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The Journey Through Transition: Stories of Women-Led Change in the Middle East and North Africa


This project was funded, in part, through the Department of State, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, Office of Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) under Cooperative Agreement number S-NEAPI-10-CA-297. The opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed herein are those of the Author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of State. MEPI partners with local civil society organizations, community leaders, youth and women activists, and private sector groups to advance their reform efforts in 18 countries and territories. MEPI’s approach is bottom-up and grassroots, responding directly to local interests and needs. In the wake of the Arab Spring, MEPI has significantly increased support to countries undergoing democratic transitions – supporting free and fair elections, the expansion of civil society, and a greater voice for citizens in shaping their political, economic, and legal systems.

The Journey Through Transition: Stories of Women-Led Change in the Middle East and North Africa

Dea r Reader, It is with great pleasure that I introduce the Policy Advocates for Women’s Issues in the Middle East and North Africa Region (MENA) case studies on behalf of Vital Voices Global Partnership. This set of case studies shows the impact of women’s leadership on their communities during a time of unprecedented transition. We know that a country cannot prosper if half its population is not enlisted in its development. These studies demonstrate women’s contributions and represent their ongoing commitment to jointly shape the future of their countries. The following five stories document advocacy campaigns that were part of the twoyear Policy Advocates program, which was supported by the U.S. Department of State Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI). This program was launched just days after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, one of the many milestones of the Arab Spring, and continued throughout one of the most important transitional periods in the region, concluding in October 2012. Working with women leaders, and men, in MENA during this historic time of uncertainty has lent Vital Voices a distinct perspective on the nuances of the region’s social, political, and economic shifts and women’s role in navigating this new landscape to advance specific objectives for their communities. These case studies share the best practices and lessons that emerged from dynamic advocacy campaigns. We hope that they will provide insight into the contribution of women in the region and demonstrate the importance of empowering women leaders. With Vital Voices’ continued support, these women, and others like them all over the world, have a huge impact on their community, their country, and on future generations of women leaders. Empowering women as leaders is a fundamental and strategic value of Vital Voices. These five stories provide evidence of the real outcomes that come from investing in women leaders who improve their societies, and ultimately our world. Sincerely,

Alyse Nelson President & CEO Vital Voices Global Partnership


The Journey Through Transition: Stories of Women-Led Change in the Middle East and North Africa

Introducing “A Journ ey Through Transition” When Vital Voices first began implementation of the Policy Advocates for Women’s Issues in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region program in the fall of 2010, the umbrella program under which each of these country projects took place, the world was a very different place than it is today. In August of 2010, governments throughout the MENA region still stood strong. There was no such thing as the Arab Spring, and the advocacy project that was just being launched was formulated with that political environment in mind.

Little did anyone know that in December 2010 the region would embark on one of the most important journeys in history. At Vital Voices, the MENA team was glued to their computers, watching the news, talking to people on the ground, and trying to navigate this new world; the team knew these events would have a huge impact on their work forever. Eight days after the fall of President Mubarak in Egypt, on February 20, 2012, Vital Voices convened 40 women and men from ten countries across the MENA region in Amman, Jordan to launch the project. These participants, selected through an open application process and selected through a careful process to bring together civil society, business, and the government, came together to receive training on advocacy skills, leadership, and media. They learned from one another, and developed plans to implement advocacy projects in their own countries based on issues they identified as critical for women in their communities. Teams from Yemen were inspired by the stories of the Egyptian delegation, and everyone solemnly acknowledged the inability of the Bahraini delegation to leave their country. It was a time of great uncertainty and an opportunity to embrace a new future. Over the last two years, Vital Voices has worked closely with each of the country delegations to strategically plan and implement their advocacy campaigns. Each team targeted a critical issue affecting women in their countries, identified its solution, and collaborated to make that solution a reality. With the technical and financial support of Vital Voices and US Department of State Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), each of the country teams embarked on their own journey to make change in their communities. These case studies tell the stories of each of those teams, highlighting the unique political and social implications within the MENA region and showcasing the amazing achievements, as well as the real challenges, each team has faced. The stories contained within are the stories of women and the impact they can have.


The Journey Through Transition: Stories of Women-Led Change in the Middle East and North Africa

About the Policy Advocates for Women’s Issues in the MENA Region program

The Policy Advocates for Women’s Issues in the MENA Region program convened representatives of the public and private sectors and civil society to embark on campaigns to improve the lives of women in their home countries. The program included teams from Tunisia, Kuwait, Yemen, Oman, Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan and the UAE, which received training on advocacy, teambuilding, social media and program management. This training empowered teams to develop action plans for advocacy on women’s issues. Each campaign was unique; teams independently created campaigns that affected policy, procedural or legislative decisions in their home countries, based on the issues they identified as crucial for women in their communities. Drawing on the present atmosphere of change in the Middle East and North Africa, the campaigns emphasized the critical roles that women play in the creation of a new future for the region. 

About Vital Voices Global Partnership

Vital Voices Global Partnership (Vital Voices) is a preeminent international non-governmental organization (NGO) dedicated to improving the political, economic and social status of women. It began as the U.S. government’s successful Vital Voices Democracy Initiative, established in 1997 by then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to promote the advancement of women as a U.S. foreign policy goal. In 2000, Vital Voices became an independent organization. Vital Voices identifies, trains, and empowers emerging women leaders and social entrepreneurs around the globe, enabling them to create a better world for us all. The organization is headquartered in Washington, D.C. and has local Vital Voices chapters in 15 countries around the world. Our international staff and team of over 1,000 partners, pro bono experts and leaders, including senior government, corporate, and NGO executives, have trained and mentored more than 100,000 emerging women leaders from over 144 countries in Asia, Africa, Eurasia, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East since 1997. Our Global Leadership Network consists of 12,000 members who in turn impact additional women, men, and children in their communities. Vital Voices has worked in the MENA region for more than eleven years and has built extensive networks and partnerships with local business leaders, civil society organizations, judges, lawyers, educational institutions, and individual leaders. Vital Voices has worked to build the capacity, connections, and credibility of women in the region for political participation, economic development, public-private partnership, and business entrepreneurship.


The Journey Through Transition: Stories of Women-Led Change in the Middle East and North Africa

Jordan The Jordan Policy Advocates team spent several weeks prior to the February 2011 Vital Voices Advocacy Workshop in Amman, Jordan discussing potential campaign ideas. Initially with seven members, the team was one of the largest, and therefore there were many opinions and ideas to consider. Since several participants were working mothers and had a personal story to connect to the campaign, they decided to advocate for the implementation of Article 72 of the Jordanian Labour Law with large companies and organizations in Jordan.

Article 72 states: “The employer who employs not less than twenty women shall prepare a suitable place under the supervision of a qualified nursemaid for the children of the working women whose ages are less than four years provided that their numbers shall not be less than ten children.”19 However, many companies and organizations do not comply with this law, making it difficult for professional women to balance work and family commitments since women in Jordan are primarily the ones to leave work without pay or take vacation time to care for their children at home. When branding the campaign, the team wanted a name with significant meaning that would be recognizable throughout the country; they decided to call the campaign SADAQA, Arabic for “friendship.” This name and the slogan, “Towards a friendly working environment for women,” would also allow the campaign to have a broader scope that enables the team to advocate for related issues in the future. Working with local partner Al Hayat Center for Civil Society Development, the SADAQA campaign aimed to advocate for nationwide compliance of Article 72. SADAQA kicked off with a qualitative research phase using focus groups and interviews to assess the level of 4


awareness of Article 72 among working mothers as well as the perceived challenges hindering compliance. Two focus groups were held between June and July 2011 with approximately 15 female employees attending each session. The first targeted working mothers who have daycare in their workplace and the second targeted working mothers without daycare at their workplace. In order to recruit participants, the team contacted Human Resources departments to nominate female employees to attend the focus groups, and also reached out to their network of contacts. The two focus groups aimed to determine the advantages and disadvantages of having a daycare in the workplace, including the effects on productivity, career choices and job promotion. Notably, most of the working mothers were not aware of the existence of Article 72 of the Labour Law. The team’s research found that complying with Article 72 provides an advantage for both working mothers and employers. Compliance helps reduce social and psychological pressures associated with leaving children in the care of relatives, increases income as women do not need to leave work without pay or take vacation time to care for their children at home, and minimizes transportation

Jordan, Labour Law, Article 72, 1996,

The Journey Through Transition: Stories of Women-Led Change in the Middle East and North Africa

SADAQA: Towards a friendly working environment for women

expenses and time spent outside the office and on the roads. For the employer, this means retaining valuable employees, increased productivity, less absenteeism, less turnover and increased savings for the organization in the long-run. The team found that large companies including Orange Telecom Company, Aramex and the Social Security Corporation did not have daycare centers, despite the fact that they employ significant numbers of women. The team conducted a series of interviews with decision-makers in these and other companies to better understand the different perspectives on daycare in the workplace. Through these interviews, the team learned about some of the perceived barriers to establishing daycares, including: fear of responsibility, the obligation to provide a safe environment for children and added financial and administrative burdens on companies. These challenges, coupled with the strict guidelines enforced by the Ministry of Social Development that dictate the set-up of daycares in Jordan, often discourage companies from following the law. The team’s most important finding was the major conflict between the Ministry of Labor, which is responsible for enforcing the law, and the Ministry

of Social Development, which is responsible for licensing daycares and setting the guidelines for establishment. Since the law only requires companies to provide “a suitable place” and not a “daycare,” it creates a challenge for companies in understanding what is meant by a “suitable place” and conflicts with the Ministry of Social Development’s strict guidelines for the set-up of daycares in Jordan. Using their findings, the team decided that their campaign strategy would include lobbying the government, specifically the Ministry of Labor, and private companies that did not comply with Article 72, as well as using the media to raise awareness and put pressure on decision-makers. To be most effective, the team used a publicprivate dialogue approach, making sure that key participants from the private sector, government and civil society were engaged throughout the campaign. Target groups included working mothers, company owners, the Ministry of Social Development, decision-makers, ministers, secretary-generals, Human Resources managers and executives of companies. Local and international NGOs with similar missions were also solicited for coalition-building and potential funding support, including the Jordan National Commission for Women, Save the Children and the National Council for Family Affairs (NCFA). The team strived to 5

The Journey Through Transition: Stories of Women-Led Change in the Middle East and North Africa

The team and Secretary General of the Ministry of Labor lead the Awareness Walk through the streets of Amman

instill a rights-based perspective among female employees to start thinking of the issue as a right and not as an optional benefit from the employer. In the summer of 2011, the Jordan team launched a Facebook20 page and began reaching out to local media sources, such as TV, print and radio, to discuss the SADAQA campaign. The team first contacted the Ministry of Labor’s “Women’s Work Directorate” to introduce them to the SADAQA campaign and discuss ways to activate Article 72. Officials at the Ministry were excited to hear about the campaign and very receptive to the team’s ideas. The team discovered that the Ministry of Labor, the entity responsible for enforcing the law, is hesitant to do so for fear that it would backfire on women’s employment opportunities. The Ministry feared employers would either stop recruiting women who are married or pregnant or stop recruiting women altogether. The team’s challenge was to find ways to support the Ministry’s enforcement of the law while simultaneously ensuring that this enforcement does not result in a backlash against women and restrict their employment opportunities. 6


The Ministry of Labor invited the team to join the National Nurseries Project, led by a committee of representatives of the NCFA, the Ministry of Labor, the Ministry of Social Development, the Jordan National Commission for Women, the Social Security Corporation, Save the Children and SADAQA. The National Nurseries Project intends to set up affordable, quality nurseries located in strategic places in Jordan to help lift the burden on working mothers. The Project will cost around five million Jordanian Dinars, which will be raised mainly from donor funding. GIZ, the German development agency, is currently helping the National Nurseries Project create a comprehensive strategic plan to map out their goals. The National Nurseries Project, however, will not aim to activate Article 72 of the Labour Law. SADAQA plays a valuable role on this committee through its lobbying and advocacy efforts and the use of the media to bring attention to the issue. The team next visited the daycare located at ZAIN Telecom, one of the only companies within the private sector that provides a daycare. The

 SADAQA Initiative: Toward a women-friendly work environment,” Facebook, accessed September 18, 2012, “

The Journey Through Transition: Stories of Women-Led Change in the Middle East and North Africa

daycare provides a safe, clean and stimulating environment for children, a doctor and nurses are available, and continuous professional development is offered for staff and teachers. The high standard of this daycare represents a model that can be replicated in other companies to help working mothers balance work and family and eventually support them in acquiring leadership positions. The daycare at ZAIN is run by one of Jordan’s best childhood educators, who became a vital part of the SADAQA campaign and wanted to share her company’s example in order to encourage more companies to implement Article 72.

credit to the SADAQA campaign and advocacy efforts from female employees within these companies.

The team met with mothers, fathers, daycare teachers and staff to understand the benefits of the daycare to both the company and its employees. The feedback given was consistent with the results from the focus group research. The team compiled video footage and interviews to be featured as advocacy and awareness-raising tools during the campaign. During this time, the team continued communicating with the companies they had contacted for the focus groups. Many companies, such as the Arab Bank, the Jordan Investment Bank, and the International School of Amman, indicated interest in setting up daycare centers onsite with

The workshop gathered approximately 30 people on April 12, 2012 at the Ministry of Labor and was held under the patronage of the Ministry’s Secretary General. The workshop discussed Article 72 from a legal perspective as well as difficulties pertaining to enforcement. The participants discussed the importance and benefits of activating the law and ways to assist women advocating inside their organization for these changes.

Due to the SADAQA campaign’s successful advocacy with the Ministry of Labor, the Ministry agreed to cooperate on several activities which drew national attention to the issue. The first major activity was a sensitization workshop which targeted female workers, decision makers, employers, HR managers of leading companies and the media, to help raise awareness on the issue, shed light on SADAQA’s activities and mobilize women and decision-makers to advocate and take action to activate Article 72.

This workshop was instrumental in instigating honest and frank discussions between the Ministry of Social Development and the Ministry

In February 2012, one of the team members was asked to be an official NGO delegate at the 51st Session of CEDAW at the UN in Geneva where she, along with other delegates, drafted Jordan’s second Shadow Report for the CEDAW Committee, highlighting the issue of daycare facilities in Jordan and the economic participation of women.21 While in meetings and presentations with CEDAW Committee members, as well as informal gatherings, she used the opportunity to speak about the SADAQA campaign and the team’s efforts to implement Article 72 in Jordan. The CEDAW Committee subsequently asked the Jordanian government about the activation of Article 72 in their list of questions, but the Jordanian government delegation did not respond.22


 ana Husseini, “Women activists accuse government of neglecting their cause,” The Jordan Times, June 11, 2012, R; Jordanian CEDAW Coalition, “Jordan Shadow NGO Report,” CEDAW Committee, 2012,


Randa Naffa, interview by Christie Edwards, August 25, 2012.


The Journey Through Transition: Stories of Women-Led Change in the Middle East and North Africa

One of the most important contributions to the SADAQA campaign’s success was the support and participation of men throughout the campaign. Fathers dropping their children off at Zain’s daycare spoke of the importance of the daycare for a successful work environment. Male employees at the Ministry of Labor were extremely supportive of Article 72 and the campaign’s efforts to implement it. Many men came to the Awareness Walk in support of their wives, mothers and sisters, including the Secretary General of the Ministry of Labor. He was extremely supportive of the campaign and attended the Walk with his wife and children!

of Labor and convinced both of the need to formulate guidelines that are more adaptable to the context of the corporate sector which harmonize the law and the licensing guidelines. Since the workshop, the two Ministries set up a new committee, inviting representatives from the Ministry of Health, the National Center for Human Rights and the NCFA to work together to create cohesive guidelines and definitions. The workshop also generated more exposure for SADAQA through traditional and social media coverage. The second major activity was the highly successful Awareness Walk, held in cooperation with the Ministry of Labor. On May 19, 2012 nearly 300 people participated in the walk through Jabal Weibdeh – one of Amman’s oldest and most beautiful neighborhoods – gathering families, female workers, children and youth who came from governorates outside Amman, including Irbid, Maan, Tafileh and Madaba. Prominent NGOs took part, including the Jordan National Commission for Women, the Arab Human Rights Organization and the International Labor Organization. Al Hayat’s youthled initiatives carried banners, signs and balloons with slogans about Article 72.


At the end of the walk, a celebration took place featuring a performance by a national band, a play demonstrating the impact of Article 72 and a rap song demonstrating the importance of women’s work to family and society. While many Jordanians were accustomed to citizens protesting in the streets against the government during the Arab Spring, the Awareness Walk was the first time a government body ever marched in the streets along with the people to support a cause – particularly for a women’s issue. Due to the support and participation of the Secretary General of the Ministry of Labor there was a great amount of media presence prior to and during the Walk, including coverage by the official Jordanian TV station,23 Ro’ya TV, Aramram web TV, Radio Albalad, Radio Farah el Nas and stories in local newspapers.24 The team announced the Walk through social media (their Facebook25 and Twitter26 pages), issued a brochure with the Ministry of Labor and sent official invitations to organizations and companies. The Ministry of Labor was so pleased with the success of the walk that they organized a second Walk a week later in support of child labor laws.


 Jordan TV’s coverage of the awareness walk organized by Sadaqa -18.5.12,” video clip, Youtube, accessed September “ 18, 2012,


 Jordanian Television hosts members of the SADAQA campaign,” video clip, Youtube, accessed September 18, 2012, “; “SADAQA Campaign toward a women-friendly work environment,” General Trade Union of Banks, Insurance, and Auditing Employees in Jordan, May 15, 2012, Detailed/202; “March for working mothers demands nurseries for their children in the workplace in accordance with the law,” JordanZad, May 19, 2012,


”SADAQA Initiative,” Facebook, accessed September 27, 2012,


@sadaqajo, Twitter, accessed September 27, 2012,

The Journey Through Transition: Stories of Women-Led Change in the Middle East and North Africa

Following the Walk, the Jordan team started seeing additional positive impacts of the campaign. Female employees in the banking sector are now pursuing internal advocacy efforts promoting Article 72’s implementation and have sought the assistance of the SADAQA campaign to petition the concerned entities. The International Youth Foundation met with the team to discuss future cooperation in activating the law, and also met with the Ministry of Labor on the issue. The team’s last activity was a closing ceremony, held on May 30, 2012, which gathered 60 participants from local and international organizations, such as MEPI, representatives from private corporations, local activists, and representatives from the Social Security Corporation, the Arab Women Organization and the Business and Professional Women-Amman. The ceremony, which was held under the patronage of the Ministry of Labor’s Secretary General, showcased a short movie27 summarizing the activities of the SADAQA campaign and shedding light on the importance of activating Article 72.

As a result of SADAQA, the Arab Bank initiated legal preparations to establish a daycare for their employees. Female employees from the Jordan Investment Bank and the Universal Schools started their own advocacy efforts inside their companies and are in the process of putting together recommendations for companies to pursue the setup of daycare centers. Finally, members of the Jordan team have officially registered SADAQA as a nonprofit organization in order to continue the work of the campaign following the close of the grant from Vital Voices and the MEPI. As SADAQA starts the next phase of the campaign, the Ministry of Labor has offered to partner with the team on future campaign activities, such as promoting gender pay equity standards and creating breastfeeding facilities. Additionally, Ro’ya, an independent television station, has approached the team about producing shows featuring advocacy issues, including the SADAQA campaign.

Lessons Learned: Use the support and participation of men to strengthen the campaign and ensure buy-in on issues impacting women!


 SADAQA Campaign: Marking a Year of Achievements,” video clip, Youtube, accessed September 18, 2012, “


To learn more about Vital Voices and the women we work with in the Middle East and North Africa, visit or contact: (email) 202.861.2625 (main) 202.296.4142 (fax)


Vital Voices - The Journey through Transition Jordan

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