International Women's Day, is a day where you celebrate the inspirational change of certain women. Today, I am writing this blog to share a story..
Today, and we must admit, women have better chances to thrive, better chances for education and to inspire change. I think it takes more effort for women to achieve greatness these days if educations wasn’t present. Lets face it, illiterate women nowadays do not have a fighting chance. You wouldnt expect an illiterate woman to lead or inspire change would you?
I was proven wrong when I met Khatma.
Khatma belongs to the Bani Hassan Jordanian Tribe in the Bani Hashem Villages - Zarqa Governorate in Jordan. Tribal culture in Jordan is still very dominant and Khatma like many other women and men abide by these rules and traditions. Khatma is an unmarried, illiterate woman in her late 40s. She has changed my whole view about women empowerment in the middle east. Education is only half of what you need to thrive.
In 2010, Khatma was a woman who took care of the house work, the family children at times and most importantly took care of her family members. Khatma, like many other Jordanian women didn’t have the chance to go to school when they were children. Financial burdens have pushed families to make tough choices on whom to send to school. Boys, where usually the choice and most, if not all didn’t reach highschool. They needed to be there for the family and take different responsibilities in house work and agriculture; whether it be grazing or cultivating. Everyone needed to help inorder to keep the family afloat.
IUCN ROWA started a project in 2010 that aimed at securing rights and restoring lands in Khatmas village. I was part of the team working on this project, and I never thought that a simple project like this can change a womans life. Keep in mind, that this project wasn’t the sole reason that made khatmas dream a reality.
Through the project, IUCN ROWA team and partners used an integrated participatory approach, which basically means that change in any certain aspect cannot, and will not ever be possible with out the help and total engagement of the local community in the set project area. Khatma was one of the women who were part of making the project results possible. Through the project implementation phase, khatma was one of the community members who took initiative in spreading awareness and implementing the Hima Approach. In a year, her community led by her, was able to protect and conserve their lands by using Hima (traditional grazing management system).
Their lands are currently recovering and producing different plants that they haven’t seen in decades. Khatma, being on the Management Hima Board of the NGO they created, has pushed to cultivate these medicinal plants and later turn them to tea bags and dried products for sale. She was the pioneer between the women in her tribe that after all the hard work, currently heads the medicinal plant workshop at the bottom of the hill at the Hima.
Her enthusiasm, initiative and hard work is currently paying off. Six women from her tribe work at the workshop and get financial support because of it. It should be emphasized that illiterate women have the chance to share knowledge. Khatma may not know how to read or write, but she has a lot to offer when it comes to local indigenous knowledge. With that knowledge, she was nominated to the “Baladiyaty Competition” and later won. The competition aimed at providing an opportunity for community members to develop pilot projects that contribute to sustainable local community development.
On this day, I would like to acknowledge Khatma’s struggle and achievement to become who she is today, an agent for change.
IUCN ROWA Employee - Lara Nassar