The Jordanian Women's Union
Have you ever showed up at a party or an event and suddenly realized that you were drastically underdressed? That is how I felt when I got to the Jordanian Women's Union. The clothing analogy here is more about my feelings that these women are doing so much work to help the other women in their country that I felt naked in my efforts. Does that make sense? Anyway, I was so impressed and humbled by the dedication of these women. They were all highly educated in their fields, doctors and lawyers who are using their skills to help their fellow female instead of grow a large bank account.
The first woman I met with, the woman who is talking on two phones at once, is the director Nadia Shamroukh. She told me the story of the Union coming and going over the last several decades as such organizations were outlawed and then made legal once again. She spoke of the work that they are doing to change the laws in Jordan so that they are not just based on religious law. The religious law and traditions that currently exist end up leaving women without many rights when it comes to marriage and divorce, the passing of land, etc. This woman was is so determined in her quest that I really believe that the may be the agents of change in Jordan.
Next I met with a woman who works with the victims of human trafficking. This is a current thing that is happening in Jordan, and the women tend to come from Morroco and Egypt. They are lured over thinking they will be working in service jobs and then are stuck in the country as sex workers. They can't do anything about their entrapment. But the Union has set up a hotline, which is literally a phone line that is manned in one of the rooms there (photo above), and these women can call and get shelter and legal assistance in getting out of these contracts that they are stuck in. Often their passage has been paid by the "employer" and so there is nothing they would be able to do on their own about their debt to these people. But through the hotlline and the other services offered at the Union, the women receive free legal aid and assistance in getting free.
My beautiful guide with the blue head scarf is a lawyer that works with these women, and also helps the women navigate through divorce and other such things. The Union has several buildings on one street, and these buildings house many of the tangible services offered by the organization. There is housing for women and children who are victims of domestic violence. There are doctors for these people, and places where divorced families can come and meet in a safe, neutral environment. There are little stores for the children. There are opportunities for the women to learn new trades and earn an income. A beauty shop, and handicraft training, a full kitchen where delicious dishes are prepared and sold for profit. An internet cafe to let the women job search.
I also got a tour through the building where this amazing artist of a lady is doing traditional Palestinian hand-embroidery. She teaches this trade to the women who are trying to get back on their feet and it gives them a way to be able to work from the safety of their own homes. They sell these traditional garments for good wages.
All the women I encountered at the Union are there out of love. They are using the skills that they have to make a difference for the women in their country. It certainly made me want to do more.