Amman December 15, 2010 – Young Jordanian women say they are entering the workforce with more confidence, sharper skills, and increased opportunity, thanks to a pilot program sponsored by the World Bank as part of its global Adolescent Girls Initiative.
“The training changed my life,” said Farrah, a young woman from Amman, at the program’s launch in the Jordanian capital.
Overall, 900 young Jordanian women – all recent community college graduates – are participating in the Jordan New work Opportunities for Women (NOW) pilot program.
Young women comprise only nine percent of the economically active population in Jordan. While they are more educated than their male counterparts, they experience twice as much difficulty getting a job. Jordan NOW is designed to break down employment barriers for young women, offering participants training to increase their work skills and monthly job vouchers as a small financial incentive to businesses to hire them.
For Zainab, an accounting specialist from Salt, the program meant the difference between success and hopelessness.
“Before I joined the program, I faced significant challenges when I looked for a job,” she said. “I felt hopeless and frustrated. After I got the voucher, I had hope again. It encouraged me.”
Zainab landed a job at a health aid association and has so impressed the auditors and management that she has been offered a permanent position after the voucher program ends in August 2011.
“I’m so happy,” she said. “Especially because my employer has said he will keep me and give me a salary as a valuable employee.”
Heba, a participant from Amman, who was hired by Middle East Legal Forum, had a similar experience with equally encouraging results.
Before entering the program no one responded when she sent out resumes. “But once I attached the voucher to my resume, I was appointed directly from the first interview,” she said.
Heba still receives calls from other companies that received a copy of her resume and the offer of a voucher. However, she is staying on with the firm that first hired her; confident they will retain her after the voucher expires.
In the pilot program, 300 participants received job vouchers, 300 received training, and 300 received both. Program administrators will compare success rates relative to similar graduates from the same cohort, and help determine best ways to reduce initial barriers to employment.
“We are monitoring progress very closely,” said Tara Vishwanath, World Bank Team Leader, “and we hope initial indications translate into tangible results on the ground. This is why this pilot is being rigorously evaluated.”
The enthusiasm and commitment of the young women is so great that many participants who received vouchers but not training – like Heba – read copies of the training manual at their own initiative.
“I feel like I’ve been able to implement everything I’ve learned directly into my work, which makes me feel like I have something useful to contribute,” said Razan, a participant from Karak.
Borhan, a young woman from Irbid, said the training taught her skills necessary to succeed in her job search.
“Before I went into the program, I didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “I didn’t know how to communicate well. I didn’t know how a CV is done. Now, I know how to meet with Human Resources and I know how to negotiate.”
The World Bank program is under the patronage of Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan and in collaboration with the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation and other partners.
Since the vouchers became effective in October 2010, 130 girls have successfully obtained jobs using the vouchers. Most of the participants at the launch were excited about receiving a salary. They are using their salaries to supplement their families’ income and take additional courses or learn new skills. Esraa’, who is from Zarqa, says she sets part of her monthly salary aside for her parents, part for savings, and part to save up enough money to take the courses required for her driver’s license.
Young women in Jordan not only face barriers from employers who often don’t view young women as long-term employees, but also from families where cultural norms can discourage women from working.
Nearly all of the young women who attended the program launch in Amman had to ask permission from their fathers to work, with some extending the request to brothers and uncles as well.
“My brothers came with me to the interview,” said Doa’a, who is from Amman. “And then after my first week at work they came to check on me and talk to my colleagues about how I was doing. They were much more comfortable after seeing the environment I worked in.”
Families may also veto jobs they think unsuitable for their daughters. Lamaral, a young woman from Zarqa, had to turn down a well-paying job that involved door-to-door marketing for an insurance company. But thanks to the training provided by Jordan NOW, she says she is confident she will find a job that is right for her and acceptable to her family.
But perhaps the most important aspect for the young women involved in the program is the knowledge that there are others who are facing similar challenges and obstacles, blazing trails for young women across the Kingdom.
“I now know girls from all over the country, “said Safa’, who is from Amman. “I have someone I can depend on in every governorate.”