1 pilot, implemented by the Jordan Valley Links (JVL) project. Preparing for the trip, I mentally prepared myself for the potential responses and reactions that my colleague and I would receive to the question: “What is an empowered woman?”
As it turns out, that can be even more complex than we imagined.
In Southern Shouneh (Middle Jordan), we were surprised by the men’s definitions of women’s empowerment.
“She is a woman who can control her house issues well.”
“She is the one that takes care of her children, husband, and house.”
“She is the decision-maker of the household.”
Many of the men’s answers were about the role of women at their houses and with their children -- but nothing about the role of women outside their homes.
Back in Um Qais, my colleague, Hamzah Kamal, facilitated a session with men as we felt that they would feel more comfortable discussing these gender issues with another man. I was sitting in the back taking notes, as Hamzah asked about the differences that they had seen in the role of women in their community now, compared to 10 years ago.
One man, aged 47 years, said that “there is a huge difference [...] 15 or 20 years ago we didn’t count women as family members, but now we do!”
Hamzah asked him to clarify his statement. “Usually if someone asked a man how many children he has, he would usually give the number of boys only! And this applies to sisters and brothers too. But now we consider them as citizens and we count them,” he responded.
Another man, 65 years old, supported this statement. “I agree, now we count our girls and women, this is because they have proved their role in the community and income generating – not only managing the house matters,” he said.
I was curious to know more. The next day, I called my friend Layali Abu Sir, a program analyst for Population Dynamics Program at UNFPA Jordan. Layali shared that this practice existed, and it was a real challenge for people that work in population studies and statistics.
Given this new knowledge, new questions arose. Did this culture shift occur because women were empowered at the community level? Or because they are bringing money into the family? Or both? How did women feel previously when they were not counted? Did they know? Is this ignorance towards women a reason for them to challenge the social norms and take steps in the direction of financial empowerment? Is counting women what we (women activists) aim for? How do women feel now that they are counted?
I hope to find more answers to my questions on my future visits to Um Qais, where JVL continues to support women to take further steps towards their social and economic empowerment, enabling an environment allowing women to start their own businesses so that they can feel acknowledged and appreciated by their families and community.
For more information on gender outcome mapping, please visit this resource (Care International and USAID
1 Gender Outcome Mapping is a participatory method for project management and evaluation of projects that aim for social change on gender aspects. Results are measured by the changes in behavior, actions and relationships of those individuals, groups or organizations with whom the initiative is working directly and seeking to influence (Smutylo, 2005).