One of the best parts of my job is describing my work. I get positively giddy when I talk about the incredible women I work with in the Policy Advocates program. While so much of the popular discourse surrounding women in the Arab Spring has been about the negative effects that the revolutions have had on women, I get to talk about what is going right for women in the Arab world, based on the advocacy work that the women themselves have done to make their own voices heard.
If talking about my work makes me giddy, witnessing the advocacy campaigns firsthand and getting to write case studies about their work is a dream come true. Last week, I arrived in Jordan and caught up with Lara Ayoub and Randa Naffa, two of the Jordan Policy Advocates team members who recently registered their campaign, SADAQA, as its own NGO in order to continue their advocacy work.
Lara and Randa took me to meet with the Ministry of Labor’s Women’s Work Directorate, where Director Asma Abu Azam credited the SADAQA campaign and a workshop they hosted in the spring for bringing to light legal disparities between the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Social Development. As a result, they have formed a committee to set up unified guidelines for the establishment of corporate daycare centers – a legal requirement for businesses of certain size in Jordan. Asma also promised SADAQA the Ministry’s full support as they move forward with the next phase of the campaign.
Lina Ali Ahmad from the Lebanese League for Women in Business also joined me in Amman for a day to work on a case study for Lebanon’s Policy Advocates team. We met Lara and Randa for lunch and the three women spent hours comparing experiences, sharing notes, and inspiring each other on the various aspects of their campaigns. Questions flew across the table for hours: “How did you involve the media?” “Did you approach Parliamentarians directly?” “Does the government support your campaign?” “How will you continue the campaign if a war breaks out?” It was an incredible learning opportunity for all of us.
Lina left to return to Beirut, and I continued working on the Jordan case study with Lara and Randa at my hotel. When we finished, I escorted them outside, where we ran into all of the directors and major shareholders of the Arab Bank, including the very recently appointed Chairman of the Board. Since female employees of the Arab Bank have been working with the SADAQA campaign to create a daycare in the company headquarters in Amman, Lara and Randa did not hesitate to approach the new Chairman and introduce themselves and the SADAQA campaign! We were all thrilled when he offered his support to the plan and asked the ladies to contact him for more information.
The next morning, we visited Zain Telecom, which has a state-of-the-art daycare facility for children of employees (with priority going to employees who are mothers). After a tour, the daycare’s director, Madina Naghawy, told us about the company’s overwhelming financial support for the daycare, which has increased employee retention and productivity overall – particularly among female employees. Since Madina has been an enthusiastic member of the SADAQA campaign, she was happy to hear that they would continue their activities and promise her full support.
After an exhilarating week in Jordan, I’m looking forward to sharing more about the Egypt team’s campaign, where I arrived next. Stay tuned!
Christie is a regional program manager on the Middle East and North Africa team at Vital Voices.
Pictured, above: Christie with Lara Ayoub, Randa Naffa and Lina Ali Ahmad from Vital Voices’ Policy Advocates teams.