Jordan: Women Empowering Themselves and Others

08 March 2013

A life-skills class was initiated especially for Syrian women in Amman, Jordan. The majority of the women have had little in the way of formal education and are using this opportunity to learn basic literacy in English and Arabic, as well as acquire other skills that may be beneficial to them and their families whilst they seek refuge in Jordan. (Jesuit Refugee Service)

The life-skills class is packed. Up to 40 women fill the classroom and there is a lively atmosphere as Furdous, their teacher from Iraq, makes them go over the English alphabet yet again.This class at the informal education project in Amman is a recent addition to the curriculum. As more and more Syrian women brought their families to register at the school, it became evident that the women were also searching to learn practical new skills.

“I was welcomed by scolding from a  Syrian mother from the Damascus suburbs. At the end of a long conversation, she passionately stated that she didn’t want a cash handout from UNHCR [UN Refugee Agency], but she wanted work and a way to support her family in a dignified manner,” said Colin Gilbert, JRS Jordan Director. Mr. Gilbert is currently visiting U.S. parishes and universities to talk about the work of JRS in Syria.

I admire Syrian women. They're very strong, powerful in the home, and they have a lot of potential.
Colin Gilbert, JRS Jordan Director

Urged on on by this complaint, a course on life skills was organized for Syrian women at the school, and Furdous volunteered to develop a curriculum and teach the class. “I admire Syrian women. They’re very strong, and also powerful in the home, they have a lot of potential,” said Furdous.

The course focuses on providing Arabic and English literacy skills for women. Most of the women have had little or no access to formal education. They each come from socially and religiously conservative backgrounds. When the first life-skills class was held, some of the older women remarked that there place was in the home with their children and that learning was not necessary. This comment was challenged by one woman, who said, “I always wanted to be a doctor.”

“It was encouraging to see this concept being challenged from within the group. Soon the women were debating it among themselves and after 45 minutes they had come up with a list of things they wanted to learn in this class,” said Colin. We hope the life-skills class will be a stepping stone towards helping empower Syrian women. JRS Jordan will soon start a community-based learning program to provide students with specific skills aimed at helping them become financially self-sufficient.