CAIRO, Jan 25 (IPS) – Dr. Zeinab Al-Momany, a prominent social entrepreneur, sheds light on the journey of empowering women farmers in Jordan and the Arab world, where women often work long hours for low pay and lack labour recognition.
As the visionary behind the Sakhrah Women’s Society Cooperative and the Specific Union for Productive Farmer Women in Jordan (SUFWJ), Al-Momany shares her perspectives with IPS on the challenges faced by women farmers, the impact of organizations like SUFWJ on rural economic growth and women’s rights, and the profound implications of climate change for women in agriculture.
A Pioneering Journey
Al-Momany, boasting a diverse background in business management and holding a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Management, laid the foundation for the Sakhrah Women’s Society Cooperative in 2007. This cooperative, a pioneering endeavor in Jordan and the Arab world, focuses on enhancing the capacities of small agricultural organizations. Her commitment to empowering female farmers and advocating for their rights has transcended borders, uniting 22 women’s organizations, and now the SUFWJ has 5000 members. Her leadership extends globally, serving as the President of the Arab Farmer Network (Arrinina) and as a member of prestigious organizations such as the World Farmer Organization (WFO) and Climate Change and Food Security (CCFS). In 2008, she was honored with the Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur of the Year award.
SUFWJ’s Impact on Women Farmers
Established in 2007, SUFWJ has significantly shaped the landscape for women farmers in Jordan. SUFWJ has successfully increased the number of women who own land, championed wage equality, and enabled free health and social insurance thanks to its effective programs. The union’s initiatives have empowered 120 women farmers in leadership roles, offered health insurance to 578 families, trained 7,000 women and girls, and provided micro-finance loans to 800 women and girls.
“The union has been able to increase the percentage of land ownership through a project that began with its implementation in 2007, pointing out that the percentage was 2.7, and according to statistics, it has increased to 5.5 percent,” she says.
“The union launched the health insurance project in 2014 and is still working with the support of USAID FHI to provide free health insurance to female farmers through the Ministry of Social Development. The insurance covered 558 families in the northern and central Ghor areas (in Jordan) and is seeking to reach the southern Ghor.”
Addressing Challenges and Inequality
Al-Momany draws attention to the unequal laws affecting female farmworkers, emphasizing the disparities in comparison to their foreign counterparts. SUFWJ, through its robust advocacy program, channels efforts toward changing laws and regulations concerning female farmers. The focus is on advocating for their rights to health insurance, social security, equal wages, and improved working conditions.
She pointed out that the union has amended the internal system of the General Farmers Union, where the law used to require female farmers to own 10 dunums (about 1 hectare) of land to join the union, but after the amendment, female farmers were allowed to join by renting land. She mentioned that the union is currently working on the labor and workers’ law so that they are eligible for social security and health insurance to protect their rights.
Economic Empowerment Initiatives
Al-Momany shed light on the union’s economic empowerment program, which identifies the needs of female farmers and formulates action plans every two to five years based on these needs. The goal is to address the specific challenges women farmers face, set clear objectives, and implement targeted programs to achieve sustainable progress.
Al-Momany referred to the law as “unequal” and explained that despite doing the same arduous work as foreign workers, female farm workers receive low wages, have no leave rights, and do not have organized contracts to protect their rights.
Climate Change and Future Initiatives
Through the union, efforts have been directed at raising awareness of climate change issues, increasing green areas, and aiding women farmers in transitioning to clean and renewable energy. The initiatives include providing loans for installing solar panels instead of electricity, digging wells for rainwater collection, and installing solar heaters. The union also supports organic farming, extracting organic fertilizers, and spearheading projects on environmental diversity and the conservation of forests and animals.
The most affected by climate change are farmers and women farmers, especially with the rise in temperature. Working in agriculture at this high temperature affects their health due to their exposure to the sun for long periods, as it affects crops, the work of women farmers, and the national product. Jordan also suffers from water scarcity, and with the effects of climate change, the salinity rate increases, leading to a problem in the quality of soil, crops, and water availability.
IPS UN Bureau Report
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Author: Global Issues