Empowerment of rural women in Jordan through heritage conservation for sustainable development

On 18 January 2014, UNESCO and UN Women launch a joint project "Empowerment of rural women through the management and preservation of the archaeological site of Um el- Jimal” in Jordan. Activities managed by women will generate income in line with the advocacy for strengthening the role of culture for sustainable development.

This project received funding totaling US $ 108,000 from UN Women and UNESCO, but additional resources will be needed to complete the project over of the next two and a half years.

Carried out in cooperation with the Jordanian Tourism Ministry and its Department of Antiquities, the project aims to empower women of Um el-Jimal by giving them the opportunity to contribute to the management and promotion of the village’s archaeological site.

Um el-Jimal is both a modern village and an archaeological site located in the semi-arid plain of Hauran in the governorate of Mafraq, just south of the Syrian border, a few kilometers from the Za'tari refugee camp. Mafraq Governorate has the highest poverty and illiteracy rates in Jordan, and Um el-Jimal is one of the pockets of poverty in Jordan. The very low participation of women in the economic life of the region stems in particular from the central role of the patriarchal system.

This new initiative will be managed in synergy with the Um el-Jimal Project, which since 1972 made possible the excavation of the site with the involvement of the local community. This site is on Jordan’s tentative list for World Heritage inscription and represents a great development opportunity for the local community.

A total of 40 women, aged 20 to 50 years old, mostly unemployed, single and with a low level of education, will be involved in the project. They will receive training and awareness raising regarding the site’s value so as to develop and promote Um el-Jimal as a destination for responsible and sustainable tourism.

Through this project, they will develop skills needed to manage and promote an archaeological site.  The expected results will demonstrate their ability to generate income through activities beneficial to the community, to promote the site nationally and finally, share their experience with other Jordanian women on similar projects in other regions. In the long term, this initiative will lead to the opening of a community centre and especially a rise in tourism within the region tourism being the second-largest revenue generating sector for the Jordan’s GDP.

The unemployment rate in the Arab region is among the highest in the world, especially with regard to women's employment. In 2010, Jordan recorded 21.7% unemployment for women over 15 years vs 10.4% of men, according to a study conducted by the Jordanian National Commission for Women.