goes back to his old position and the cycle starts again. Eventually the bus is full, jallah! With deadly speed he goes over speedbumps, only slightly slowing down, towards Amman. At around two-thirty we sit in a taxi to the First Circle. Every time going to Suf is in some points different and we learned really quickly to deal with it. Here you cannot really rely on schedules or plans, but this is also what it makes interesting and exciting, even if it’s annoying sometimes.

By Lukas

What’s it like to be a Syrian Refugee?

I was asked, only a few days ago, a question, “Can you help me understand what it’s like to be a Syrian refugee?”. The question was a benevolent one, commendable, even. She was writing an article on the subject for a school newspaper and wanted to ask someone who may have a better idea than her.

I read the email; read it again. I know that the world’s loudest voices are currently partaking in a discourse regarding the bedraggled humans reaching the West’s coveted shores. Could I partake in that discourse, in just the smallest manner? Dilute the ignorance, the rhetoric, the ill-founded judgements. Could I aid in alleviating the West’s affronted behaviour when all that war, pain and desperation we see neatly tucked inside our boxes in the living room comes suddenly crashing through our borders speaking a foreign language and smelling of sea salt?

I attempt to remain pragmatic; much of the debate around the subject cannot be ignored in favour of golden ideals. Germany opening its borders to migrants perhaps only fuelled an illegal trade, many of the ‘refugees’ crossing into Europe are indeed young men without families and could be economic migrants and Britain taking thousands of refugees with a preconceived, arbitrary regulation to remove them at the age of eighteen is not a long term solution. It would only lead to the same individuals being culturally stranded, bereft of protection all over again and perhaps I do prescribe to the school of thought that the West would be better to invest its financial capabilities into securing tangible, robust support systems in neighbouring countries rather than receiving refugees at all.

I try to conceptualise the notion of resources; I see Jordan, relying on political deference to retain a water and gas supply it can’t afford to lose. I see poor Jordanians lacking in education, linguistics and even basic amenities who are seeing vegetable prices soar and the country’s cultural makeup shift since an influx of migrants. I hear them complain, I hear them struggle to understand why they are only one of two Arab countries accepting any altruistic burden. Their schools are groaning under the weight of incoming pupils and their taxi fares are pushing them onto public buses. The West, comparatively, has resources.

I read the email again; “What’s it like to be a Syrian refugee?” The only answer I had was no answer at all.

Scanning my class of Syrian widows who have fled the war, I realised that I could not possibly know. I could not know what it was to lose my husband, my uncles, my brothers, my sons; in Arabic culture, to lose the rudder to my ship. I could not know what it was to lose the country that I love dearly – and they do – to a war bigger than me and greater than I care to understand. I could not understand what it was to lose my security, stake and status in society, safety, possessions and everything and everyone I had known. To know that my children aren’t receiving the education they need or deserve and are psychologically damaged beyond the help I am allowed to obtain. To forget the taste of drinkable tap water or the cheese I used to hang in my courtyard that I’ll never taste again. To mourn, as they tell me, each day for the country and family I lost.

Instead, I told her what I did know. What a Syrian refugee is like; human. They laugh, make fun of me, I make fun of them, they build what they can from what they have, they forgive me for my differences and mistakes, regardless of how alien my tendencies are to them – “aadee” they say; “normal”. They patiently help me to learn Arabic, kindly cook me huge meals and politely smile a, “delicious” when they taste my suspicious-looking carrot cake. They worry about their children. They live in hope; to return, to recapture their existence, a lingering desperation that one of the greatest modern civilisations will be restored, indifferent to the actualities.

By Katie

At Home – The Relative Reality.

It is now more than a year ago I left for Jordan, and the 18th of September marked the five-month anniversary of my return to more familiar ground. To the country of blue cheese and happy people. A land where rubbish does not fill up the streets and where the bus will always leave on time.

Last month I spent a weekend at homecoming training, organised by my sending organisation. It led me to reflect on my time in Jordan, and the impact the experience has had on my life in Denmark since I returned. Without sounding, too much, like a cliché, one could definitely say that being in Jordan was ‘life-changing’ and helped me obtain a new ‘perspective’ on life. But after all, what do those, in my opinion, overly used buzzwords mean in reality?

“Wasn’t it hard? Seeing all the misery going on there?”, people often ask me.

I don’t know what to answer them. Seeing UNHCR tents by the side of the road along with malnourished children wearing sandals in the snow becomes surprisingly normal very quickly. Thinking back at it now, it scares me how fast one adapts to the harsh realities. It was just ‘everyday life’.

However, since my return I have felt this ambiguity towards the place in which I grew up. During the eight months I spent in Jordan I had not bought one single piece of new clothing, and I had lived in a place where the chairs were made out of plastic and our coffee table was a cupboard box with a scarf as the tablecloth. And I had not cared, just as no one around me had cared. Then suddenly I was back in Denmark, in the ‘West’, where people make money just to consume, and make more money in order to consume even more. The triviality of people’s conversations stunned me, because how could people actually care so much about how to decorate their living rooms with expensive brands when the refugees in Gaza Camp cannot even own a living room outside of the camp?
As time has flown by, I am not any better myself. I recently bought a pair of boots worth four times the monthly food vouchers the UN hands out to Syrian refugees in Jordan. Could I have donated that money, and gone on with my life wearing the boots I bought two years ago? Of course! But living in a Danish context now, the necessity of new boots did not seem unreasonable at all. We are so privileged without even realizing it. When people claim how we cannot take care of all the refugees making their way to Europe these days, I often hear excuses like:

“We cannot afford taking care of the whole world!”

And you think Jordan can? Lebanon? Those countries have a lot less resources, yet they absorb many times the number of refugees, Europe is facing right now. It made me realize how relative reality is.
I sometimes feel a bit poor in Denmark; I cannot afford buying lots of fancy clothes or the latest iPhone. Money does worry me quite a lot, and I would love to be able to buy a new dress for that party, as much I hate to admit it. I really understand if people in a situation similar to mine feel like they cannot afford donating money to help Syrian refugees. If your neighbour has a brand new BMW, you will feel poor if the car you can only afford a brand new Citroën. Does that mean you are actually poor? Not really. I think about it: how much did you spend on that bagel on your way home from work today? How much were the beers last Friday? Do you really need Spotify Premium AND Netflix?

It is hard to do alone. When everyone around you still enjoys their Sunday brunch at a restaurant and changes interior decor every season. But maybe we could all try to slow down, just a little bit. If we did, maybe the Syrians in Jordan did not have to live inside a tent during a snowstorm this winter. Maybe more of them could send their kids to school, enabling them create a better future for themselves.

The ‘life-changing’ part of an experience, like the one I had in Jordan, does not end when you go home. It will follow you when faced with your old life and habits. This where I acquired that ‘new perspective’, because everyday life in Jordan and everyday life in Denmark clashed, it was not compatible. So I have to find a new way of doing things. I am not there yet, maybe I will never get there entirely, it is an on-going process.

By Julie (ex-volunteer)

The Return of “Dreams of Childhood”

The children in the middle of the Israel-Palestinian conflict are living situations of extreme injustice, physical and mental abuses from Israeli soldiers. The everyday reality is a constant violation of children’s rights. For example, a simple act as going to school becomes a nightmare: many of those must cross a military checkpoint where they are victims of violence, they are humiliated and in the worst cases they suffer fatal shootings. Exclusion, poverty, lack of freedom and fear are also unresolved questions, unfortunately since the beginning of the conflict – sixty-seven years ago.

One initiative was born

The project started 5 years ago when Nubia Forero travelled to Palestine with the idea of developing an international cooperation to promote children´s rights in Palestine and raise awareness about the situation of children in this region. In collaboration with the Treatment & Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture (TRC) the project ‘Dreams of Childhood’ had begun its journey. In the first stage of the project, the TRC developed a series of workshops about Children’s Rights and gathered draws made by the children in the Camps in Ramallah, Hebron and Jenin. These draws started travelling the world in 2010 when they arrived for the 1st time to Spain.

What is Dreams of Childhood?

The main objective was to create an itinerary exhibition with the draws of the children and their testimonies and start to make a pedagogical and social awareness especially with other children in the world.


Nubia started connecting with different countries in order to find support to start the itinerary exhibition. This support came from universities, schools and cultural centres. The first visit took place in Munich, Germany.

Once the exhibition was set up it was divided in different parts: brief explanation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the pictures of the children are split in different rights for example education, family, freedom and future; another part with photos of the kids and few testimonies.

Methodology of work:

The young visitors went on a guided visit where it was explained to them the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the actual situation of the children living in the refugee camps.

Afterwards the kids participated in two workshops: creative writing and free draw. The objective was to motivate them to express their feelings after what was seen in the exhibition.

Repeating the methodology the exhibition arrived to Bolivia, Colombia and Spain. This resulted in hundreds of letters and draws with love, hope, support, respect and peace messages for the Palestinian kids.

Currently the amount of persons sensitized with the project is around 2000.

Look at the experience in Bogotá, Colombia:

In July of 2015, Nubia Forero with Menuts Del Món NGO, organization where she is volunteering, travelled to Ramallah to display and give the letters and draws to the children in the refugee camp. Was an exciting and happy moment.

Sin título

By Catalina

3rd Circle of Discussion around Women in the MENA Region

Several reports defend that gender based violence represents a major challenge to be tackled in Jordan. The Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) reports that violence against women is a problem that needs to be properly addressed in Jordan. One of the ways that this issue can be tackled is through law and putting in practice legal system that protects women who are victims of any kind of violence. Thus, SIGI among other points, refers the necessity to address the inequality between men and women before law.

Urging the need to open the discussion about women and law it took place, in late July, within the framework of the Circle of Discussions around Women in the MENA Region, a venue about the Legal Status of Women in the MENA Region. This was the 3rd of a monthly discussion, taking place in Amman, that aims to raise awareness and break stereotypes in a safe environment, where the local and international community can come together and discuss openly about women’s rights in the region.

No Honour in Crime, an organisation that is turning tables in a creative way by changing the dominant biased language, was present in the discussion. Among other issues, it was highlighted the need to address the crimes of honour in Jordan and one way they are doing it is by changing popular proverbs/sayings that might have a negative impact on women. In a creative way they are trying to change and create a new concept of honour, which doesn’t diminish women. No Honour in Crime, a small organisation that works entirely with part-time volunteers, intends to have a long-term impact and change the culture behind a distorted concept of honour.

On the other hand, it was pointed out that in many ways the law is appropriate, but lacks a correct practice. Moreover, it was highlighted some of the undergoing reforms in the Jordanian Criminal/Penal Code, namely the article 308.

The protection of the freedom and the legal rights of individuals is an important part of living in society. Throughout history we have witnessed how women have been neglected regarding legal rights and the status of women in the law. Although, in the past decades we have seen a transformation regarding women’s rights in this particular field
it is important to create spaces and give voice to different groups of women who are moving in favour of equality and fighting against an unequal system.

By Luísa

All sorts of things happen on the bus

People read my blog and wonder if I’m on holiday. No, I’m not. Sometimes I like imagining I am though. However, my primary mission here is teaching English. I teach those who were forced to leave their own country in order to flee war. Palestinians in the camps, Syrians in the suburb. I teach women and children. Maybe they can use their new knowledge one day and create a better life. Actually, it’s not even that much about English. It’s about spending an hour together, playing games, laughing, explaining some basic terms. What are the continents, what does an elephant look like, where is the rainforest? They are so motivated to learn, probably more than I’ve ever been in my school life. They’re not in a hurry to leave the classroom once the lesson is over. I like to believe our classes mean to them at least as much as they mean to me. Before we leave, friendly ladies offer us delicious biscuits with some juice, a coffee, sometimes they get someone to drive us to the nearby road where we can catch a bus from.

On the bus. We wait until it gets full, only then we leave. If we’re lucky, it has AC. Otherwise, we take some wind in our hair and take a wild ride on Amman streets, where one has to fight for their priority. No one really knows how many lanes there are; cope with it and drive! On the bus, I usually connect to the Internet, let my mom know I’m OK, study Arabic, or just wonder.

I wonder about how happy, satisfied I am, how everything is crazy and new, what’s next on my to-do list once I get home. Maybe I’ll stop at the market on my way home, I’m running out of fruits and zucchinis. I also need to find a place where I can buy some cocoa powder, as Klara and I promised we’d make a dessert this evening. It’s funny, I’ve only been here for a couple of weeks and it already feels like home. I have my favourite fruit and vegetable guy, who always gives me good price for tomatoes. He must be around 13 and I think he’ll succeed in his life, he has a genuine smile. I have a couple of new friends that I meet on the roof, mull over life, sing, and smoke shisha with. I have my favourite spot with most beautiful view. I have my herbs and natural oils supplier. And a shop where I get eight packs of spaghetti for a dinar. Some favourite falafel and hummus shops. I’m starting to know the coffee shop finger language and can order whatever coffee I want directly from the car. I know where to get the best dates. The figs are still too expensive for me, except for the ones in the camp. I can get a taxi by myself, ask if the meter is on, tell the driver where I want to go, arrive, pay, thank for the ride. Without using a single word in English. I found out I can mix tahini (sesame paste) with date molasses to get a superb dessert, on a spoon. I know when the prayer takes place. I turn the music off during that time. At 6 pm, the church bells ring, it sounds familiar, kind of homely. All these are things I think about on the bus.

When all the seats are taken, a man offers me his place despite my you really don’t have to, it’s OK, thank you. Accept. You should always take what’s offered to you, a wise local man told me soon after my arrival to the Middle-East. Sometimes three women collegially share two seats. Some other time, a man goes to sit with another man, so I can have my own seat. Of course, it is unacceptable if I sit next to a man, except for some extreme cases.

Sometimes the bus stops, a uniformed man is checking the documents. I can feel restlessness, tension. There is a young man without his ID and he has to leave the bus, accompanied by the policeman. No one cares about mine, which makes me feel slightly offended, although the partiality is in my favour. Can’t I be dangerous?
The bus goes its way, at some point we have to pay for the ride. A supple young man is counting the coins, he calculates fast and never forgets to give the change back when he gets some. There is a man wearing an elegant shirt, he immediately notices we’re foreigners. I’ll pay for you, you are my guests. Welcome. There are four of us and we all tell him there is no need, we have money. He insists, welcome.

The ride and all the waiting and changing takes about two hours, depending on where we go. Just don’t be in a hurry.

By Staša

Little things

»Do you feel sad? « My mum asked me yesterday while we were having our Whatsapp conversation.

-Sad about what exactly?
“About all those bad things going on.”

It took me a second or two to think. Of course it makes me sad. There are people with lack of food, comfort, safety, papers, future, education, psychological support. There are people trying to make their way to better future and they face walls. Literally.

But this makes me sad on deeper level. Somewhere inside it’s bothering me. But to tell the truth on everyday basis I don’t think about it that much.

I get on my bus, I drive to the orphanage building. There are happy children, they are waiting for me and Rosa. They WANT to learn. Even though it’s difficult. And they can’t say purple but they say burble instead. Even though some of them saw very hardcore vivid heartbreaking events. They say “Hello teacher!”, they open their notebooks and we begin.

Two weeks ago I decided to start individual classes with two girls and one woman. Their English is much better than others and I thought we could do some extra work. And the result is amazing. I have never seen that much motivation. It makes me motivated too, to prepare material in all the creative ways I can imagine. And at the end they give me a cookie or coffee and they say: “Shukran!”

“Thank you!”

And I walk home happy. A tiny difference was just made in this world and that’s enough for me for that day.

And sometimes I help an old woman carry groceries from the store or I high five children who are living in the tents on the way from orphanage to bus, where I walk. And it all just makes me happy. Because there is misery all around us and there are big problems on macro level.

But when I think of my tiny world I found myself comfortable in, in this period of time. When I think of the orphanage or people around it I feel just happiness. Because we laugh together, and we learn together and that’s the most beautiful thing.

By Klara

Education, Work and Women

Luisa, Ana, Alba and me are organizing a circle for discussions for Women in the MENA Region. Once in a month we discuss a specific topic connected to women in an informal way.

Last month the second discussion about Women and Education and Work took place in Naqsh which is a cosy café and open cultural space.

As speakers we invited Hala Abu Taha, Sales Engineer at Izzat Marji Groupand and Alaa Alqaisi, Educational Field Coordinator at Relief International and as moderator Madlein Abuamrieh, Food, Security and Livelihood Project Manager at ACF.

Alaa, who spoke first, pointed out that women in Jordan are still disadvantaged in the access to education. He referred to statistics that are showing the average situation in Jordan, included the Syrian community. The main obstacles are culture, high economical costs and discrimination. A sincere problem for girls education is the early marriage. After marrying they don’t attend school or university anymore. After marriage discrimination in the schools is high and there are hardly possibilities for women to defend themselves. Furthermore the high costs of universities cause a lot of girls to avoid studying because they can’t afford it. Here is a bridge to cultural problems because parents prefer to send boys to the university. Moreover especially people from rural areas are seeing no need to send their daughters to university, since they come back to the village where they marry.

To overcome these challenges according to Alaa awareness programs are needed. He gave us an insight about some projects as for example an interactive theatre and cartoons aiming to improve women situation. Moreover the governmental support for stopping the early marriage is important.

Hala told us her personal story studying mechanical engineering and afterwards finding a job. She decided very early to study mechanical engineering even if everybody said that’s not a field for women. In her 3rd year even her professor said to the course that all girls should change their major, because they will never find a job. Against all this she decided to finish her studies and she even helped the boys out. When she graduated 4 years later a lot of people called her a bad girl and said that it’s shameful to work with men.

After finishing university she needed 4 months to find a job. Finally she got a job in the office, where she designed things. After some time she decided to change to sales engineering. She applied for a job offer where she was rejected. So she called the manager and asked for the reasons. He told her straight that it’s because she is a woman. During the conversation she convinced him to invite her for an interview and in the end she got the job. She closed her speech in a very positive way and is convinced that it’s possible to overcome every obstacle if you follow your target.

Afterwards the audience could give their comments and ask questions. They commented that families often don’t send their daughters to university because there are men and woman together. One guy said that it’s an advantage for women that someone takes care of her which lead to the discussion related to gender and sex, there are a lot of stereotypes. Alaa pointed out that a woman should have the right to select her husband by herself if the goal of the marriage is to have children, furthermore he explained that the discrimination has two dimensions: 1st the discrimination at home and 2nd the one in the community. He told us that in previous times women worked on farms but now there is the stereotype that they have to stay at home.

As we want to target the Jordanian and the foreign community with our discussions the language is a problem. It was hold in English and Arabic what allows everyone to participate but also causes repetition.

Unfortunately we had to finish the discussion abruptly because there was another event in Naqsh. But altogether it was an interesting evening that gave us an overview about the situation of women in this area.

By Rosa