Zarqa- Women at the Family Affairs Charitable Association Shemagh (traditional headdress for men) workshop are busy making a large order. While some are sewing the traditional headdress, others are busily enameling the Shemaghs with Hadab, all the while making the headdresses even prettier.
Amal Abu Raad is leading the workshop at this association. Her job involves teaching women how to make Shemaghs and overseeing production. The women have learnt how to make headdresses, and they join hundreds of others who learned such skills at the association in the workforce: Some are working from home and others have established their own shops.
The Family Affairs Charitable Association is one of 50 community-based organisations that benefited from UNDP’s Community Cohesion Grant Mechanism (CCGM) which was developed as a systematic “intervention” methodology, employed and implemented to advance and strengthen community peace, stability and social cohesion in host communities in five Jordanian governorates; Irbid, Mafraq, Zarqa, Ma’an and Tafilah.
The project worked to develop the capacity of civil society organisations and community-based organisations to implement rapid response interventions and community initiatives that strengthen the sense of belonging and relevance at the local level. It also sought to facilitate the participation of youth and women in the affairs of their communities to advance and consolidate the culture of diversity for inclusion, nonviolence & peacebuilding and preventing extremism and radicalization.
Amal Wahdan is the director of the Family Affairs Charitable Association. A veteran development expert and a women empowerment champion, she said her main focus was equipping women with skills that would enable them to become breadwinners and decision-makers on their family and community levels.
“With the support of UNDP, we were able to train hundreds of women on crucial skills that helped them earn a living and grow personally and socially,” said Wahdan as she observed project beneficiaries stack Shemaghs pending their sale.
“We live in a marginalised area. We suffer from poverty, unemployment, prevalent drug abuse, crime and lack of resources. We cannot solve these problems unless we empower women to become wage earners. We also educate women on basic family health issues and how to tackle challenges, so they spread proper education to their kids and families,” She added.
This association operates in an area that houses a population of 500,000 people, a large percentage of whom have been trapped into poverty in this area of Zarqa, classified by the government as a rural “poverty pocket” where more than 25 percent of the population is below the absolute poverty line. Unemployment here is much higher than the government estimated of 14 percent, the percentage of unemployed women is 77 percent, according to the Department of Statistics.
The UNDP’s direct intervention in Zarqa concluded at the start of 2019. Nevertheless, the impact of sustainability of the development effort is still evident, according to Wahdan. In addition to the direct impact of the hundreds of activities on the ground in the governorates of Mafraq, Irbid, Zarqa, Tafileh and Ma’an, the UNDP through the Mateen Network supported the personal and financial wellbeing of the beneficiaries, and the community-based organisations themselves, through enhancing their social positioning as agents of positive change. The 'Mateen Platform' has been formed from a network of organised, effective grassroots groups with proven capacity to engage in areas of enhancing social cohesion, strengthening the role of civil society, and building opportunities for multi- stakeholder dialogue and discussion. Therefore, the interventions enhanced their existing facilities all of which attracted a new pool of talent which in turn supported their sustainability.
The CBOs facilitated community dialogue through these projects, whether in the form of awareness dialogue, engagement dialogue or initiatives and volunteerism dialogue.
“Our beneficiaries have acquired life skills. They didn’t only learn how to sew, they were trained on time management, problem-solving, marketing, pricing, social media marketing and project management. These are the life-altering skills, and this is how we believe they can improve their lives,” Entisar Abu Ghosh, deputy director of the Family Affairs Charitable Association said.
“We noticed that all the ladies wanted to work and earn extra income. They worked so hard for very little pay. We selected those ladies and offered them training on how to work well and be paid well. Some of the women have gotten low-interest-rate loans to develop their own projects,” she added.
The UNDP, in partnership with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the Government of Japan worked to help beneficiaries gain skills for the long term. At the implementation level, and in partnership with the Ministry of Interior, projects were selected based on a set of eligibility criteria and focused on five target fields of development that included; support to the local municipal service sector, youth training and capacity building, community awareness (with focus on preventing violent extremism, drugs and addiction), empowerment of women and support for local and municipal authorities.
For phase one of the implementation of CCGM, three governorates were chosen because, at the time of implementation in 2016, they displayed many of the ‘warning signs’ which were precursors to social unrest and a lack of civic cohesion, namely extreme poverty, unemployment and a large influx of Syrian refugees who placed additional pressure on already strained resources.