Investing in women and a future for Jordan
As Bushra Al-Obaidi confidently works away in her thriving handicraft shop in the centre of Amman, Jordan and promotes her beautiful products online it is hard to believe that, not long ago, she was struggling to send her children to college or even put food on the table.
Life for women in Jordan, who make up 70% of those living in poverty, is one littered with hardship. They face lower wages then men, have little control over property, face high levels of physical vulnerability and often have to combine being homemaker with being the main income earner.
In the face of this adversity and little control over their lives, one organisation in Jordan is reaching out to women to help them take on these challenges and form a path of opportunity for themselves and their families.
Over the last 20 years, the Microfund for Women (MFW) has given women across Jordan confidence beyond the home and the chance to engage in economic activity, through offering microloans that women are ordinarily refused by banks. The initiative has unsurprisingly won support from an array of beneficiaries, including from the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development - made possible by EU grants to support Europe’s Southern Neighbourhood.
Women in need of finance are able to come together as guarantors for one another and receive loans to pull themselves out of poverty and create their own businesses, sometimes employing others too.
Bushra is one of these women. She was able to turn the challenge of simply providing for her family into entrepreneurship as her dream of opening a handicraft shop was made a reality by a small loan of just 2500 Jordanian Dinars (€3000) from the Jordan Microfund For Women.
Investing in more than money
The impact of MFW goes far beyond money, women are being given the chance of real independence and the ability to prove themselves in society.
‘Of course, I like having independence, that I have capital, something that I can work on, take initiative on, that benefits my family I have daughters that are students and I can help them There are other women, widows for example, that also work with us’ - Bushra
The approach that MFW takes is not just about the economic considerations – it’s about cultural change too. Women are passing on ideals to their daughters and encouraging others around them, girls want to work and help create a sustainable future for Jordan built on entrepreneurship, opportunity and economic resilience.
MFW was set up in recognition that many of the poorest people in Jordan have the potential skills to provide for themselves and their families but without capital become trapped in a cycle of dependence and debt.
The fund is helping to break down these barriers for women.Muna Sukhtian, Managing Director of MFW, describes the thinking behind the Fund and what she considers its biggest impact,
“We target women because women in this region need a lot of support and they are amazing ‘Empowerment is the biggest impact, children along with having food on the table and a better education are seeing their mothers actively working. This goes a long way for the future.’
The Fund has also started to reach out directly to refugees from Syria, offering loans so women refugees have the chance to take part in economic activity and help build a future, just like Bushra and Amna.
Creating opportunities together
The need to work together to create a common future, is one that women across Jordan are embracing.
Amna Bklezi , who thanks to the help of MFW started her own home cooking business, is now able to employ 4 other women and wants to reach out to more.
‘At one time I was in need, now I feel for those in need. I want to lend them a hand, for them to work with me.’
Women are working alongside one another with bigger ambitions and hopes for the future.
‘It gave me confidence, I take great strides forward. My ambitions for my work have gotten larger. My ambitions began with working in the house. Now, no!’- I hope to have a large restaurant, to take intensive courses and to offer courses to students.
It is this which the EIB is supporting by investing in MFW: helping women across the region to build a future for themselves, their families and their country.