For the past couple of years, the Middle East has witnessed cycles of economic, political and social turmoil. Although some may think otherwise, Jordan was not excluded from these cycles.
Witnessing the riots taking place in Jordan, I noticed a trend resounding on the streets of Amman. In a society marred with social, political and economic inequality, men and women alike were taking to the streets calling for reform and protesting price increases.
Seeing men and women on the streets together got me thinking: Why have the women of the developing world been equal in responsibilities and burdens, but unequal in entitlements and rights?
With recent increases in prices, women and men have suffered to keep families and households afloat. Meanwhile, in times of economic growth and stability, women are excluded from reaping the benefits of prosperity.
Taking Jordan as an example, the gender gap has had manifestations and consequences in the economic, political and social strata. From access to education to wage employment, women have oft suffered magnified consequences of civil strife when compared to men. From parliament chambers to family rooms, women in Jordan have been pushed to second-class citizen status.
What is worse is that, despite the obvious imbalance that Jordanian society has reached, a majority of women have come to accept the notion of a male-dominated society. Growing up in Jordan, I have had to seek out female role models, bringing them from the background of the Jordanian professional scene, and into the foreground of my mind.
My experience with compulsive traveling has exposed me to people from other regions of the world and has taught me that there are some exceptions out there. In some developing countries, women do have it better off than others and do find it easier to be successful and earn professional gratification. However, the combination of social patriarchy, economic strife and strict religious beliefs has left women in many regions of the world struggling for an equal chance.
Finding the solution to a problem rooted deep into the history of many regions is not an easy task. Not to mention, every country has its own nuances and differences that make finding a universal solution even more tasking. However, from the depths of Africa to the streets of Amman, educating women provides a tool and an opportunity to move women and societies in the right direction. What is more, educating women of their rights and entitlements within civil society goes a long way in mobilizing them and triggering a sense of responsibility toward other women.
Along with education, women need exposure. With exposure comes social education, with social education comes responsibility, and this responsibility can catalyze change. What it means to be socially educated is to know of the rights that women could and should have. Nowadays, not only are women stripped of their rights, but they also have no idea that what is happening to them should actually be considered a violation. It never even crosses their minds that maybe they could enjoy the same rights as men, because they have just accepted and come to terms with a male dominated society that perceives them as second-class citizens.
Once women can become socially educated of their rights and responsibilities to one another, it will help solve the problem of discrimination in both urban and rural areas of Jordan and other developing countries. Women will begin to break out of their societies, in order to help each other. This type of resolution can act as a domino effect -- one educated woman passes on her knowledge to another woman, and the other woman passes on her knowledge to the next woman, and so on.
Effective social-changers take the extra step that other people are unwilling to take. In countries like Jordan, promoting social responsibility is vital, because it triggers social change by allowing adjustment to trickle down. Too many people study abroad, obtain a good education, and come back to Jordan simply to fall back into a lifestyle that promotes change and positivity only within the limited scope of their livelihoods. This only leads to stagnation and the persistence of social strife and discrimination.
We inhabit a world where words divide us and actions unite us. Effectively implementing the right actions can lead to more transparent societies, of which the Arab world lacks. And with more transparent societies and cultures between our hands, Jordanian and Arab females, as well as females from all around the world, can fuel the process of progress, in order to work together to learn from the past, deal with the present, and shape the future the way we want to.
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