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Discovering Their Voice: Two Jordanian Women's Stories of Becoming Community Leaders

Women in Jordan remain under-utilized. Jordan continues to have one of the world’s lowest rates of women’s workforce participation at only 13 percent. Women’s political participation is also low; despite the inclusion of quotas for women in national and municipal bodies. Many women are seen as mothers and wives and nothing else.

IRI’s Empower program is designed to bolster the civic, professional, and political skills of women from government-designated “poverty pockets” within Jordan. Armed with new skills and a new sense of purpose, traditionally disenfranchised women now have the confidence and knowledge to be fully engaged in community affairs.

Yesterday, IRI held a graduation ceremony for over 100 Jordanian women who have completed our Empower program. They are part of the fourth class of Empower, with 376 women who have graduated before them.

For the past year, these women have gathered together to learn about communication skills, negotiation techniques, political terminology, and public speaking.

Their stories and successes are a true testament to what women can do in Jordan.

Falha Al-Athamneh is a 48-year-old mother of five and is Deputy Head of the Local Council in Mreigha.

Like many of the women in the Empower program, Falha always had the motive inside her to become a voice for everyone in her community. However, as Falha said in an interview with IRI, “You cannot give what you do not have.” She never knew she could be anything more than a mother. Falha went on to say, “This (becoming Deputy Head) would not be possible without someone or something taking our hands and showing us the way, which is exactly what IRI started doing a year ago, and far beyond what I hoped for.”

“I was one of the lucky ones to participate in the Empower program and attend many trainings and workshops that helped me to improve the skills that I needed to step up and stand in a position where my voice is heard, and what better position than an elected official. Thanks to IRI support and the experience that I gained through the last year, I had enough courage to participate in the local elections and run for office.”

“I was afraid to speak up and scared of how people may react to what I have to say. The first step I took was to believe in my abilities, but most importantly, others believed in me, starting from IRI, to my husband and family, many women and charity associations- all people who encouraged me and pushed me out of my comfort zone to speak up and be part of the change in my community.”

Samra’a Al-S’eideen, another Empower graduate, is a 30-year-old mother of four. Coming from a male-dominated community, one of the main challenges for Samra’a was to be recognized as an important partner and active member of the community.

In a recent interview, Samra’a said, “Luckily, I received tremendous support from IRI and the people around me to become what I am today. The support from IRI came in the shape of trainings and workshops that provided me and my fellow women with necessary skills to help us understand who we are and what are we capable of, not only as wives but also as decision makers.”

“Feeling empowered was not enough; I had to roll up my sleeves and run for elections in Wadi Araba. It was a challenging experience, but with the support of IRI through the elections and the support of my family, I was able to crown my success by winning the election and become a municipal councilor.”

Samra’a and Falha are only two of the 125 amazing women who graduated. IRI is excited for these women to take the lead and honored to be part of their journey.