Meet the first woman who was State Minister for Woman Affairs in Jordan, she is a politician, a journalist, a poet and most of all an inspiration working hard on making a difference with a mission to empower women, currently she is Head of Women Empowerment Team at Economic Development Forum EPDF she is Nadia Hashem Aloul.
Arab Woman Mag is honored to have her among our inspirational women in this issue.
What are some of the challenges that faced you as a woman in the political field?
I would like to say that challenges are part of life, on every level, and for everyone. So being a minister is no exception.
As for me working in the political field was not something new to me, I grew up in a house full of politicians, my family (HASHEM), have been concerned with politics; it was their passion, way of life and eventually career for most of them; such as prime ministers, ministers, ambassadors, judges, clergymen. So I was nourished on politics since childhood, I still remember the conversation of the family males politicians during the night, their voices would reach the bedroom, listening to their fascinating fluency, while discussing so many political issues especially the Palestinian Question.
Also the public work that I found myself involved with being active in Democracy, human rights and women issues over a period of three decades has added quite a lot to my experience, in addition to my involvement in writing articles, stories, poetry and novels. Such a combined potion fortified my confidence, which made me face whatever challenges that came in my way.
Though the period of being a” Minister of State for women’s affairs”, was a short period , but I am considered as the only state minister of women ‘s affairs and the last one in the history of Jordan.
The challenges I was faced with ,were mainly while lobbying to convince the council of ministers to change some of the legislations that stand in the way of women progress on every level: such the personal Status law, the penal code, the labor law the nationality law especially for Jordanian women married to non- Jordanians. I worked hard on the civil rights for the children of these women. For children of foreign fathers or non-Jordanians, government now offers equal rights but not citizenship, this issue I worked on it lobbying with ministers and Parliamentarians; I reaped part of the results when national numbers were restored to some Jordanians of Palestinian origin. When I left office I carried on with the issue, writing articles, eventually the government has offered equal rights that will help these kids and youths to carry on normally in their lives.
I had to follow many issues, considering as well working on my own, with no hands was another challenge. I had a secretary; which is the case for all ministers of states who are situated in the prime ministry, not like the non-state ministers with independent ministries functioning on their own.
But in my case a state minister for women’s affairs with loads of work to do was different. I know that people got the wrong impression back then, they thought that there was an independent ministry for women with human and financial resources.
I had to do all the work on my own, writing my speeches, even typing them, and studying legislations, producing a complete strategy for a future independent ministry of women; though the strategy was praised tremendously by the council of ministers but that was never ratified. So the main challenges lie within improving on legislations.
It was not easy to try change laws and culture on my own, single handed, so I started networking with women senators, parliamentarians, civil societies, meeting with them at the prime ministry.
To cut it short this period was a period of planning, networking, putting pillars for a future ministry that did not take place.
That is why we want a ministry of women where Women Leaders can contribute positively to their society.
As being appointed as the first woman minister for women’s affairs, in your opinion why is there a need to have a special ministry for women’s affairs in the Arab world?
After experience, I am pretty sure that there is a tremendous need for a special independent ministry for women , because women form fifty percent in the society, they raise the future generations, also women issues need to be looked after, legally, culturally, socially, economically politically, and on the environmental level.
It is true that here are non-governmental organizations, and semi-governmental organizations, that they are concerned with women affairs and issues, such as River Jordan Foundation, JNCW for women, General Federation of Jordanian women , Jordanian woman union, Family council and many women civil societies scattered all over the kingdom. But there is a lack of executive platform that can be considered as an added value to their work, coming from a governmental decision making platform and body. In addition to all of that there are women ministries in Palestine, Tunisia, Morocco, France, and South East Asia.
To prove this point, I was invited recently to Lebanon to attend a conference on women celebrating women International Day, and to give them the experience they need to start a ministry for women, since they have the determination to do so, as a group of women in “AVENIR LIBAN” society are working on this particular issue. They admire Jordanian women, and look upon them as a role models, which made me feel proud as being part of the Jordanian women movement.
What is some of the work you do as Head of Women Empowerment Team in Jordan and what do you hope to accomplish?
Writing reports on how to empower women. Also participating in a MENA Conference, I was the chairperson of that International conference that was sponsored by NISPANA; I organized the whole conference in Amman. Giving lectures; acting as a consultant to Arab countries regarding women issues. Unfortunately no budget is allocated to any team in EPDF Forum, including women empowerment team.
What are obstacles that stand in the way of empowering women in the Arab world in general and Jordan specifically?
There are obstacles that stand in the way of empowering women all over the world, so the Arab world and Jordan is no exception.
Such obstacles lie within the society’s culture and legislations. They play a big role in contributing positively or negatively to women’s independence and confidence, as well as the prevailing culture; because culture can be supportive or completely the opposite.
For instance inequality between the sexes stems out of gender inequality that varies from one country to another according to the existing laws and culture.
Jordan is considered to be one of the leading countries in the Arab world that is doing a good job towards achieving equality between the two sexes.
But still we are aiming to improve women participation in decision making; political, economical and social participation.
What collaboration exists between Arab countries to promote the women’s agenda?
There is a lot of networking going on between women civil societies of Arab countries; this was reflected during the few summits of Arab women before the Arab Spring. We were proud to hold one of these summits in Amman in the last decade.
Also attending conferences in Yemen and Qatar regarding women and democracy; in which there was the emphasis on the main elements of democracy such as justice, positive freedom and equal opportunity that will affect legislations on one hand and patriarchal culture on the other.
Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdallah attended such conferences, the conference attended by First ladies then, who have been determined to co-operate in order to form a united front following up on women’s issues.
However, we need more cooperation with the existing ministries of women in the Arab world, as well as JNCW, River Jordan, Women Federation, and Union of women and other women organization all over the Arab world, to set a common strategy of cooperation, with a united vision of empowering Arab Women on every level, implementing them through specific programs that can be measured through continuous follow up and evaluations.
In your opinion how can we encourage our daughters to aspire in participating in politics and taking leading roles in society?
This can be done within the family environment and boundaries, as well as in our Arab societies, education, media, social media etc… encouraging them to participate in voluntary work since childhood, they do not have to end up as politicians, but they will carry on to serve their community on every level.
Also encouraging them by setting ourselves as role models, especially encouraging them to read; we have a problem in the Arab world of sanctioning reading.
We must encourage them to read more, gradually building their own libraries at home; this will broaden up their horizon.
Serving community through voluntary work reflects positively on both the worker itself and on the community. They can benefit from greater experience that will reflect itself on whatever work they do, through a never ending commitment, persistence and patience whether at home as future housewives, mothers, or outside their homes as employees in whatever field of work, business owners, politicians and so on.
How do you see the state of Arab women?
The situation of Arab women was going ahead and advancing at a quicker pace; but as for now, with the setback of what is called the Arab Spring, it is slowing or going backward.
Do you think there are enough efforts promoting women empowerment across the Arab region?
Yes there are enough efforts, but it varies from one country to another depending on the culture itself especially in the traditional part , and also the type of laws whether they are supportive of women or not.
Usually amending culture takes longer time, is why we have to work seriously on legislation, not neglecting culture, I keep repeating my motto: laws and culture are two sides of the same coin. The coin of progress or backwardness!
What advice do you give ambitious girls with political aspirations after your own personal experience and struggles?
I would advise them to advance to go forward, to depend on themselves, to contribute positively to their society, to be leaders, real leaders. There is a new growing appreciation of those traits that women use to keep families together and to organize volunteers to unite and make change in the shared life of communities. These newly admired leadership qualities of shared leadership; nurturance and doing good for others are today not only sought after but also indeed needed to make a difference in the world. A feminine way of leading includes helping the world to understand and be principled about values that really matter.
So they must thrive to be achievers, to make the world a better place!
I would like to end this interview by quoting Gibran Khalil Gibran: “Advance and never halt, for advancement is perfection, advance and never rears in your path, for they can only draw corrupt blood!”
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