UN evidence suggests inefficiency in dealing with women’s issues

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Delegates speak at a UN Talk held at the St Regis on September 13, 2021. The event in one in a series of talks organized under the UN SocioEconomic Framework for COVID-19 recovery. (Photo: Sarah Abu-Sa’ad/Jordan News)
AMMAN — Women in Jordan still lack autonomy, equality, and support from the public and private sectors speakers at a UN Talk on Monday said. The event, on a gender-responsive COVID recovery, comes as part of a series of UN-organized discussions.اضافة اعلان

"There are structural issues, and there are unequal power relations, there are structural issues within legislations that affect women’s empowerment, autonomy, access to economic opportunity, which is related to discrimination not only within laws, not only within households —it’s also within the public sphere: discrimination is practiced informally," Salma Nims, secretary-general of the Jordanian National Commission for Women coordination said during the panel discussion, which was held at the St. Regis hotel in Amman.

The UN Talk is part of the series of talks organized under the UN Socio-Economic Framework (SEF) for COVID-19 response, launched in July 2020.

However, Jordanian society, the private sector, and the government are still not implementing gender-positive roles formally and informally, advocates contend. As a result, Jordanian women are facing inequality and discrimination almost everywhere they go.

UN evidence shows the Jordanian system's inefficiency and unfairness when dealing with women’s issues. According to Nims, there's an apparent lack of coordination and support between the legislative public and private spheres pre-and-post COVID times.

"Women are still unable to pay their loans in the governorates and other areas, they still lose their jobs, they don't have equal opportunities in the job market, discriminatory practices didn't stop, and pay gaps are all issues that are not causing a change in the structure. Today, we need the right coordination for the donors to work better with us to ensure that funding is not going towards trendy things. It has to go to the right balance inclusive way where all the national strategy is implemented," Nims said.

In frustration, Nims also shared information in the UN Women talks about how the Jordanian government dismissed studies and national strategy addendum when they created their economic priority plan for 2021–2023.

"We have a national strategy developed and submitted to the government, saying how the COVID-19 situation has contributed and impacted the priorities we established through this national strategy. Gender mainstreaming policy — the fourth pillar of the national strategy — states that institutions and the government can adopt policies, produce the right data, and direct funding towards gender-responsive policies, plans, and strategies. And then the government suddenly develops and submits an economic priority plan for 2021-2023 without any consultations of our national strategies and doesn't respond to the challenges that affected women's access to the market," Nims added.

Anders Pedersen, UN resident coordinator and humanitarian coordinator, talked about how there have been some improvements that Jordan is witnessing in comprehending the issue and fixing the sociopolitical and economic situation for women in Jordan. However, it is still minimal action.

"There's proof that more action is being done now. There's a lot like me speaking, and few like you doing, kudos to you on the way you are taking this agenda forward," Pedersen said. "We need to engage and get women in the workforce, to get out of this dilemma of exceptionally low female labor participation rates in the region and Jordan in particular, and last, but not least, we have to engage and see how the private sector is leading in the issue of equality. Growth can only happen if we let the private sector lead, but we also know that won't happen unless we have women in the private sector leading," he added.

Pedersen also mentioned how their long-term investments are not generating the planned results. Therefore, the results above can only be achieved by changing the game and allowing women to lead the way, especially after the COVID-19 times.

Whereas Hazim Rahahleh, the director of the Social Security Corporation (SSC), talked about the governmental measures since the onset of the pandemic and how they impacted women and men alike. He shared that 50 percent of individuals who benefited from the sustainability program "Estidama" were women.

“Estidama” was launched by the government in December 2020 and targeted the sectors and businesses most impacted by the pandemic. He also talked about how the SSC's insurance system did manage to deal with women’s challenges imposed by COVID-19, especially in terms of maternity care.

Representing a positive player from the private sector, Nadia al-Saeed, Chief Executive of Bank al-Etihad, set an example by sharing her institution's experience in implementing gender equality policies and strategies that empower the women workforce at Bank al-Etihad, where she mentioned that 50 percent of the workers are women.

"Now more than ever, corporate policies surrounding gender diversity and equality are needed. Earlier in our journey, we enforced such policies, which paid off because we quickly adapted to the new normal,” she said.

However, she did not mention any efforts by her institution to provide funding that would help women who do not work at Bank al-Etihad, which is what the UN talk was calling for in terms of engaging the private sector in the issue.

A lot remains to be done, and the responsibility falls on both the public and private sectors to change the current norm that affects the country, society, and women negatively as a collective. Moving forward and growing from this stage requires intensive collaboration and coordination.

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