Building Economic Sustainability through Tourism Project

Celebrating women in Tourism

8 Mar 2018
Mayasar Al-Hirary

International Women’s Day is marked around the globe to highlight the role and contribution of women in today’s world. Celebrations of this important day found their way to Jordan this March, as the Jordanian and USAID BEST implemented a campaign around the country entitled ‘Tourism Empowers Women’. This began with an awareness event in As-Salt on 8th March, continuing with events in Madaba, Ajloun, Jordan Valley and Petra, and ended with a career fair in Aqaba on 20th March.

Around 370 men and women from across the country gathered in As-Salt for the starting event, which was broadcast live on national radio. A panel of ‘Women in tourism’ discussed their experiences in the sector and how women and families around Jordan have and can benefit from tourism. Skits portrayed issues and challenges women in Jordan may face, kicking off lively discussions among attendees. The event included a bazaar where 31 women from As-Salt exhibited local handicrafts and food products. Information booths by USAID BEST, the Micro Fund for Women and Jordan Ahli Bank Nashmeyat Initiative were set up and provided guidance on funding and training opportunities for women looking to start or expand their own businesses in the tourism sector.

Balqees al Saket, a candle maker and handicraft seller who took part in the bazaar, said, “After your children are adults, why shouldn’t a woman do something useful with her time, for herself and her family? I think that more women can work from home if they wish, and I would like there to be more support for those of us who do.”

Another attendee, Myassar Al Hiary, who promotes traditional Jordanian recipes, said, “What I work to produce, I produce from natural ingredients and in the traditions of our forefathers. Overall, my business cost 20,000 dinars to set up and run and I did it all on my own. Now I work with all sorts of organizations and at bazaars and events selling jams, tapenades and more. I’ve been featured in television interviews and elsewhere. I implore all women sitting at home unemployed to work, to better themselves, to better their communities and not to be at the mercy of anyone and not to be isolated. We must leave this idea of embarrassment behind when a wife works and we must understand our society and be a part of it by giving and taking.”

The other events around Jordan entailed the interactive plays and debates on topics related to women, local culture and traditions, stereotypes of women in the sector and how tourism can empower women. Guest speakers shared their personal experiences as women in the hospitality and tourism sectors.

About 500 people attended the awareness sessions; 95% were women. The Aqaba career day was the final event in the campaign. Thirty hotels and restaurants participated to share information about working in the sector and recruit new entrants. More than 360 people attended, half of whom were young women.