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Experts recommend reducing the caregiving burden on women to increase their economic participation

At a dialogue session held by Phenix Center for Economic and Informatics Studies,  in partnership with CARE World in Jordan and supported by the National Post Code Lottery Foundation, entitled “Women Working from Home: Remote Education, Unpaid Care and the Psychological Fatigue of Working Women during the Coronavirus Pandemic”, civil society experts recommended that working women should be supported and that their caregiving burdens should be reduced in order to increase their economic participation, as the economic participation rate of women in Jordan is only 14 percent. They noted that the COVID-19 pandemic revealed the unjust distribution of caregiving, domestic and household burdens that negatively impact working women. They stressed the need to create a just legislative environment for women, distribute caregiving roles equally among men and women, and extend social protection to all women in paid employment. The dialogue was held through the Zoom platform.

Ahmad Awad, Director of Phenix Center, said that the economic participation rate of women in Jordan is one of the lowest in the world, standing at no more than 14 percent. Awad pointed out that there are many obstacles to women’s active economic participation, which include: social norms, lack of employment opportunities, lack of childcare support for working women’s children, and some discriminatory laws that lack gender-sensitive policies and other barriers. Women must be able to join the labor market in greater numbers for Jordan to achieve economic recovery.

Taghrid Said, the Acting Director of Sustainable Development at CARE International, stressed the need to commit to humanitarian protection and empowerment of local communities, especially the empowerment of working women. She also stressed the importance of the role women play in society both at home and in the workplace, supporting their participation in economic fields by providing a friendly and supportive work environment for them, as well as their support for political and educational representation. Randa Nafa, the manager of Sadaqah, said that women spend most of their time in unpaid care, noting that the most recent study on the matter shows that 75 percent of the care work is done by women, which has led to thousands of women leaving their jobs. She pointed out that the Coronavirus pandemic has doubled the burden on women, as the closure of nurseries, kindergartens, and schools was one of the most difficult challenges facing working women.

Nafa stated that one of the causes of the accumulation of care burdens on women and the denial of their economic, social and political activity is the lack of value for care work and men’s lack of participation in care roles in the home. The absence of state responsibility has also contributed to the accumulation of care burdens on women, according to a defense that called for the redistribution of these burdens among women, society, and the State. It called for the creation of supportive policies for the child care sector and the provision of nurseries for all working families, to increase women’s economic participation.

Researcher and gender expert Ala Badr said that the biggest challenge for working women was that care work was unfairly distributed between the sexes, which could expose them to psychological, moral, and physical harm as well as deprive them of economic and political participation. She noted that the accumulation of care burdens on women often resulted in the loss of their work, as working women had difficulty coordinating their work while simultaneously caring for their families. Her research also touched on the many obstacles faced by working women and pushed them out of the labor market, such as low wages, lack of social protections, lack of nurseries in their workplaces, and the absence of safe transport modes. Bader also pointed out that refugee women in Jordan are even more vulnerable than Jordanian women, in terms of wage discrimination, lack of social protection, difficulty in reaching their workplaces, and other challenges.

Zainab Al-Khalil, Director of Livelihoods and Social Protection Programs at Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development, agreed that the Coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the inequality experienced by working women. Al-Khalil stressed the need for comprehensive community mechanisms to ensure women’s economic, social, and political participation as well as their participation in the labor market.

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