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Women's union wins UNHCR award in Jordan

Women's union wins UNHCR award in Jordan

In recognition of its tireless work with refugee women and children in Jordan, the Jordanian Women's Union was recently presented with UNHCR's 2003 Award for the Promotion of Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Refugee Women.
23 December 2003
JWU counsellor Ghada (second from right) working with refugee children in Jordan's He'tten shelter.

AMMAN, Jordan, Dec 23 (UNHCR) - Social counsellor Ghada shares a bond with the refugee women she helps. Born in Libya to Palestinian parents, she spent her childhood in Saudi Arabia and went to university in Jordan. Asked which country she calls home, she shrugs, "I don't know, probably none. But I would like to see Palestine at least once in my life."

In the meantime, the 29-year-old is getting to know her kinswomen through the Jordanian Women's Union (JWU). As a counsellor, she helps Palestinian women and children in He'tten shelter on the outskirts of the Jordanian capital, Amman, where JWU runs educational and income-generating projects for Palestinian refugee women, and a "child to child" project to help refugee children understand others' needs.

Ghada loves her job and strives to work with her colleagues in JWU to improve the lives of refugee women.

It is such empathy and dedication that recently won JWU an award from UNHCR for nearly 30 years of tireless work with refugee women and children in Jordan. On December 14, the refugee agency's representative in Jordan, Sten Bronee, presented a letter of appreciation along with the UNHCR 2003 Award for the Promotion of Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Refugee Women to JWU President Amneh Zubi.

"Refugee women deserve help and support the most because they suffer in their new situation but must continue to meet their families' needs," explained Zubi. "First, we try to gain their trust and then we seek to empower their independence and self-esteem. Of course, it is not only about providing clothes, food or shelter, but we must focus mostly on these needs in the beginning."

Founded in 1945, JWU was re-established under its present name in 1974. For nearly 30 years, its members and volunteers have worked mostly with Palestinian refugee women, gradually extending their assistance to Iraqi, Algerian and Iranian refugee women.

Today, the organisation has 18 employees and 6,000 volunteers overseeing Baqa, Al Widhat and Al Hessein camps in Amman. They also help refugee families in Ruweished camp near the Iraqi border, where Iraqi, Sudanese, Somali and Chechen refugees have sought shelter in the wake of the Iraq conflict this spring.

"We worked with UNHCR to receive some of the Iraqis and hosted them in JWU's Women's Hostel," recalled Zubi. "We succeeded in sorting out some cases with the government regarding domestic fees, medical expenditure and textbooks for the children."

Besides providing shelter, legal, social and psychological assistance to refugee women, JWU also intervened on behalf of Palestinian-Jordanian mixed-marriage families. In cases where a Jordanian woman had a Palestinian husband who fled Iraq for Jordan, the organisation approached not only the National Centre for Human Rights, but also Her Majesty Queen Rania for help. It also facilitated legal assistance for some Jordanian women to leave Ruweished camp for Amman.

JWU is partly supported by the Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, donors and UN organisations. It also receives some money from income-generating projects for refugee women. However, the organisation still faces problems due to insufficient funds, legislative gaps and a lack of cooperation by the authorities on some refugees.

At the UNHCR award ceremony in Amman, JWU Secretary-General Ghusoun Rahhal said, "We feel very proud for receiving such a valuable award and this will encourage us to continue our work in a higher spirit. We also learned to believe more in what we are doing. We really appreciate this unique chance to find new allies and expand our circle of partners."