EBRD builds a better future for Jordan’s women

By Volker Ahlemeyer

Jordanian women weaving baskets of dried banana leaves - EBRD

SEMED Multi-Donor Account supports Microfund for Women

The empowerment of women is a very important part of Raeda Jaryan’s life. Her daughters go to university and she supports them. And she feels obliged to support women in her local community.

“I helped the women here to improve their financial situation,” she explained. “And they helped me as well.”

Ms Jaryan makes a living from weaving baskets out of the dried leaves of banana plants that grow in the Jordan Valley. She grew fond of the skill, taught it to herself and eventually became so adept at it that she gave classes to other women at the community centre in the village of Deir Alla, close to her home.

With the EBRD’s support, her hobby has turned into a business. An initial loan amounted to only JOD 400 (approximately US$ 550), but it helped her buy supplies, set up her business and take her economic future into her own hands.

The EBRD is working with the Jordanian Microfund for Women to
provide finance for women entrepreneurs and to encourage more to become an active part of Jordan's growing economy.
 

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The funding is part of the EBRD’s US$ 4 million loan to Microfund for Women in Jordan. The impact is especially visible in rural areas such as Ms Jaryan’s hometown – and it clearly helps improve people’s lives.

Ms Jaryan, for example, was able to invest in her home and build an extension, thanks to her business success.

Jordan is one of the driest countries in the world, with vast patches of desert stretching from the Dead Sea further inland onto the Arabian Peninsula.

Even here in the Jordan Valley, one of its most fertile stretches of land, water scarcity is becoming a problem. People use all that Mother Earth has to provide - and banana leaf baskets are a good case in point.

The strategy has worked well for Mr Jaryan who now employs three women part-time to help her meet the demand.

But she is only one of many female micro-entrepreneurs who have benefitted from the EBRD loan.

In fact, the strategy has been so successful that the EBRD created a fund for small and medium-sized enterprises with Microfund for Women to further support their growth.

It has helped Fasil Abu Ehih, for example, to run her own shop with her three children in Sahab, one of Amman’s suburbs. She started off by selling drinks on a vendor’s tray, but became so successful in adding more and more goods to her inventory that she could set up her own small supermarket.

Or Suhir Abu Dahab, who has established her own embroidery in Jordan’s capital. She now employs four people and sells her handcraft in her own two showrooms as well as at the bazaar.

Such change is very much needed. For now, only 14 per cent of women in Jordan are estimated to be in employment and the country’s economy needs to embrace them to unleash their full potential.

The success of entrepreneurs such as those mentioned above has a clear knock-on effect: suppliers, retailers and the businesses themselves can offer new employment opportunities. Everyone benefits: women and men.

“Our activities have become a catalyst for change,” said Heike Harmgart, who heads the EBRD’s Amman office. “We provide access to finance for female entrepreneurs that makes a real difference to them.

“These successful women have become frontrunners in showing how their business ideas can help to create employment and boost economic output.”

“We strive to empower every under-served woman entrepreneur to break the cycle of poverty and provide for her family with dignity and pride,” said Ghiath Sukhtian, Microfund for Women’s Chairman of the Board.

“Our ultimate goal is to activate the role of women in society,” added Muna Sukhtian, the organisation’s Managing Director. “We witness each year many success stories which provide hope for a better future to them and their families.”

The Southern and Eastern Mediterranean Multi-Donor Account is supported by Australia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Taipei China and the UK.