NAFE’s Round-Table Discussion on Economic Empowerment:
Youth and Women’s Participation in Economic Empowerment is Central for Poverty Reduction
31st October 2019, The National Association for Family Empowerment (NAFE) organized a roundtable entitled “Economic Empowerment of Youth and Women in the Northern and Middle Jordan Valley through Savings and Loan Groups”. The roundtable was held at the Hilton Hotel-Dead Sea, under the patronage of Her Excellency Mrs. Basma Ishaqat, Minister of Social Development, and represented by the Minister’s Advisor for Development and Poverty Mr. Mohammed Al-Oshaibat, the Acting Canadian Ambassador to Jordan and Head of Cooperation Mr. Christopher Johnston, the Country Director of MEDA-Jordan Mr. Ahsan Ul Haque Helal. The event was attended by international and national NGOs representatives, in addition to local CBO partners from Middle and Northern Jordan Valley, representatives of the directorates of Social Development, Labor, administrative governors, media representatives, donors and a number of direct beneficiaries of the economic empowerment project.
The event was opened with a welcoming speech by the Executive Director of NAFE, Mrs. Rania Al-Hayyouk, who gave a brief about NAFE programs and activities, and communicated the justifications which led to developing the economic empowerment project that is targeting youth and women through Savings and Loan Groups (SLGs) in Middle and Northern Jordan Valley. Mrs. Hayyouk said that the project was developed based on assessment conducted in the Jordan Valley and took into consideration the global indicators, which places Jordan as one of the lowest countries in women economic participation. Mrs. Hayyouk added that NAFE analyzed the causes of weak participation of youth and women in economic, political and social life, and targeted North and Middle Jordan Valley for several considerations, the most of which is the high unemployment rate in these areas, low participation of women and youth in economic sector, lack of employment and self-employment skills among women and youth, limited access to finance, high level of Gender-Based Violence, and low level of public services. Mrs. Hayyouk concluded her speech by thanking partners for their technical and financial support in the implementation of the project, MEDA and the Canadian Government, and said that their support has contributed to reaching more than 4000 youth and women in the intervention areas during the past 15 months, who were trained on business development, financial literacy, soft skills, Savings and Loan Group methodologies, and methodologies for setting up small businesses.
Acting Canadian Ambassador to Jordan, Mr. Christopher Johnston, highlighted the importance of economic empowerment programs and their role in alleviating poverty. He also touched upon the programs implemented by the Canadian Government in partnership with the Government of Jordan and civil society organizations. He added that the economic empowerment project that is implemented by NAFE in partnership with MEDA Jordan contributes effectively to increasing women’s and youth participation in economic activities, and this is an integral part of Canada’s strategy to improve livelihood conditions of marginalized groups in Jordan.
Mr. Mohammed Al-Oshaibat, Advisor to the Minister of Social Development for Development and Poverty, stressed the importance of projects implemented by civil society organizations and thanked NAFE for its great efforts in empowering youth and women in the northern and central Jordan Valley. He also touched on the role of the Ministry and its interest in the empowerment of women economically, socially and politically.
Mr. Ahsan Ul Haque Helal, Director of MEDA in Jordan, said that MEDA projects in Jordan aims to reduce poverty and unemployment among youth and women and contributes to local economic empowerment of marginalized groups. He also spoke about the success and achievements gained of the Jordan Valley Links project, which is implemented by MEDA in partnership with the NAFE and other organizations. In his speech, he highlighted the role played by MEDA partners in implementing economic empowerment projects that play a prominent and important role in empowering and reducing poverty among the most disadvantaged in Jordan. He concluded by stressing that MEDA is working continuously to provide financial support to ensure the continuation of such projects, which in turn aim at to empower women and youth economically and improve their skills to be able to join labor market.
A presentation was made by Mrs. Hayyouk, the executive Director NAFE explaining the approach and methodology of the Economic empowerment project, achievements and results, lessons learned and recommendation. According to Mrs. Hayyouk, the project contributed to creating more than 198 Savings and Loan Groups with total beneficiaries reached 3651 (637 men and 3014 women). She also said that the number of loans has reached 748, and the number of small businesses established has reached 358.
This event included live testimonies from the field about the experiences of women benefiting from Savings and Loan Groups, and the type of home-based businesses they have established through loans obtained from savings funds.
At the second part of the event, participants engaged in a discussion about changes that prevent youth and women from being fully engaged in economic activities in the Jordan Valley, and the opportunities available to them. Accordingly, participants came up with a number of recommendations to enhance participation of youth and women in economic activities and overcome and challenges they face, including the inclusion of agricultural entrepreneurs in social security, and open the door for small business owners to market their products in local markets, access to finance and give advanced training in business development, expansion and formalization of small businesses, e-marketing skills, and amending laws that restrict women’s participation in economic, political and social life.