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UN Women gender equality initiative closes curtain on second phase

By Anna Horton - Jul 16,2019 - Last updated at Jul 16,2019

Participants of the UN Women’s HeForShe initiative pose for a photo during a ceremony to conclude phase II of the project on Monday (Photo courtesy of HeForShe Jordan)

AMMAN — On Monday, HeForShe Jordan Coordinator Laith Abu Taleb reviewed the three-year-old campaign’s successes in front of an auditorium of volunteers and supporters to mark the end of the initiative’s phase II.

“Each person’s voice is very important in creating change,” Abu Taleb said, describing how the movement has gained 20,000 supporters and over 20 partners since it was established in Jordan in 2015.

HeForShe is a UN Women initiative dedicated to increasing gender equality across the globe, according to Abu Taleb, who was one of the first 500,000 men to join the UN initiative after its launch in 2014. He added that Jordan leads the Arab world as the most active HeForShe advocate.

“What makes the Arabic experience and the Jordanian experience truly special and unique compared to all of this that is happening everywhere else is how much this is a youth and grassroots-led movement in Jordan,” said Programme Management Specialist Diya Nanda, speaking on behalf of UN Women Jordan Representative Ziad Sheikh. 

“It’s no surprise that the Jordanian youth are inspiring others in the region and globally to take action,” Nanda added.

Director of the Women’s Global Network Manal Abdullat also spoke on behalf of Amman Mayor Yousef Shawarbeh, highlighting his partnership with the programme and belief in “the importance of women and youths’ roles in reaching the community”.

The celebration featured testimonies and performances from HeForShe Jordan’s arts, theatre, debate and language clubs, followed by a panel discussion with four particularly active volunteers in the phase II campaign. 

One of these volunteers, Aisha Salman, is a founding member of HeForShe Jordan and an ambassador for climate change as part of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. “Who said a woman cannot be a leader in a leadership position and open her own business?” Salman said during the panel, speaking to her own challenges in opening a business. 

“We have to support the youth — females and males — to empower them to become entrepreneurs. We have technology, we have economy. If we want to have sustainable development in our country we must have a good economic environment,” she added.

In an interview with The Jordan Times, panelist Ali Sider, who also founded the scholarship database Jordanian Youth Opportunities, said that HeForShe gave him multiple opportunities to grow his skills while coordinating university visits to different governorates.

“They taught us how to talk to people, they taught us how to debate, they taught us how to speak in front of people. So, all of the opportunities increased my personality and it was an amazing experience,” Ali said.

In another interview with The Jordan Times, volunteer club coordinator and marketing student Ramy Samhouri shared how the strongest woman in his life, his mother, continues to inspire him in his work.

“She told me that she is so proud because now I can sit in such places and I can talk about huge movements,” Ramy said.

At the end of her speech, Nanda explained that HeForShe Jordan’s third phase will focus on inclusivity, partnerships and advocacy through continued outreach to Jordanian youth. Although the movement hopes to continue its streak of adding 10,000 supporters during each phase, its long-term goals are much larger. 

“The benchmark for the future is that we want to have 200,000 commitments in Jordan and 2 million in the MENA region,” she added.

Nanda also announced the development of a “gamification platform... addressing gender-focused social norms” to be released “in the upcoming months” with the support of The Netherlands.

“We are hoping that we can use this game to go even, much further and much beyond what we have been able to do with the universities,” she said.

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