Member of Parliament (MP) Wafa Bani Mustafa knew that in order to change the status quo in Jordan, one in which no woman has ever made it to the head of the parliament or head of the government, she would need to tackle one main hurdle - violence against women in public life. Political violence, whether its exclusion, harassment, bullying or physical attacks, has detrimental effects on the participation and presence of women in decision-making processes. In Jordan, women involved in politics tend to face cyberbullying, harassment and death threats. Cultural attitudes frequently limit and question women’s abilities, reinforcing discrimination against women. In order to change this reality and address the issues of violence against women head on, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) in partnership with MP Bani Mustafa established a National Advisory Team to Combat Violence Against Women in Politics (VAW-P) in May 2019.
Political violence against women in Jordan has been a constant struggle. Women tend to deal with direct or indirect forms of violence and gender-based discrimination, both of which play a key role in the underrepresentation of women in politics. The VAW-P advisory team aims to address these forms of violence and break down the barrier that stands between women and politics. The National Advisory Team to Combat VAW-P currently consists of 17 volunteer members from a range of political, social, academic, civil society and economic backgrounds. Members include representatives from the Jordanian National Commission for Women (JNCW) and JoWomenomics, Al Hayat’s Executive Director, women filmmakers, current and former women senators, MPs and ministers.
Since its establishment, the committee’s responsibilities have addressed both national and local level issues with VAW-P. The Team Against VAW-P has held dozens of nationwide training sessions, workshops and consultations in efforts to, not only increase women’s political participation, but also address the current issues that women in politics face. Training topics have focused on basic definitions of political violence, online harassment and the role of media and culture in gender-based discrimination in Jordan. Through these forums, the team members have had the opportunity to meet with women academics, activists and CSO representatives, as well as male representatives. These sessions have helped identify common trends in VAW-P and streamline their efforts in combating gender-based violence (GBV) in politics. Advisory Team members have also shared NDI’s #think10 safety planning tool, which provides women in politics guidance on how to enhance their personal security by combining scores from a self-assessment questionnaire and the country score from NDI’s Women’s Political Participation Risk Index (WPPRI).
In addition to these workshops, NDI and the Advisory Team members have worked with media producers to develop a guide on promoting gender-equality through shows and documentaries aired on Jordanian television. This guide will be distributed to TV producers and writers to provide them with a framework to highlight the achievements and contributions of women in politics and Jordanian society at large.
NDI and the Advisory Team also worked together to spread awareness and provide training on the “Guide on Combating Violence against Women in Politics”. The guide, created by MP Mustafa, who also serves as the President of the Coalition of Arab Women MPs to Combat Violence Against Women, addresses the different definitions and characteristics of violence against women in politics, including physical, psychological, moral, societal, cyber, sexual and legislative violence. The guide also highlights that anyone can be an initiator of political violence and addresses ways of prevention, as well as ways to deal with different cases of violence. By holding specialized discussion sessions all over the 12 governorates of Jordan, the Committee was able to reach a variety of women in politics. Females in elected and appointed political positions shared their testimonies and added value to the importance of addressing VAW-P on both a national and local scale.
The Advisory Team believes that this is just the beginning of their work and knows the battle to overcome VAW-P is an uphill one. Over the next year, the Advisory Team plans to hold more workshops, provide recommendations to amend legislation, work closely with women in public positions to advance the topic in Jordan, and establish a hotline to receive complaints and provide direct support for women who face violence.
NDI's engagement in Jordan is implemented with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening (CEPPS).
Author: Maryam Alhassani is a Project Assistant with the MENA Team at NDI.