Women's political participation:Is Jordan making tangible progress?

STUDIO PC 2060-11
(Photo: Freepik)
The 2021 report by the Royal Committee to Modernize the Political System came out with a set of recommendations aimed at stimulating the dynamics of public action, especially in regard to the participation of women and youth in decision-making.اضافة اعلان

These recommendations required an amendment to Article 6 of the Constitution, ensuring that the phrase "Jordanian women" appears alongside "Jordanian men" as a declaration of change in the civil and political rights granted to women.

The amendments also included measures to achieve an increase in the contribution and participation of Jordanian women in the public and private spheres through 2022.

However, only a small number of women obtained decision-making and leadership positions in the public and private sectors in 2022 — a much lower percentage than what was anticipated based on studies by the National Strategy for Women. Furthermore, this reality comes in spite of international demands towards the Kingdom to raise the participation of women in strategic decision-making to 30 percent, both in elected and appointed councils as well as senior management positions.

And women bring a lot to the table. Jordanian women achieve high levels of academic excellence in primary and higher levels of education, in addition to their increasing participation in and actual contributions to the labor market over decades.
Women bring a lot to the table. Jordanian women achieve high levels of academic excellence in primary and higher levels of education, in addition to their… actual contributions to the labor market.
This is just one of many reasons to explore why Jordanian women do not typically have equal opportunities to men infilling political leadership positions — particularly decision-making positions.

‘No real integration’Within the "Naqsh" dialogues series on WhatsApp, Al-Nahda Women Network, which was founded and launched by the Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development, raised women's political participation as a topic for discussion. The responses were thought-provoking.

Al-Nahda questioned whether the appointments of women to government positions reflect a real change in the attitude towards women’s capabilities, or whether they were merely made to satisfy the recommendations of the committee, without any real conviction on the part of the decision-makers.

The answers given by the network’s members varied, but all agreed that, despite the dozens of sessions that focused on the political reform report and the measures taken based on its recommendations, the situation remains “quite frustrating” with regards to women's political participation.

Change has been limited to a small increase in the percentage of women ministers in the most recent government reshuffle, while there was “no real integration of women into decision-making on the ground, nor were they involved in handling sensitive issues”. Furthermore, women “were not even considered” to fill recently vacant positions.

One group member expressed the belief that women are still being excluded from administrative promotion to leadership positions within some institutions. For instance, the member said, only one woman has assumed the position of director-general of Jordan Radio in 74 years, despite the recent appointment of a female journalist to head the Jordan News Agency.

Another member of the network noted that the current reality of women’s political participation leaves “a lot to be desired”, as it “relies on the moods and inclinations of the Prime Minister”, explaining that some Cabinets had no women representation at all, and that women are “always” excluded from heading key ministries, such as the foreign and interior ministries, for example.

Is intention a sufficient impetus?Going back to the core question about the reasons for promoting women's political participation under the Royal Committee's plan for political reform, there are two possibilities.

The first possibility revolves around whether appointments made reflect a real change in the mindset of decision-makers as they recognize the capabilities and various contributions of women.

The second possibility is that appointments are made without any real conviction on the part of those making them, mainly in response to the external requirements of international donors, or in order to fulfill national commitments to international agreements signed by Jordan.

Through an inductive look at the public scene on the social and cultural levels over an appropriate period of time, I find myself leaning towards the second possibility.

On the ground, there is a double-edged problem facing women's access to leading political positions or decision-making positions. The first aspect of the problem lies in the conditions associated with the need for women to be backed by an elite group, or to belong to a closed elite social class.

This is something that will not be solved by a specific plan or strategy without a real will to change the balance of power and to achieve representation from all segments of society.
Change has been limited to a small increase in the percentage of women ministers in the most recent government reshuffle, while there was “no real integration of women into decision-making on the ground…”
The second aspect of the problem is that the majority of women in this closed class do not have a real or long history in supporting and adopting women's issues, or even in providing support and advocacy for issues that affect specific social groups and their path towards justice and equality.

Due to these two facts and based on past experiences, several members of the Al-Nahda Women Network do not expect that the strategy has succeeded so far in providing sufficient and genuine aid and advocacy that would push for improving the situation of women in society.

The rhetoric that intention alone is sufficient to ensure women's access to decision-making positions does not stand here, nor is intention enough to change or improve the situation of women in society for the better or to push their issues and demands towards becoming a priority of the comprehensive national development strategy.

However, in order to be fair towards this certain group of women, it is necessary to mention that the majority of men who have held high-level, decision-making positions over this past year did not make any actual contributions to improving the conditions of citizens through the positions they held, nor did they help to lift them out of the deepening crises sweeping across Jordan’s economic and social sectors. It suffices to do a quick review of the tools provided by the report— be they laws or space for party work — to realize that the achievements witnessed one year later are negligible.

Read more Opinion and Analysis
Jordan News