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Photo exhibition hoped to trigger change in ‘domestic inequality’

By Mustafa Ahmed - Feb 20,2019 - Last updated at Feb 21,2019

HRH Prince Faisal Bin Raad (second right) and Swedish Ambassador to Jordan Erik Ullenhag (first right) honour the parents participating in the ‘Jordanian and Swedish Dads’ photo exhibition in City Mall, Amman, on Wednesday (Photo courtesy of SADAQA’s Twitter account)

AMMAN — The opening ceremony of a week-long photography exhibition took place in City Mall on Wednesday as part of a Swedish-Jordanian initiative to promote gender equality in the domestic sphere.

The exhibition, titled “Jordanian and Swedish Dads”, is a joint project by the Swedish embassy in Amman and women’s rights organisation SADAQA.

At the opening ceremony, which was attended by around 100 people, HRH Prince Faisal Bin Raad commended the work of SADAQA and urged further support for the organisation and its activities. 

This was followed by a speech by the Swedish ambassador to Jordan, Erik Ullenhag, in which he declared that “female rights are human rights and human rights are female rights”. He went on to point out that despite female attendance in Jordan universities amounting to around 50 per cent, more should be done to ensure that the “smart daughters of Jordan” can use their qualifications to improve Jordanian society. 

The photo exhibition is part of a wider initiative by SADAQA and the Swedish embassy to highlight the importance of fatherhood in creating a stronger society and improving women’s rights in Jordan.

“This exhibition will hopefully put the fathers in the forefront again, not as heroes, but as rightful owners to their paternity and as equals in sharing household work and responsibilities,” SADAQA said in a separate statement sent to The Jordan Times.

On display were 36 photographs of Jordanian and Swedish fathers, all of which were sent as part of a Facebook competition, in which Jordanian fathers were encouraged to send pictures of themselves spending time with their children at home.

For Adnan Kandeel, a Jordanian Swede currently living in Sweden who participated in the photography competition, “The idea of the competition was stimulating, and the message it delivers is important. The display of fathers in contexts that are under-promoted, or not usually talked about, contributes to the acceptance and reintroduction of these roles and the father’s role in the family to society,” he said, speaking to The Jordan Times.

Kandeel went on to say that for him, “Good fatherhood promotes compassion, empathy, equality and the respect and appreciation of your partner. Acknowledging the role and value of the mother helps fight the prejudice and assumptions that limit the rights and equal opportunities for women in education, work and involvement in several aspects in political and economic roles. Simply put, in families, if fathers are involved, women are empowered.”

The exhibition also aims to highlight the integral role that shared parental responsibility plays in addressing persistent economic and social challenges facing many Jordanian women.

According to the International Labour Organisation, married women in Jordan drop out of the labour market at a rate of 34 per cent, the statement said. 

In a press statement, Randa Naffa, a founding member of SADAQA, said: “Through this endeavour, we are hoping to redefine predetermined cultural roles of mothers and fathers in society.”

Sahar Aloul, a member of SADAQA, speaking to The Jordan Times, added: “Women in Jordan remain away from, and pull out of, the workforce due to three main structural barriers to entry: the lack of daycares, the lack of public transportation… as well as gender inequality in household chores and child care giving. These factors have kept women’s economic participation in the past decade lower than 14 per cent in Jordan, one of the lowest in the world.”

In encouraging greater shared domestic responsibility, SADAQA hopes to “break stereotypes on traditional gender roles in the household, and thus help more women access work opportunities when [the] household workload becomes disbursed more equally”.

Nonetheless, some are questioning the extent to which the photo exhibition and competition will change attitudes, especially in more rural areas. For Ashraf Breizat, a schoolteacher from Theeban in Madaba, although “much has been gained on the woman’s rights front in the past few years, there are still many challenges... mainly the masculinity of society and the tribal traditions in Jordan”.

The competition will end on February 27, at which point the winners of the photography competition will be awarded IKEA gift cards worth up to JD300.

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